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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Byron Buxton, of|
|2. Miguel Sano, 3b|
|3. Jose Berrios, rhp|
|4. Kohl Stewart, rhp|
|5. Alex Meyer, rhp|
|6. Nick Gordon, ss|
|7. Nick Burdi, rhp|
|8. Jorge Polanco, ss/2b|
|9. Trevor May, rhp|
|10. Eddie Rosario, of/2b|
A season that began with a cancer scare for general manager Terry Ryan ended with a task that was just as unpleasant and nearly as difficult: Firing his longtime friend Ron Gardenhire as Twins manager.
Four straight seasons of 92 or more losses proved too much for Gardenhire to overcome, even after leading the small-revenue club to six American League Central titles in his first nine seasons as manager, 2002-10.
The Twins ultimately hired Paul Molitor as Gardenhire’s replacement, after the Hall of Famer spent the season as a baserunning and infield-defense coach for the big league team. Minnesota also interviewed high Class A Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz and Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo for the position.
While Molitor got the nod after spending 16 of the past 19 seasons in the organization in a variety of roles, the mere fact Lovullo made it that far spoke to the depth of the Twins’ concern.
Among the most stable and loyal organizations in all of professional sports, the Twins actually were considering going outside the family for just their third manager in nearly three full decades. That period dates to the firing of Ray Miller in September 1986 and the elevation of Tom Kelly, who would lead the franchise to a pair of World Series titles in 1987 and ’91.
While position prospects Danny Santana, a shortstop/center fielder, and Kennys Vargas, a first baseman, reached the majors and had success in 2014, righthander Trevor May struggled to a 7.88 ERA after getting the call in early August.
Tommy John surgery wiped out the entire season for third baseman Miguel Sano, the organization’s No. 2 prospect. Top-rated center fielder Byron Buxton, meanwhile, took just 137 plate appearances thanks to a nagging left wrist injury, and his year ended in mid-August with a harrowing collision at Double-A New Britain that resulted in a concussion.
In the minors, Twins affiliates went a combined 366-327 (.528) and reached the playoffs at three levels. That included a Florida State League title for Mientkiewicz and the Miracle, a first for that franchise in 22 years as a Twins affiliate.
Despite those successes, minor league hitting coordinator Bill Springman and Fort Myers pitching coach Gary Lucas were each dismissed after 15 years in the organization. Rookie-level Gulf Coast League pitching coach Ehren Wassermann also wasn’t invited back, with former journeyman righthander Virgil Vasquez hired to take his place.
Second-year farm director Brad Steil made those recommendations, and Ryan honored them in hopes of expediting the Twins’ turnaround.
Scouting director Deron Johnson added a third straight top-five amateur talent with the selection of Orlando prep shortstop Nick Gordon, son of former big leaguer Tom “Flash” Gordon. He joins first-rounders Buxton (2012) and Kohl Stewart (2013), a righthander, in the fold. For the second time in three years, Johnson loaded up with hard-throwing college relievers as the Twins attempt to mimic other clubs by adding pitchers who miss bats.
Internationally, the Twins added 16-year-old Dominican righthander Huascar Ynoa for $800,000 but otherwise opted for quantity over splashy signings.