It was a very bad year for the Twins at the big league level and it might have been equally as bad at the minor league level as three of their top prospects — Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, Alex Wimmers — all took steps back for a variety of reasons. The top dog in the system, Miguel Sano, is still a potential beast and he helps prop up an otherwise weak farm system that is in need of a serious injection of high ceiling talent.
1. Miguel Sano (3B)
The Twins surprised many with a massive bonus to sign Sano out of Latin America. He has lived up to expectations thus far and has a chance to be one of the best offensive prospects in the game after his full-season debut in 2012. He has tremendous raw power that earns easy 8’s from scouts. He has enough hitting ability for his power to play to that level in games and he should be an elite level power hitter. The Twins insist he can stick at third base and he has shown good actions there so far, leading to some optimism. His timetable to the big leagues could be accelerated after the 2012 season.
2. Eddie Rosario (2B/OF)
2012 will be an interesting campaign for Rosario as the Twins try to shift him to second base from the outfield. He is a good enough athlete to handle the move and he has average arm strength that should work well on the pivot. If he takes to the position he has a chance to be an offensive minded second baseman with average or slightly above-average power, plus speed and a good batting average. Some scouts worry about his willingness to go outside the strike zone for contact rather than waiting for a pitch he can drive, but that may be tempered with more experience.
3. Aaron Hicks (OF)
The Hicks quandary was summed up best by a scout that told me the following, “He looks like a first rounder, or something less at times. He looks like a potential star, or something less at times. He confuses the hell out of me.” Hicks is a plus runner with plus power potential to go along with an arm that earns 70 and 80-grades from scouts. He is also a quality defender in center field. His approach at the plate borders on passive rather than patient and he frequently puts himself in poor hitter’s counts. If the Twins can tweak his approach and coax more of his natural hitting ability out of him then he could still evolve into an above-average regular.
4. Joe Benson (OF)
Benson could break into the Twins outfield in 2012 and if he does he could contribute in many categories. He has the raw power to slug 20 home runs and could steal 10-15 bases while playing capable defense at all three spots and controlling base runners with his arm. He is not a natural hitter and he has tons of swing and miss in his game, a problem that could dampen his ultimate offensive ceiling at the big league level.
5. Levi Michael (SS)
Michael was the Twins top pick in 2011 and he could move quickly through the system. He is a polished player with a good line drive swing that uses the whole field and particularly wears out the middle part of the diamond. He has good gap power but won’t ever post significant home run totals. He is a solid defender that is capable of handling shortstop long term, at least in part because of his high effort level. Some in the Twins organization think he could be a fantastic number two hitter that helps the club in a multitude of ways.
6. Oswaldo Arcia (OF)
Arcia draws the occasional Jason Kubel comp from scouts that have seen him regularly. He is an extremely gifted hitter with the ability to hit over .300 at any level. He has good bat speed that helps generate average power, though the lack of loft in his swing leaves some scouts questioning if he won’t be more of a doubles machine than a home run threat. He is not an athletic player and more than one scout I spoke with this year felt he may end up a bat only guy that is a liability on defense, and may actually be relegated to a bench role if he doesn’t consistently rake.
7. Kyle Gibson (RHP)
Tommy John surgery pushes Gibson down this list, as he likely would have ranked in the top two or three without the injury. Assuming he comes all the way back from injury, Gibson can be expected to show an average to solid-average fastball that parks at 90-92 mph. He moves it around the zone well and can make it move in a variety of ways. Both his slider and change-up have shown as solid-average pitches in the past. He’s not a big time stuff guy but he knows how to pitch and gets the job done at a high level. He has the pure ceiling of a number three starter.
8. Travis Harrison (3B)
Expecting Harrison to stay at the hot corner is a bit of a pipe dream but he will get a chance to do just that in his first professional season. He is a big-bodied kid with the potential to hit and hit for power. His bat will always have to carry him and some SoCal scouts I spoke with saw a potential above-average offensive player with two potential 60 tools in his bat and power. If the bat develops to that extent he may be able to support the move down the defensive spectrum to first base.
9. Brian Dozier (SS)
Dozier should have a length Major League career, even if he maxes out as a utility player. He is a solid-average runner with enough range to handle both shortstop and second base. He doesn’t make many flashy plays on defense but he gets the job done routinely. He has a line drive bat that works the middle of the field and he controls the strike zone well. He has the potential to hit in the two-hole down the line but will likely start his career in the bottom third of the lineup.
10. Max Kepler (OF)
Kepler is one of the best athletes in the system and his raw tools are absolutely astounding. He has plus speed and a plus arm though his defensive instincts are extremely raw. Scouts still project him as a potential center field because of his athleticism and speed. He has a strong, quick swing but his bat-to-ball skills are well below-average at this point, leaving much of his offensive potential to the imagination. If you dream on him enough you can see an average hitter with above-average to plus power potential. He is a long, long way from being a viable big league prospect, but Kepler bears plenty of attention due to his incredible athleticism and potential.
11. Liam Hendriks (RHP)
Hendriks might be considered the epitome of a Twins pitching prospect. He doesn’t have plus raw stuff but he commands all of his pitches exceptionally well and can manipulate his pitches, taking off and adding speed. His fastball is a tick below-average, sitting 88-90 mph. He will also throw variations of three secondary pitches, including a curveball, slider and change-up. Most scouts I spoke with this year were most confident in his change-up. Without a true go-to pitch, Hendriks lands short of a serious big league ceiling. He profiles as a number five starter if he can prove his command and control approach will work against big league hitters.
12. Adrian Salcedo (RHP)
Salcedo has more stuff than many Twins pitching prospects, with the ability to pump his fastball up to 94-95 mph at times while settling in just below that range. Like many Twins pitchers, h controls his fastball very well. He lacks a usable change-up and while he regularly throws his slider, the pitch is below-average and has never shown consistent bite. He has the potential to be a solid two-pitch, back of the rotation starter if he can make enough strides for his breaking ball to be an average pitch.
13. Alex Wimmers (RHP)
Wimmers is in line for a bit of a mulligan following his 2011 season. He walked the first six batters he faced in High-A last season and was quickly sent back to extended spring training to get things right. Though there was speculation that he had contracted “The Thing,” Wimmers came back late in the year and showed he had found some of his old self. He has an average fastball and curveball and a true plus change-up that gets swings and misses regularly. He has the potential to be a solid number four starter if he can prove he’s found the strike zone again over a full season.
14. Niko Goodrum (SS)
The numbers in the Appalachian League don’t jump off the page at you so I suppose I should put some sort of tools alert out there at the start of this write-up. He offers two tools that rate as at least plus right now with his 60-grade speed and 70 arm. Scouts can also project above-average power potential thanks to his 6-3, 175 pound frame and bat speed. His defensive home is still a question as few scouts see a shortstop long term and some would like to see him tried in center field sooner than later. He has holes in his swing from both sides of the plate and his hit tool requires the most work by far.
15. Madison Boer (RHP)
A reliever at Oregon, the Twins have been pretty open about their intent to move Boer to the rotation as a pro. He has a three-pitch mix that he used out of the bullpen, headlined by an above-average fastball. He sits around 91-93 mph and did show more than that in relief. His slider and splitter both rate as potential average or better pitches. While he doesn’t have a huge ceiling, Boer could be a very solid number four starter that induces plenty of ground balls.