Twins Top 10 Prospects
By Josh Boyd
While they certainly were motivated by commissioner Bud Selig and owner Carl Pohlads offseason plans to eliminate the 101-year-old franchise, the Twins arent a one-hit wonder. Thanks to a stable front office led by general manager Terry Ryan, Baseball Americas 2002 Organization of the Year has the pieces in place to remain atop a collectively rebuilding AL Central for some time.
Burgeoning with homegrown talent in the majorsincluding six starting pitchers and four outfielders who played more than 100 games last seasonRyan could be in position to trade surplus players to bolster the roster. Scouting director Mike Radcliff, who has the longest tenure at his position, has stocked the farm system from Triple-A to Rookie ball with promising prospects.
The Twins can stack their upper-level prospects against anyone in baseball, and catcher Joe Mauer ranks among the top 10 in the game. Three of the five outfield prospects on this list played for Pacific Coast League champion Edmonton last season.
Michael Cuddyer started six games in the postseason, hitting .333, and hell head into spring training as the favorite to win the right-field job. Hell contend for Rookie of the Year after hitting a combined .304 with 50 home runs in the minors the last two years. Michael Restovich might need more seasoning at Edmonton before he becomes a dangerous power hitter in the middle of the lineup. Lew Ford is on the cusp after a breakthrough season when he led the minors in runs scored.
Other than the Matt Lawton-Rick Reed trade at the 2001 deadline, Ryan hasnt been in a position to deal homegrown players to supplement the Twins. As the Cuddyers, Restoviches and Fords develop, big leaguers such as Jacque Jones, Bobby Kielty and Dustan Mohr could become expendable.
Despite Minnesotas survival and success last year, Ryan is still forced to operate on a limited budget. Thats why he might opt to move Jones, who is coming off a career year, in favor of less expensive prospects.
Because the Twins have stayed true to their scouting and player development roots, they can make such a move without a significant dropoff. The strength of the farm system will help them sustain their success and give them a chance to improve.
Age: 19. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 230. Drafted: HSSt. Paul, Minn., 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Mark Wilson/Joel Lepel.
Background: Holding the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft, the Twins opted for Baseball America High School Player of the Year Joe Mauer instead of consensus top talent Mark Prior, who was out of their price range. Mauer was hardly a consolation prize, though. He was one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation and nearly followed fellow Cretin-Derham Hall product Chris Weinke to Florida State. Mauer also starred on the basketball court, averaging nearly 20 points a game. He led Cretin-Derham to state titles in all three sports. The Twins signed Mauer to a franchise-record $5.15 million deal, and he started his pro career by hitting .400 for Rookie-level Elizabethton. He raked for low Class A Quad City in his first full season, which ended early thanks to double-hernia surgery. He was back by the end of instructional league following six weeks on the sideline. His older brother Jake played second base for Quad City last year.
Strengths: Mauer shows outstanding balance at the plate and generates outstanding bat speed with a smooth, classic lefthanded stroke. A natural hitter, he covers the plate well, understands the strike zone and makes consistent hard contact to all fields. He has a knack for finding the sweet spot when he connects with the ball. The ball carries well off his bat, and hell develop above-average power as he continues to bulk up his loose, athletic frame and learns which pitches to turn on. He already shows plus power in batting practice. Mauers arm is near the top of the scale, but more important, hes mechanically sound with a quick release and his throws are right on the bag. Mauer benefited from working with veteran catcher Tom Prince in spring training.
Weaknesses: Mauer needs to learn the nuances of the game, including working with pitchers during a game. With his makeup and feel, hell be a complete receiver. More at-bats will help him understand counts and when to attack pitches.
The Future: Mauer is primed for a speedy ascent. A.J. Pierzynskis emergence will help the Twins bide their time, though it will be tempting to promote him aggressively and he might not last the season at high Class A Fort Myers. Hell own the top spot on this list until he takes over in Minnesota.
Click here for prospects 2-10.
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