The Twins system presented an interesting debate this year with two legitimate candidates for the top spot. In the end, I was tempted by the rare power profile presented by Miguel Sano, who still projects as a premium middle-of-the-order slugger. The Twins have seen a nice influx of talent over the last year, including three first round picks that appear on this list and the acquisition of two hard throwing right-handers (Alex Meyer and Trevor May) that also appear in the rankings, giving them a much improved system over last year.
1. Miguel Sano – 3B (Last Year’s Rank: 1)
The decision between Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton in the top spot was not an easy one. Buxton’s overall talent and potential is phenomenal. Sano offers one of the only premium power bats in the minor leagues and that was just something I couldn’t ignore. Sano is a long shot to stick at third base but his power-oriented game has the potential to make him an impact player at any position. While he needs to develop an improved approach and continue to refine his hitting ability, he is one of the few players in the minor leagues with even a dreaming projection to hit 35-40 home runs in the big leagues.
2. Byron Buxton – OF (NR)
While the term is tossed around far too loosely these days, Buxton is a legitimate five-tool talent. He has exceptional speed and a tremendous defensive profile in center field, supplemented by a strong arm. He has good feel for hitting for a player his age and some scouts believe there could be significant power in his profile down the line. Buxton is a precocious talent that could be an absolute monster once his tools fully mature.
3. Alex Meyer – RHP (NR)
Brought over in the Denard Span trade, Meyer owns the best raw arm strength in the Twins organization. He can sit in the mid-90s and will dial it up to the upper-90s on occasion with a breaking ball that is a true plus pitch. Meyer’s feel for his arsenal and ability to throw strikes has improved rapidly since college and scouts are more comfortable projecting him in a big-league rotation. Even if that doesn’t work, his potential out of the bullpen is very high.
4. Aaron Hicks – OF (3)
Hicks took an enormous step forward in his development in 2012, a step scouts had been waiting and hoping for. Like Buxton, Hicks is an absolute tools monster with above-average speed and the potential for plus defense in center field. His arm is an absolute cannon that earns tremendous grades. His approach at the plate moved from passive to patient in 2012 and as a result, he began driving the ball more consistently, rounding out his offensive profile. Buxton may be the long term answer in center field for Minnesota, but Hicks can fit the bill in the short term and has the potential to be an impact player well after Buxton arrives.
5. Kyle Gibson – RHP (7)
Gibson pitched well in his return from Tommy John surgery this year, including an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League. A former first round pick of the Twins, Gibson showed signs of regaining his prior arsenal and should reach the big leagues in 2013. He has an above-average fastball with good movement and two above-average secondary pitches that combine with a strong command/control profile to make him a quality starter. Most scouts feel he fits well in a future number three role and he could reach that ceiling quickly.
6. Oswaldo Arcia – OF (6)
Arcia is one of the most natural hitters in the organization with consistent swing mechanics, plus bat speed and a knack for driving the ball to every part of the park. He has the potential for plus hitting ability and plus power if everything materializes at the big league level. Defensively, Arcia fits in right field but some scouts like him better in left, forcing him to hit consistently.
7. JO Berrios – RHP (NR)
One of the Twins first round picks last June, Berrios exploded through two levels with sub-2.00 ERAs in the GCL and Appy League. His fastball spiked to the 96-97 mph range on occasion in his professional debut and he sits regularly in the 93-94 range with solid movement. Both his curveball and change-up have potential to be at least average pitches and have a good chance to reach that level given his advanced pitchability for his age. Berrios doesn’t have tons of projection despite his youth, but he could move quickly if matures physically, and fill a role as a number three starter.
8. Eddie Rosario – 2B/OF (2)
Falling from the second spot to 8th on this year’s list may make it seem like I’m “down” on Rosario, but in fact, I still like him quite a bit; I just like other players in this system more at this point. Rosario is a very good athlete with plus speed and he probably fits better in the outfield where he can make an impact defensively, rather than just being mediocre at second base. He has the ability to hit for average and could be an easy plus hitter at the next level. Combine that with plenty of doubles power and he should be a quality player.
9. Trevor May – RHP (NR)
May was another new addition to the Twins system, coming over from the Phillies in exchange for Ben Revere. A big, physical right-hander May can reach the mid-90s but sits comfortably in the 91-94 range with good angle to the plate. He struggles to throw strikes of any kind at times and scouts have trouble projecting for even below-average command at the MLB level. His curveball could be devastating with more work and his change-up could be fringe-average. Improved control will be essential for reaching his ceiling as a number three starter and it is far more likely he ends up a back-end type or a bullpen arm.
10. Max Kepler – OF (10)
Kepler was an aggressive signing by the Twins out of Europe as the team gave him $800,000 in 2009. He is an outstanding athlete that had a lot to learn on a baseball field, but began to do just that with a .297/.387/.539 line in the Appy League in 2012. He shows an improved feel for hitting with some power potential, though he will need more in both areas as he doesn’t fit well in center field. He is a decent runner and only occasionally shows an average arm. Kepler is still light years from the big leagues, but his athleticism continues to intrigue.
11. Luke Bard – RHP (NR)
The Twins made Bard – the younger brother of Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard – the third of their three first round picks and signed him for $1.227 million last summer. Bard resembles his brother with a power fastball, sitting in the mid-90s in short bursts and questions about the quality of his breaking ball. There are scouts that believe his breaking ball could play up when used exclusively out of the bullpen in pro ball, and he will need that to max out as a setup guy. Some scouts wonder if the Twins will work with him to develop him as a starter early in his career.
12. Travis Harrison – 3B (8)
Harrison was a supplemental round pick of the club in 2011 and he showed why with an impressive showing in the Appy League in 2012. He has the potential to slug in the mold of a classic third baseman but he has to get to the zone on time more often to allow his quality bat speed to generate power in the plus range. Scouts aren’t convinced of his defensive profile at third base and most think he may have to move across the diamond down the line.
13. JT Chargois – RHP (5)
Chargois is a high-powered reliever out of Rice, pumping fastballs in the 93-94 mph range and touching 98 at times with good movement throughout his velocity profile. He shows a bat-missing curveball at times that needs more consistency and the Twins think they can coach it into the plus range. He profiles as a pure reliever that could move quickly, with a ceiling in the setup range.
14. Romy Jimenez – OF (6)
Jimenez hit .347 in 35 games in the Appy League in 2012 and also slugged a nifty .669, hinting at his potential as a plus hitter with above-average power. He was a little old for the league due in part to injuries that hampered him in previous seasons, but Jimenez has the potential to hit enough to support his corner outfield profile. Full-season ball will be a big test for him in 2013 as he will have to demonstrate his approach is mature enough to handle the grind of a long season as well as better pitching day in and day out.
15. Niko Goodrum – SS (14)
The road to the big leagues will likely be a long and twisted one for Goodrum, but he could be worth the wait if he actualizes all of his tools. A plus athlete, Goodrum fits the part of a shortstop now with good range to both sides, easy actions and a plus-plus arm. While he may ultimately outgrow the position, the Twins will give him every chance to stay up the middle. His bat is a work in progress as he needs improved pitch recognition that should lead to more consistent contact and ultimately allow his average to above-average power potential to play in games.