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1999 Top 10 Prospects
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Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By David Rawnsley

1. Michael Cuddyer, 3B
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 190
Drafted: HS--Chesapeake, Va. (1st round)  Signed by: John Wilson

Top Prospects of the 90s

1990 Willie Banks, rhp
1991 Rich Garces, rhp
1992 David McCarty, of
1993 David McCarty, of
1994 Rich Becker, of
1995 LaTroy Hawkins, rhp
1996 Todd Walker, 3b
1997 Todd Walker, 3b
1998 Luis Rivas, ss
1999 Michael Cuddyer, 3b

Background: Two years after nearly heading to Florida State–he signed late in the summer of 1997 after helping lead Team USA to a bronze medal in the World Junior Championship–Cuddyer tore up the Florida State League. FSL managers named him the league’s No. 3 prospect at season’s end and the top defensive third baseman in a midseason poll. Cuddyer also played third base for the American team at the Futures Game in Boston. That Cuddyer was playing third base, and playing it well, was perhaps his most significant accomplishment of the season. As a shortstop in 1998, Cuddyer led all professional baseball with 61 errors; he made just 28 last year at third.

Strengths: The only shortcoming that keeps Cuddyer from being a complete offensive performer is above-average speed. His swing is quick and short to the ball, and he has shown an advanced ability to hit offspeed pitches and drive the ball to all parts of the field. Most impressively for a player his age with developing power, Cuddyer led the FSL in walks with 76 and finished second in the Arizona Fall League in walks with 26. Cuddyer’s quick adjustment to third base did not surprise scouts but was a great relief to the Twins. He has above-average arm strength, and improved his footwork and range as the season progressed. Cuddyer retains his enthusiasm for the game and has shown excellent leadership skills despite always being among the youngest players on a roster.

Weaknesses: Cuddyer’s power will not suddenly blossom into 35 home runs a season. While he is short and quick to the ball, Cuddyer finishes long and high and frequently puts topspin on the ball, which cuts down on the ball’s carry and leads to an above-average number of ground balls. He should eventually learn to swing through the ball more consistently. The combination of his swing and pedestrian speed led Cuddyer to ground into 20 double plays, tops in the FSL.

The Future: While the Twins have rushed other position prospects, they show no indication of rushing Cuddyer. His goal at Double-A New Britain this season will be the further development of his power skills and defense at third base.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Fort Myers (A)     .298  466  87 139  24   4  16   82  76  91  14

2. Michael Restovich, OF
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-4  Wt: 233
Drafted: HS--Rochester, Minn., 1997 (2nd round)  Signed by: Joel Lepel

Background: Restovich established himself as a potential hometown hero by turning down a scholarship to Notre Dame and signing with the Twins out of high school. He was named the No. 4 prospect in the talent-laden Midwest League.

Strengths: Despite Restovich’s linebacker build, he is surprisingly athletic and was highly regarded as a basketball player in high school. He has retained his body life and runs to first base in 4.25 seconds. Restovich is polished offensively with good plate discipline, a two-strike approach and an ability to hit the ball to all fields.

Weaknesses: Restovich played first base until he signed and is still mechanical in left field, where his arm is just playable. He is streaky at the plate with his power, and the Twins believe he will gradually hit more home runs as he matures.

The Future: Restovich competed well in the California Fall League, although putting up a five-hit and five-strikeout game in the same week speaks to his blend of youth and talent. He should start 2000 at Class A Fort Myers.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Quad City (A)      .312  493  91 154  30   6  19  107  74 100   7

3. Matthew LeCroy, C
Age: 25  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 225
Drafted: Clemson, 1996 (Supplemental 1st round)  Signed by: Ricky Taylor

Background: The Twins kept LeCroy in Class A until late July, when he joined Team USA for the Pan American Games. LeCroy torched Triple-A for a month when he returned, but a broken finger cost him a big league callup.

Strengths: LeCroy is a polished hitter with enormous power potential. The organization projects him to hit 30-plus homers even if he remains behind the plate. With a short, compact swing, LeCroy rarely strikes out and can drive pitches to right field when behind in the count.

Weaknesses: The reason for LeCroy’s extended stay in Fort Myers–and a source of concern since high school–was his defense, especially his footwork and hand-glove exchange. He threw out 28 percent of basestealers in the FSL.

The Future: The Twins are convinced LeCroy can catch in the big leagues. He could make the Opening Day roster in 2000 and see action at first base and DH.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Fort Myers (A)     .279  333  54  93  20   1  20   69  42  51   0
Salt Lake (AAA)    .303  119  23  36   4   1  10   30   5  22   0

4. B.J. Garbe, OF
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 195
Drafted: HS--Moses Lake, Wash., 1999 (1st round)  Signed by: Bill Lohr

Background: Garbe was one of the most acclaimed athletes in Washington prep history. He exceeded 1,000 yards both passing and rushing in football, and pitched and hit his Columbia River Basin team to the 1998 Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series title. Lower-back stiffness limited his mobility during the summer, but Garbe was still named the No. 3 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.

Strengths: Garbe is an excellent athlete. He runs to first base in 4.1 seconds and has one of the strongest outfield arms in baseball. Despite his size, he has excellent range in center field. Garbe’s swing is strong and level.

Weaknesses: Power is the one area that keeps Garbe from being an immediate five-tool talent, but with his strength and bat speed it should eventually develop. Garbe’s back problems should be alleviated by rest and stretching exercises.

The Future: In Cuddyer and Garbe, the Twins have bookend athletes to build their future big league lineup around. Garbe should start 2000 at Class A Quad City.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Elizabethton (R)   .316  171  33  54   8   0   3   32  20  34   4

5. Luis Rivas, SS
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht: 5-10  Wt: 175
Signed: Venezuela, 1995  Signed by: Enrique Brito

Background: Rivas celebrated his fourth full season in the organization by turning 20 on the last day of Double-A New Britain’s season. He established career highs in all extra-base categories and, perhaps most importantly, almost tripled his 1998 walk total.

Strengths: Rivas has excellent range in the field and a knack for making the spectacular play. He has shown surprising power for his age and size, and his 44 extra-base hits in 2000 matched Cuddyer’s total. Rivas also led the Venezuelan League in triples this winter.

Weaknesses: Rivas still boots the routine ball; his 37 errors led Eastern League shortstops. Rivas has lost a step of speed on the bases with extra strength and age, though he is still an above-average runner.

The Future: Rivas has a higher ceiling than the Twins’ 21-year-old big league shortstop Cristian Guzman, especially offensively. They could eventually make up the club’s middle infield, possibly as soon as 2001.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
New Britain (AA)   .254  527  78 134  30   7   7   49  41  92  31

6. J.C. Romero, LHP
Age: 23  B-T: B-L  Ht: 5-11  Wt: 195
Drafted: Mobile, 1997 (21st round)  Signed by: Mark Quimuyog

Background: A strong-armed outfielder in his native Puerto Rico, Romero converted to the mound in college. He joined LeCroy on Team USA for the Pan Am Games and had 21 saves in two years in the Puerto Rican League.

Strengths: Romero’s best pitch is a hard fastball that can touch 94-95 mph with good late action. He throws a hard slider with good biting action and a decent changeup. Romero’s experience closing during the winter helped smooth his adjustment to the major leagues last September.

Weaknesses: Romero has not shown consistent command of the strike zone in the minors, which the Twins attribute to a lack of concentration. He must improve his change to control righthanded hitters.

The Future: With Romero’s three-pitch arsenal and their depth of lefthanders in the bullpen, the Twins are entertaining the idea of trying him as a starter in spring training.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
New Britain (AA)  4  4  3.40  36   1   0   7   53  51  34  53
Salt Lake (AAA)   4  1  3.20  15   0   0   1   20  18  14  20
Minnesota         0  0  3.72   5   0   0   0   10  13   0   4

7. Kyle Lohse, RHP
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 190
Drafted: Butte (Calif.) JC, 1996 (29th round)  Signed by: Brad Kelley (Cubs)

Background: Lohse signed in 1997 with the Cubs as a draft-and-follow and was their No. 6 prospect after the 1998 season. The Twins obtained him and righthander Jason Ryan for Rick Aguilera and lefthander Scott Downs in a May 21 trade.

Strengths: Lohse’s best pitch is a hard, late-breaking slider. He complements it with a 90-mph fastball and solid changeup. Lohse is a confident and polished pitcher with command of his pitches to both sides of the plate.

Weaknesses: Lohse can be aggressive to a fault on the mound. He runs into too many big innings when he tries to overpower hitters with runners on base instead of going into damage-control mode.

The Future: The Twins say that Lohse, not Ryan, made the Aguilera trade for them. Lohse’s approach and command are similar to Twins righthanders Mike Lincoln, Dan Perkins and Ryan, but his pure stuff grades out better on each pitch.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Daytona (A)       5  3  2.89   9   9   1   0   53  48  16  41
Fort Myers (A)    2  3  5.18   7   7   0   0   42  47   9  33
New Britain (AA)  3  4  5.89  11  11   1   0   70  87  23  41

8. Johan Santana, LHP
Age: 21  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 165
Signed: Venezuela, 1995  Signed by: Andres Reiner (Astros)

Background: The Twins, with the first pick, acquired Santana in a prearranged Rule 5 trade with the Marlins in December. He must make the Twins’ Opening Day roster or be offered back to the Astros, his former organization. It might be a longshot for him to stick because he has no experience above the Midwest League.

Strengths: Santana has a loose, live arm and a fastball that ranges anywhere from 88-94 mph. He throws a good curveball with a wide, sweeping break and an advanced changeup for his age. Santana’s command of the strike zone and his success in winter ball in Venezuela improve his chances of sticking in Minnesota.

Weaknesses: The history of the Rule 5 draft is littered with pitchers who couldn’t make the jump from low Class A to the big leagues, or whose careers were harmed by the attempt. Santana must handle the big league environment and the possible inactivity.

The Future: Unless Santana fails in spring training, the Twins have committed themselves to carrying him as the third reliever in the bullpen behind Eddie Guardado and Travis Miller.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Michigan (A)      8  8  4.66  27  26   1   0  160 162  55 150

9. Juan Rincon, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 5-11  Wt: 175
Signed: Venezuela, 1996  Signed by: Enrique Brito

Background: After going 6-4, 3.83 with 74 strikeouts in 96 in his first tour of the Midwest League in 1998, Rincon narrowly missed the pitching triple crown a year ago. He led the league in strikeouts, finished second in wins and third in ERA. Like Santana, Rincon has a history of pitching well in winter ball in his native Venezuela.

Strengths: Rincon has a simple, efficient delivery and effortless arm action. Hitters are often overmatched when they encounter Rincon’s deceptive 92-95 mph fastball. Rincon’s slider was much sharper in 1999 and gave him an effective second pitch.

Weaknesses: Rincon has relied on power stuff to dominate Class A hitters and has yet to show an appreciation for his changeup or the art of pitching. His aptitude will make up the next key step in his career.

The Future: Factoring in his winter workload, he has thrown more than 250 innings since October 1998, heavy baggage for his age. Staying healthy will be a factor in whether he jumps to New Britain or moves up one step to Fort Myers.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Quad City (A)    14  8  2.92  28  28   0   0  163 146  66 153

10. Ryan Mills, LHP
Age: 22  B-T: R-L  Ht: 6-5  Wt: 200
Drafted: Arizona State, 1998 (1st round)  Signed by: Clair Rierson

Background: Mills led Arizona State to the College World Series and was the sixth overall pick in ’98, but elbow tenderness limited his pro debut to five innings that year. His father Dick Mills, who has authored videos on pitching, had a brief big league career.

Strengths: There is nothing wrong with Mills’ health or stuff. He still regularly touches 95 mph with his fastball and has both a curveball and 90-mph cut fastball that can be dominant strikeout pitches.

Weaknesses: Mills’ problem is a fixation and over-emphasis on mechanics. He lacks confidence in what he is doing on the mound before he releases the ball. Mills’ problems are mental, but different from the afflictions of Steve Blass or Mark Wohlers.

The Future: It was not a coincidence that the Twins hired former big leaguer Gary Lucas as a pitching coach for Quad City this offseason. Lucas, who had been out of the game for several years, is a 6-foot-5 lefty with an easy, optimistic approach to coaching. Mills will be his primary pupil.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Fort Myers (A)    3 10  8.87  27  21   0   0   95 121  87  70

Rest of the Best:

11. Bobby Kielty, of
12. Matt Kinney, rhp
13. Jason Ryan, rhp
14. Ruben Salazar, 3b/2b
15. Chad Moeller, c

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