Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Lacy Lusk
1. Adam Johnson, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Cal State Fullerton, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: John Leavitt.
Background: Johnson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 draft after an outstanding junior year at Cal State Fullerton. He went 7-4, 2.72 with 166 strikeouts and 28 walks in 119 innings, setting school strikeout records for a season and a career 365. He also holds the San Diego County high school career strikeout mark. As a sophomore, he won 10 games and pitched in the College World Series, but he missed the 1999 super regionals as one of four Titans suspended for throwing rocks off a building. Though he has first-round talent, signability was a major reason Johnson went second in the draft. Five lower picks received as much or more bonus money than Johnsons $2.5 million, which was $250,000 less than B.J. Garbe got when Minnesota took him fifth overall in 1999. But no one can complain with the early results. And at least he did sign, something that cant be said of supplemental first-rounder Aaron Heilman and second-rounder Taggert Bozied.
Strengths: Among Twins prospects who havent already appeared in Minnesota, Johnson may be the closest to the majors. He locates his fastball well and has excellent mound presence. With his power repertoirea consistent 91 mph fastball that touches 94-95 and a hard, late-breaking 85-86 mph sliderhe could become a closer in the Billy Koch mold. He has a good approach and would benefit from a full summer in the minor leagues.
Weaknesses: Johnson is an emotional pitcher who sometimes comes off as arrogant. He needs to behave more professionally, but club officials like his focus on each game and on pitching in general. He could use more consistency with his curveball and slider. After frequently going deep in the count in his first professional start, he showed more command the rest of the season.
The Future: For now, Johnson remains a starter. Koch, another early first-round pick, was exclusively a starter in the minor leagues before Toronto called him up in 1999. Expect Johnson to begin 2001 at Double-A New Britain with the possibility of ending it in Minnesotas rotation or bullpen. He already would have gotten his first look at Double-A in 2000, but New Britain finished in a tailspin and Fort Myers was in a pennant race.
2. Michael Cuddyer, 3b
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSChesapeake, Va., 1997 (1st round). Signed by: John Wilson.
Background: Cuddyer ranked as Minnesotas No. 1 prospect after each of his first two pro seasons before dropping a notch following a shaky 2000 season. He hit just six homers in Double-A, which caused the Twins to send him to instructional league so he could work on driving the ball for more power. Off the field, hes an amateur magician.
Strengths: Twins officials like Cuddyers attitude and leadership qualities. With experience and playing time, hes expected to become a 20-25 home run threat. He flashes power to the opposite field and can hit offspeed pitches well.
Weaknesses: For a player frequently compared to Angels third baseman Troy Glaus, six homers dont quite measure up. In addition to concerns about Cuddyers power, he has below-average speed, and his error total went from 28 to 34 in his second full year at third base. He has trouble fielding balls cleanly and throwing accurately.
The Future: Cuddyer likely will return to Double-A in 2001, which isnt a terrible setback considering hell be just 22. Hes at least a year or two away from forcing Minnesota to decide where to move incumbent third baseman Corey Koskie.
3. Michael Restovich, of
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 233. Drafted: HSRochester, Minn., 1997 (2nd round). Signed by: Joel Lepel.
Background: A home state product, Restovich rejected a Notre Dame baseball scholarship offer. He broke his high schools record for points in a basketball career. The No. 2 prospect behind Braves infielder Rafael Furcal in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 1998, he stumbled for the first time as a pro at Class A Fort Myers in 2000.
Strengths: Restovich has the best raw power among Twins farmhands, and the big league club needs more sluggers like him. He also runs well for a player his size and led Minnesota minor leaguers with 19 stolen bases. He has improved his two-strike approach in each of the last two seasons.
Weaknesses: After a slow start in 2000, Restovich was able to get around better on inside fastballs. He also demonstrated improvement with his baserunning instincts, but will need to keep progressing. His outfield jumps and throwing accuracy are also developing.
The Future: Managers ranked "Resto" the 17th-best prospect in the Florida State League, and he may return there to begin 2001. He hit 19 homers in the Class A Midwest League in 1999, and the Twins hope he becomes a threat to hit 25-30 a season.
4. Luis Rivas, 2b
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175. Signed: Venezuela, 1995. Signed by: Enrique Brito.
Background: Rivas has been playing in the United States since he was 16, and was the top prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in his debut. He made a smooth transition to second base in 2000.
Strengths: Rivas speed has dropped a notch to above-average as he has filled out, but hes still the quickest player in the system. He has good range and a shortstops arm at second base. He hit only .258 as he was pushed through the system, but he seemed to blossom in 2000 after reaching the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and Minnesota.
Weaknesses: After the position change, Rivas can still improve on making the pivot and turning the double play. He improved his plate discipline in 2000 but still needs to draw more walks. His career on-base percentage in the minors is .315.
The Future: If all goes well for Rivas in the Venezuelan League and spring training, he could win Minnesotas starting second-base job over Jay Canizaro and Denny Hocking. Rivas and Cristian Guzman could form the Twins double-play combination for years.
5. Justin Morneau, 1b/c
Age: 19. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: New Westminster, B.C., 1999 (3rd round). Signed by: Howard Norsetter.
Background: After wrenching his knee while sliding, Morneau didnt even play in extended spring training in 2000 until just before the Gulf Coast League season started in June. A gamer, he came back faster than expected and set GCL records for batting average and RBIs.
Strengths: The Twins believe Morneau could be their No. 3 hitter of the future. Shortly after he was drafted in 1999, he drilled several balls into the Metrodomes upper deck. Hes already mature offensively and still has room to grow.
Weaknesses: Prior to 2000, Morneaus throwing mechanics were subpar. Though he showed improvement behind the plate and caught during the Rookie-level Appalachian League playoffs, he is best suited for first basewhere he wont be blocked by anyone in the system. He has below-average speed but isnt considered a base clogger.
The Future: Morneau left instructional league with a sore elbow, which could tie him to first base for a while. He and Rob Bowen could form an impressive tandem at Class A Quad City in 2001. Morneaus bat is his ticket to the majors, and catching would be a bonus.
6. Matt Kinney, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSBangor, Maine, 1995 (6th round). Signed by: Buzz Bowers (Red Sox).
Background: Kinney is another New Englander who got away from the Red Sox. At the July 1998 trade deadline, they sent Kinney, outfielder John Barnes (the minors batting champ in 2000) and lefthander Joe Thomas to Minnesota for veterans Orlando Merced and Greg Swindell.
Strengths: Kinney is on par with Johnson as the hardest thrower in the system. He can touch 95-96 mph but is usually around 91. Kinney had bone chips removed from his elbow in 1999, but is durable like Johnson.
Weaknesses: Kinney often reaches his pitch limits too soon, as he lacks the concentration to put hitters away early in the count. His curves not as big and loopy as it once was, but he must continue to tighten it, and his changeup is just ordinary. He has shown more consistency since ditching his glasses in favor of contact lenses.
The Future: Kinney has an excellent shot at leaving spring training as one of Minnesotas starters. He even has drawn praise from Twins manager Tom Kelly, who habitually finds fault with young players.
7. Rob Bowen, c
Age: 20. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSFort Wayne, Ind., 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Bill Milos.
Background: Bowen was Indianas high school player of the year in 1999. He did not hit a home run in 77 at-bats in the big ballparks of the Gulf Coast League that summer, but showed increased power numbers in 2000. Managers rated him the No. 7 prospect in the Appalachian League.
Strengths: A switch-hitter, Bowen gets most of his power from the right side. He made progress with the bat while staying as dominant as ever on defense. Hes mobile behind the plate and has a strong arm.
Weaknesses: Less than a month into the 2000 season, Bowens offensive breakout was put on hold as a foul tip gave him a hairline fracture of his collarbone. Like so many of the youngsters on the Twins prospect list, hell need all the repetitions he can get at this stage of his development.
The Future: Bowen and Morneau were drafted in back-to-back rounds in 1999 and have been teammates for two seasons. The next probable step is Quad City, where Bowen will do most of the catching. He doesnt have Morneaus bat, but Bowens defensive skills put him on an identical track right now.
8. Bobby Kielty, of
Age: 24. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 215. Signed: Mississippi, 1999 (NDFA). Signed by: John Leavitt.
Background: The 1998 Cape Cod League player of the year, Kielty commanded a $500,000 bonus as a nondrafted free agent. He missed six weeks in 1999 because of allergies that affected his vision. Laser eye surgery essentially corrected that problem.
Strengths: Kielty is a solid hitter who has good gap power from both sides of the plate. He also has a good eye at the plate, leading the Double-A Eastern League in walks before finishing the year in Triple-A. Defensively, he gets the best jumps of any outfielder in the organization and has a playable arm.
Weaknesses: Kielty doesnt hit with consistent over-the-fence power, so the longer he can stay in center field the better. He struck out more than usual in the Arizona Fall League. At times, he gets too tough on himself.
The Future: If Jacque Jones and Torii Hunter lay long-term claim to their outfield jobs in Minnesota, Kielty could run into a wall. But he has blossomed when least expected before, and hell start 2001 a step away at new Triple-A affiliate Edmonton.
9. Brad Thomas, lhp
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 204. Signed: Australia, 1995. Signed by: Jim Stoeckel (Dodgers).
Background: An outstanding student and late-blooming ballplayer, Thomas signed with the Dodgers but was released because of a visa snafu in May 1997. The Twins grabbed him three days later. He had a busy 2000, pitching in the Futures Game and for the home team in the Olympics. Minnesota has been aggressive in Australia, where scout Howard Norsetter also uncovered prospect Grant Balfour.
Strengths: Thomas has good stuff for a lefthander. He has an above-average fastball, consistently throwing 91 mph and higher, to go with a solid changeup and curve. He doesnt get rattled and concerns himself more with outs than strikeouts. Hes about 25 pounds heavier than his listed weight, yet the Twins like his athleticism.
Weaknesses: As his one hot and one cold start in Sydney demonstrated, Thomas needs to do a better job locating his fastball. He can get velocity-happy, which is when he usually gets into trouble.
The Future: Thomas remained effective even while New Britain lost its final 17 games of the 2000 season. If he has a good spring, hell probably begin 2001 in Triple-A.
10. B.J. Garbe, of
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSMoses Lake, Wash., 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Bill Lohr.
Background: Garbes 1999 high school team featured two other big-time prospects, outfielder Jason Cooper (now playing college ball at Stanford) and catcher Ryan Doumit (now with the Pirates), both of whom were drafted in the second round. Garbe went fifth overall and signed for a club-record $2,750,000. His 2000 season was far from impressive.
Strengths: Garbe has tools. Hes a strong-bodied kid with the chance to develop power and the speed to leg out hits. He played well against older pitchers in instructional league in the fall. Garbe has the best outfield arm in the system and the range to play center field.
Weaknesses: Tools aside, Garbe didnt impress much of anybody in the Midwest League. He chased too many sliders and seldom got into offensive counts. He never found a swing he liked. Reviews of his overall defense were mixed as well.
The Future: Garbe likely will repeat the Midwest League in 2001, at least to start the season. A star quarterback in high school, he remains the best all-around athlete on this list, even if it hasnt fully translated on the baseball diamond yet.
Rest of the Best:
11. Jeff Randazzo, lhp
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