Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Josh Boyd
1. Joe Mauer, c
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HSSt. Paul, Minn., 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Mark Wilson and Joel Lepel.
Background: General manager Terry Ryan graded Mauer higher than any high school prospect he had ever seen, with three exceptions: Alex Rodriguez, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, Mauer capped his amateur career by leading Cretin-Derham Hall to the Minnesota state title and winning Baseball Americas High School Player of the Year award. He also won national football player of the year awards and tied a state record with 41 touchdown passes as a senior. He averaged nearly 20 points a game on the basketball court. Mauer had a scholarship to play quarterback at Florida State like fellow Cretin-Derham alum Chris Weinke, but the Twins put any doubts about Mauers athletic future to rest by signing the local product to a $5.15 million bonus, the second-highest ever for a player signing with the team that drafted him. Mauer was an easy choice as the Appalachian Leagues top prospect. He played at Elizabethton with his brother Jake, an infielder drafted in the 23rd round last year.
Strengths: Though he didnt homer in his pro debut, Mauer has excellent bat speed and gets good extension. The ball carries off his bat to all fields. He tied a national mark by homering in seven consecutive games in high school. He struck out only once in four years at Cretin-Derham Hall. Mauer is so athletically gifted that one scout said he could be a top-of-the-line defender at first base or third base, if not catcher. He has a rocket arm and unusual quickness for someone his size. He has a quick release and the ball comes out of his hand with ease. His makeup matches his talent.
Weaknesses: Mauer is polished for a high school player but still needs experience. If he fine-tunes his mechanics, hell become a top-notch catcher.
The Future: Mauer was the first prep backstop drafted No. 1 overall since Danny Goodwin in 1971. Of the 14 prep catchers taken with the top five picks, only Darrell Porter and Mike Lieberthal have stayed at the position and fulfilled their potential (reserving judgment on Ben Davis). The Twins are confident hell buck those odds. Mauer will make his full-season debut at low Class A Quad City in 2002.
2. Justin Morneau, 1b
Age: 20. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HSNew Westminster, B.C., 1999 (3rd round). Signed by: Howard Norsetter.
Background: Morneau put on a power display for Twins brass in a practice session at the Metrodome shortly after he was drafted. Nagging injuries held him back in his first two pro seasons, but after he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow, he earned two promotions in 2001, his first healthy season.
Strengths: Morneaus offensive ceiling rivals Mauers. His classic lefthanded stroke draws comparisons to John Olerud, but Morneau projects to hit for more power. He shows the aptitude to make adjustments at the plate and hes figuring out which pitches he can turn on.
Weaknesses: Drafted as a catcher, Morneau will be limited to first base by his growing body. Hes not mobile and will be an average defender at best. He saw time in right field during instructional league.
The Future: One scout guaranteed Morneau will hit 35-40 home runs in the big leagues someday. Hes on the fast track, reaching Double-A New Britain last year two months after turning 20. Hell return there to start 2002.
3. Michael Cuddyer, of/3b
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 202. Drafted: HSChesapeake, Va., 1997 (1st round). Signed by: John Wilson.
Background: On the heels of a disappointing 2000 season, Cuddyer returned to New Britain and firmly established himself as an important part of the Twins future. Rated the systems top prospect entering 1999 and 2000, he won the organizations minor league player of the year award last year. He followed that up by hitting .336-4-29 in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: After his power disappeared in 2000, Cuddyer launched a career-best 30 homers last year. Hes a disciplined, professional hitter. He has the bat speed to crush fastballs and the patience to stay back on offspeed stuff. He has a short, compact stroke and has gotten better at driving the ball to right field.
Weaknesses: A high school All-American as a shortstop, Cuddyer has learned to harness his arm strength, which was the main factor in his high error totals early in his career. He split time between third base, first base and right field during 2001.
The Future: Cuddyer will compete for Minnesotas right-field job in spring training with Bobby Kielty and Dustan Mohr. The Twins lack righthanded power and think Cuddyer is the answer.
4. Michael Restovich, of
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 233. Drafted: HSRochester, Minn., 1997 (2nd round). Signed by: Joel Lepel.
Background: As with Cuddyer, Restovich rebounded after a 2000 season below his previous standards. He also had a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League, batting .289-6-28. Like Mauer, he was a multisport star at a Minnesota high school. Restovich set the Mayo High record for career points in basketball.
Strengths: Even at a burly 6-foot-4, Restovich is one of the systems best all-around athletes. He generates light-tower power with the natural loft in his swing. He can crush the ball to right-center and is learning to pull the ball with authority. His arm is average, and he has the agility and range to cover the spacious left-field territory in the Metrodome.
Weaknesses: High strikeout totals are going to be a product of Restovichs power. Hes a step behind Mauer, Justin Morneau and Cuddyer with his hitting approach.
The Future: Restovichs overall future potential is as high as anyone in the organization. Its just a matter of maturing at the plate and recognizing counts and situations. After a full year at Triple-A Edmonton, he should be ready to join Cuddyer and Torii Hunter in Minnesotas outfield.
5. Adam Johnson, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Cal State Fullerton, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: John Leavitt.
Background: Johnson made an immediate impact after the Twins drafted him with the second overall choice in 2000. He agreed to a predraft deal worth $2.5 million, overpowered the Florida State League and ranked No. 1 on this list a year ago. His outstanding spring nearly earned Johnson a spot on the Opening Day roster in 2001. Instead, he made his major league debut in July.
Strengths: Johnson has one of the livest arms in the system and touches 94-95 mph. As a starter, his fastball sits in the 90-92 range. Though he has refined and compacted his delivery since college, his makeup and aggressive arm action point to a future as a closer.
Weaknesses: By the time he reached Minnesota, Johnson didnt possess the same sharpness on his slider and curveball that hed shown previously. Hes still learning the finer points of pitching.
The Future: The Twins didnt want to rush Johnson but couldnt help themselves. His long-term role has yet to be defined, but hell build up innings and experience in the minors before returning.
6. Brad Thomas, lhp
Age: 24. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Signed: Australia, 1995. Signed by: Jim Stoeckel (Dodgers).
Background: The Twins lost out to the Dodgers in 1995 for Thomas services, but scooped him up two years later when he was cut. The State Department ordered Los Angeles to release several players because of visa problems, and the Dodgers didnt consider Thomas a prospect after his velocity had dipped into the low 80s.
Strengths: Thomas now can run his fastball up to 95-96 mph. What makes him effective, though, is the movement he gets when he cuts or sinks the pitch and throws at 90-92. His curveball and changeup project as major league average offerings. Hes tough on lefthanders, and he has the stamina and diverse arsenal to remain effective late into a game.
Weaknesses: Thomas ran into trouble against major leaguers when he struggled to locate his fastball. He has good control but sometimes catches too much of the strike zone.
The Future: As with Johnson, injuries forced Thomas to Minnesota ahead of schedule. He needs another full year of innings in Triple-A, but might be called upon for major league bullpen duty this year.
7. Juan Rincon, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 190. Signed: Venezuela, 1996. Signed by: Enrique Brito.
Background: While Rincon always has been advanced for his age, he repeated the low Class A Midwest League after an uninspiring 1999 season. His first trip to Double-A also produced undesirable results, but he returned in 2001 and finished among the Eastern League leaders in wins, ERA and strikeouts.
Strengths: After his rough half-season in New Britain, the Twins were unsure Rincon would last as a starter. Then he bolstered his three-pitch attack last year by pumping his fastball up to 94 mph and honing his nasty slider and changeup. He can throw strikes with all three.
Weaknesses: Rincon became too dependent on his slider before learning to mix up his pitch sequence last season. He needs to avoid falling into that trap again. He doesnt have prototype size for a starter.
The Future: There always will be concerns about the stamina of undersized starters. You can find exceptions such as Pedro Martinez and Roy Oswalt, and others like Octavio Dotel and Ugueth Urbina who became successful relievers. Rincon will remain a starter for now and move up to Triple-A.
8. Rob Bowen, c
Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 206. Drafted: HSFort Wayne, Ind., 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Bill Milos.
Background: The Twins have ignored the pitfalls of drafting high school catchers in the early rounds, and they think they have two impact players in Mauer and Bowen. Some scouts compare Bowen to Ben Davis, the No. 2 overall pick in 1995, at the same stage of development.
Strengths: Bowens power is developing in a hurry. After hitting four home runs in 150 at-bats over his first two pro seasons, he erupted for 18 in his first exposure to full-season ball. A switch-hitter, he has a better swing lefthanded but most of his power comes from the right side. Bowen is one of the best defensive players in the organization. He demonstrates advanced receiving skills, plus the arm and quick release to deter basestealers.
Weaknesses: Bowen still has limited exposure to professional pitching, as cracking his collarbone cost him much of 2000. He needs to tighten his strike zone and put himself in better hitters counts. He tired last season and homered just once in his final 131 at-bats.
The Future: Bowen will be challenged this year in high Class A. Fort Myers Hammond Stadium is one of the toughest parks to hit home runs in a pitchers league.
9. Matt Kinney, rhp
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSBangor, Maine, 1995 (6th round). Signed by: Buzz Bowers (Red Sox).
Background: Kinney entered last spring as the favorite to fill a vacancy in the rotation after finishing 2000 in Minnesota. But a miserable spring snowballed into a poor season, as he allowed his disappointment at not making the club to affect his performance in Triple-A. He won his first decision, but dropped the next nine and didnt really regain his focus until August, when he won his final four starts.
Strengths: There never was any question about Kinneys stuff. Hes armed with one of the best fastballs in the system, regularly hitting 93-94 mph with heavy sink and run. He touched 96 every time out last year. He mixes in a plus slurve and usable change. He has the broad shoulders of a workhorse.
Weaknesses: Kinney needs to throw more strikes and keep his emotions in check. Though he has an easy motion and delivery, he has encountered elbow tenderness more than once in his career.
The Future: Kinney showed flashes of big league-caliber stuff during his stint in Minnesota two years ago. The Twins again are counting on him to fill the No. 5 starters slot. He could strengthen what already is one of baseballs brightest young rotations.
10. Sandy Tejada, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 188. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by: Johnny Sierra.
Background: Tejada is one of the most promising graduates of the Twins academy in the Dominican. Known as Manny before last season, he signed for $10,000 in 1998. He electrified the Appalachian League last summer, averaging more than eight strikeouts a start despite never working past the sixth inning.
Strengths: Tejada threw 86 mph when he signed and regularly registers 90-94 now. He always has been able to throw strikes, which puts him ahead of a lot of pitchers his age. He has a projectable frame with a loose arm action, and he works on an effective downhill plane. He already shows a good feel for changing speeds.
Weaknesses: Tejada needs to refine his breaking ball and become more consistent with his changeup. Both pitches have the potential to be average by big league standards.
The Future: At the beginning of 2001, Tejada was in over his head as a teenager in the Midwest League. Now hes ready for another shot at full-season ball with Quad City. All the ingredients are there for a high ceiling and rapid ascent.
Rest of the Best:
11. Grant Balfour, rhp
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