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Written by Shawn Berg | 01 February 2011

3. Miguel Sano, Third Base, 17 years old

miguel-sano
(courtesy twinsdigest.com)


2010 stats: .291/.338/.473 with the GCL Twins (Rookie)
Last year's rank: 10
Acquired: Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $3.15 million in September of 2009.

Is there ever an instance where a team's #3 ranked prospect is considered under-rated? Besides the Brewers system of course, which may not have 3 quality prospects. I submit the case of Miguel Sano. Just ask a Twins fan who the Twins top prospect is. Most everyone of them will say its either Kyle Gibson or Aaron Hicks. Spoiler alert: With 2 remaining prospects to rank, this site will have either Kyle Gibson or Aaron Hicks as its #1 prospect.

We'll worry about the top 2 ranked prospects in a bit. #3 is Miguel Sano. You know, the same Sano who got the second largest signing bonus in Minnesota Twins history. The same Sano who got the second largest signing bonus in Dominican Republic history. Keith Law recently ranked him his #29 prospect. In his piece, Law had an interesting take on Sano: "Sano won't turn 18 until May, but his hitting tools would make him a top-five pick if he were just coming out of an American high school, with consideration for the top overall spot." Sano would be in the same league as Bryce Harper!

Sano could be the best Twins prospect right now and perhaps one of the best offensive players in team history. That's a good deal of hyperbole, but when I examined how he is doing early in his professional career, a couple of things really popped out. For one, he hit a HR in his first state-side professional at bat.  Not so significant, but it was the kind of arrival that could begin his legend. In his short season stint with the GCL Twins, his OPS was 11th best in the league. A decent year for sure, but even more impressive when you consider that every one in the top 10 was at least 13 months older than Sano.

It is very difficult to project how a 17 year old will perform as a 25 year old major league player. He's so young that it's hard to gauge where he will go from here and how he will develop.  He is still a minimum of 3 years away from major league ball and his body has a lot of growing left to do. He was signed as a shortstop, but most scouts predict he will be too big to even stay at 3rd base. He may be a right fielder by the time the Twins call him up. As a young man from a foreign country, his ability to assimilate to American culture is an important, though under-rated factor in his development.

Sano doesn't have the polish and major league readiness of a Kyle Gibson. He is not a 5 tool player who has a couple of professional years under his belt like Aaron Hicks. No, Miguel Sano is just a 17 year old from the Dominican Republic. He's a 17 year old that could be a top 5 prospect in all of baseball next year. A guy who could be in the majors before he is 21. A guy who's hitting skills could make him an all-star. He's young, he's going to be awesome, he's your #3 Twins prospect.... for now!

Ideal Scenario: Sano will probably start the season in the Dominican Summer League, since it's season gets going sooner than the American rookie leagues. Once the Appalachian League season starts, I'd expect Sano to spend the whole season there. He is a long way from the majors and his primary objective in 2011 should be to learn the nuances of 3B (If that is where the organization plans to keep him) and to work on cutting his strike-out rate. He struck out 43 times in 161 plate appearances for the GCL Twins. 

Path to the majors: If Sano has decent numbers in 2011, he will start 2012 in Beloit. Once in he makes it to full-season leagues, Sano will be given the opportunity to advance as quickly as his skills and maturity allow. I think the soonest we will see him with the major league club is 2014. The Twins are usually conservative with their young players but, the Twins have not had many prospects this young with Sano's ability or upside. If he performs well, the Twins will have to be careful that they don't push him. Sano is all potential right now, and it will be awesome watching the young man grow into his powers.



 

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 25 January 2011

4. Joe Benson, OF, 22 years old

Joe Benson 
(courtesy bleacherreport.com) 

2010 stats: .259/.343/.538 with 47/136 BB/K and 27 home runs in 123 games between Fort Myers (A+) and New Britain (AA)
Last year's rank: 9
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 2nd round in the 2006 June Major League Draft.

Benson was given the Sherry Robertson Award by the Twins this year, which recognizes the top hitter in the minor leagues. Even though Benson was demoted mid-season, his performance still merits such an award, and the progress he has made in the power department is very encouraging.

Hitting a total of 27 home runs and maintaining a slugging percentage well north of .500, Benson is starting to turn his “raw” power into actual production. His fourth full-season in the minor leagues, this year was the first Benson topped digits in the home run department. In fact, his slugging percentage didn't even top .400 over a full season. This year was clearly a huge step forward for the young outfielder, though there are still aspects that need work.

With a painful 2.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio still to his name, Benson whiffs far too often. He averages .26 strikeouts per plate appearance, which is nearing the range of Arizona's Mark Reynolds. Without more instruction, Benson would be a candidate to break several strikeout records if he were facing major-league pitching.

Plate discipline aside, Benson is excellent in areas other than raw power. His speed is top-notch, as is his defensive range.

Ideal Scenario: Benson spends the 2011 season between New Britain and Rochester, learning to better identify breaking balls and improving that strikeout tendency.

Path to the majors: With Cuddyer leaving after this season, there is a huge hole in the outfield. Benson is the leading candidate to step into the veteran's shoes, and it will be nice to have someone with at least some shred of defensive ability in right field.

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Written by Shawn Berg | 24 January 2011

5. Alex Wimmers, RHP, 22 years old

alex-wimmers-rears-back

courtesy: (baseballrumormill.com)

2010 stats: 2-0 with a .57 ERA 23/5 K/BB in 15.2 innings for Fort Myers.
Last year's rank: N/A
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins 21st overall in the 2010 June Major League Draft.

Alex Wimmers was the Twins top pick in last years draft. Wimmers is the name fans will see on his back, but his uni could just as easily have "stereotypical twins starting pitcher" or "stereotypical pitching draft pick" sewn onto the back. Wimmers was a strike throwing college pitcher, taken high in the draft. Pitchers like Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Kyle Gibson and others fall into the same category. They were all strike throwing college pitchers with decent velocity. It's become clear that the Twins are comfortable using their draft picks on college pitchers that throw strikes.

The above statements aren't meant to diminish Wimmers as a prospect. He is ranked as our #5 Twins prospect for a reason. He was the 2010 National collegiate pitcher of the year. He was also the first Big Ten pitcher to win the conference's pitcher of the year in 2 consecutive years, winning in 2009 and 2010. He has a decent fastball. He hits 91, but it has good movement on his 2-seamer. He also features a good curve and a change up. 

Wimmers signed near the deadline, claiming "I miss pitching too much". The Twins sent him to Fort Myers and he made his professional debut 2 weeks later. In 4 starts, he went 2-0 with a .57 ERA. He only gave up 6 hits and 5 walks while striking out 23 in 15.2 innings. He dominated Florida State League hitters. This is a very small sample size, but these numbers are very exciting for this Twins fan.

Ideal Scenario: Wimmers will probably start 2011 back at Fort Myers. Given his brief success there in 2010, it isn't expected that he'll stay there very long. He could follow the model established by Baker, Slowey, Gibson etc... and pitch in three levels in one season. I see him probably spending the bulk of the season in AA New Britain.

Path to the majors: The Twins have a few pitchers ahead of Wimmers in their system. They have 6 viable major league starters as well as Kyle Gibson and David Bromberg in front of him. Wimmers probably won't be ready or won't be needed to make his major league debut until 2012. With the Twins wealth of pitching, Wimmers will have to perform well to force the Twins to advance him to the major leagues sooner. A solid performance from Wimmers could give the Twins the confidence to trade a starter such as Kevin Slowey. A good 2011 by Wimmers leaves the Twins starting pitching depth in a really nice position.

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Written by Shawn Berg | 24 January 2011

6. Liam Hendriks, RHP, 21 years old

Liam-Hendriks
courtesy: (baseballinstinct.com)

2010 stats: 8-4 with a 1.74 ERA, 105/12 K/BB in 108.2 innings between Beloit and Fort Myers.
Last year's rank: N/A
Acquired: Signed out of Perth, Australia in February 2007. 

So, what makes someone a top prospect? Some prospects are more tools than numbers. The guys that scouts just look at and drool over the possibilities. They say, this guy will be the next.... Other guys become top prospects through hard-work and sheer numbers. Liam Hendriks is part of the latter group.

The Australian hurler made his debut in the GCL at 18 years of age, striking out 52 and walking 11 in 44 innings. A nice start to his professional career. In 2008, back surgery derailed his entire season. In 2009, he came back from injury and made the Australian roster in the World Baseball Classic. He was the roster's youngest player. After the WBC, he split the season between Elizabethtown and Beloit. He had a decent year with a 3.55 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 19 walks in 83.2 innings. Not a bad year for such a young guy, especially one who had missed a year of development.

In 2010, Hendriks returned to Beloit and he took off. Total Domination! In 6 starts and 34 innings he struck out 39 and walked 4. He only gave up 16 hits. That's a .59 WHIP! This earned him a quick promotion to Fort Myers. He was almost as dominant after his promotion. In 74.2 innings, he struck out 66 and walked 8. For the season, he had a 1.74 ERA, 8.75 K/BB rate and a .837 WHIP between Beloit and Fort Myers. He only gave up 2 HRs all season.These are crazy, off the charts type numbers.

He has 4 good pitches, but no single dominating pitch. His fastball touches the low 90s and he also features a decent curve and change-up. What made Hendriks so dominant in 2010 was his control. He only walked 12 guys in 108.2 innings. Coincidentally, Cliff Lee walked 12 in 108.2 innings for the Texas Rangers in 2010. While I'm not saying Hendriks can be the next Cliff Lee*, his 2010 numbers and stuff profile out to a similar kind of pitcher, albeit a right-handed one. *Lee only walked 6 in 103.2 innings in Seattle and 2 of his TX walks were intentional.

Hendriks will only be 22 years old in 2011 and it would seem he is just starting to hit his stride. The only thing slowing Hendriks down is injury. He's already had back surgery. Hopefully the nerve issue doesn't lead to something chronic. He was selected to the 2010 All-Star Futures Game but he missed the game due to appendicitis. These are two un-related types of maladies. Hopefully Hendriks is getting through a rash of random injuries early in his career and and is about to settle in for a long healthy career.

Ideal Scenario: Hendriks will probably start where he left off in Fort Myers. If he hits the ground running like he did in 2010, he should see an early New Britain promotion.

Path to the majors: Another good season in 2011 will leave Hendriks on the cusp of an MLB debut in 2012. With guys like Gibson, Bromberg, Wimmers and a decent major league staff all older and more advanced then the 22 year old Hendriks, 2013 is more realistic. If Hendriks has a season in 2011 like he did in 2010 however, the Twins might not be able to hold him back. He has middle of the rotation stuff but if he can keep his walk rate down, he could become an ace.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 21 January 2011

7. Oswaldo Arcia, outfielder, 19 years old

Arcia
(courtesy tricitiessports.com)

2010 stats: .375/.424/.672 with 67/19 K/BB in 64 games for Elizabethton Twins (Rookie)
Last year's rank: NA
Acquired: Signed out of Venezuela in July 2007

Before going absolutely berserk on opposing pitchers this season, young Arcia enjoyed two previous years of success at lower levels in the Twins' system. A mechanical mistake was nagging the outfielder's performance in the batting box, though, and was holding Arcia from even greater success.

Arcia was able to eliminate the hand-drop during his pre-swing, and exploded for an incredible triple-slash line of .375/.424/.672 with 14 home runs in the short season. According to Matthew Eddy, Arcia made this adjustment mid-season, though he struggled against south-paws (relatively speaking; Arcia's numbers against LHP are still phenomenal).

Baseball America's scouting report of Arcia claims that the 19-year old is capable of spreading the ball across all fields, so we can know his numbers aren't a product of Elizabethton's short right-field wall.

Defensively, Arcia doesn't hold any awe-inspiring skills or abilities, but should be able to hold his own in a corner outfield position. He can run well and has a strong arm, and shouldn't be a liability in a major-league outfield.

There are flaws in Arcia's game, to be sure, but focusing on those would be missing the point. Arcia is a 19-year old in a league full of 21 and 22 year olds, and he's dominating. Arcia needs more time in a batting box to learn how to better react to breaking balls, and needs to learn better balance as he progresses. Even so, there is plenty of time for Arcia to fine-tune his game, and develop his skills.

Ideal Scenerio: The Twins are in absolutely no hurry with Arcia, so the outfielder will likely spend next year between Beloit and Fort Myers, where the coaching staffs will take Arcia and mold him into a fine outfield prospect.

Path to the majors: Arica is one of many top outfield prospects in Minnesota's system, so he could be valuable trade material if the Twins solidify their major-league outfield before Arcia is ready. If there are still openings available, Arcia could see his first major-league action in 2013.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 20 January 2011

It took some crossed fingers and a small amount of luck, but the Twins managed to bring back Carl Pavano without breaking the bank.

For $16.5 million over the next two years, the Twins signed one of the best starting pitchers on this years' free agent market. As a fan, I'm very pleased with this deal. It's far less than what I was expecting Pavano to receive, and I believe the right-hander can pitch well enough for the next two years.
Even though I'm pleased, the deal is ripe for the picking from a game theory perspective. What did the Twins know, and when did they know it? If Pavano knew what he knows now, would he have accepted arbitration after last year?

Let's explore this deal in a little more detail...

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Written by Shawn Berg | 18 January 2011

8. Adrian Salcedo, RHP, 20  years old

(courtesy of minorleaguebaseball.com) 
(courtesy of minorleaguebaseball.com) 

2010 stats: 5-6 4.15 ERA 81/18 K/BB in 93.1 innings for Elizabethtown (Rookie) & Fort Myers (High-A)
Last year's rank: #7
Acquired: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in December 2007

What is one of the main things the Twins are known for when it comes to their prospects? If you said patience, you are on my wavelength. So, why did the Twins start Adrian Salcedo in Fort Myers in 2010?

Salcedo has been mostly a man of mystery in Twins prospect circles. Many bloggers had him very high based on his young age (18) and outstanding numbers in 2009 for the Gulf Coast Twins. This site had him at #7 and I ranked him #3 at a different site. His numbers in 2009 really jumped out at you. He had a 1.46 ERA with 58 strikeouts and 3 walks in 61.2 innings in 09. He hit more batters (5) than he walked. That's an amazing 19.33 K/BB.

So, 2009 was amazing, but Salcedo is very young, he'd need more rookie ball exposure, maybe start the year in Elizabethtown. So, where do the normally conservative Twins move him in May of 2010? To High A Fort Myers of course! In his 6 starts at Fort Myers, he went 1-3 with a 6.26 ERA. He struck out 16 and walked 8 in 27.1 innings, in a league 3 levels higher than the one he pitched for in 2009. His numbers do not look good, but he also gave up an amazingly high .390 BABIP. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was 4.77. He wasn't as bad as his ERA suggested, but he wasn't ready for the Florida State League and was moved down to Elizabethtown in June, once their season started.

At Elizabethtown, he was much better. He went 4-3 with a 3.27 ERA between starting and relieving. He struck out 65 and walked just 10 in 66 innings. Looking at the numbers, he probably should have been at E-town all year. The Twins must have wanted to get him facing live hitting before the rookie league season started. 

Salcedo has a low 90s fastball plus a curve, change and slider. He's 6'4" and since he is so young, he could really add to his frame.

Ideal Scenerio: Salcedo will be 20 when the season starts and should start the season in Beloit's rotation.

Path to the majors: Salcedo was used some in the bullpen at Elizabethtown, but the Twins probably still view him as a starter. If he starts the year hot in Beloit, he could return to Fort Myers more seasoned. If the Twins are indeed committed to fast-track him, he could get to the majors around 2013. There is no hurry, as he is very young and he hasn't pitched a full season yet.

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