Twins Prospects 2-10
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HSNew Westminster, B.C., 1999 (3rd round). Signed by: Howard Norsetter.
Background: Drafted as a catcher out of the North Delta Blue Jays program in the B.C. Premier League, Morneau has settled in at first base after experimenting in the outfield during instructional league in 2001. Injuries have hampered him throughout his career. Last spring, he lost 25 pounds due to an intestinal infection and missed the first week of the season at Double-A New Britain.
Strengths: Morneaus lefthanded stroke is one of the sweetest in the minors. He produces outstanding power with a classic finish. He shows the ability to cover the plate and center the ball. His plus-plus bat speed propels the ball off his bat, and he has the best game power of any prospect in the system.
Weaknesses: As a first baseman, Morneau will be adequate but wont be an asset like incumbent Doug Mienkiewicz, a Gold Glover. Morneau worked on his hands and footwork in the Arizona Fall League.
The Future: Morneau should produce well-above-average power and average. Mienkiewicz job wont be in jeopardy until 2004, though Morneau could force his way into the Twins lineup as a DH by the all-star break in 2003.
3. Michael Cuddyer, of
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HSChesapeake, Va., 1997 (1st round). Signed by: John Wilson.
Background: A high school shortstop, Cuddyer moved to third base in 1999 after committing 61 errors at short in low Class A in 1998. He made the move to right field in 2001 as Corey Koskie emerged at third for Minnesota. Cuddyer was rated the Twins No. 1 prospect in 1999 and 2000.
Strengths: Cuddyer has the juice to be a potent middle-of-the-order force. He generates well above-average bat speed and rakes to all fields because he can drive even the best fastballs and keep his hands back on offspeed stuff. He has the leadership abilities to fit right in with the homegrown Twins. He has plenty of arm strength for right field.
Weaknesses: Though he has made progress in the outfield, Cuddyer is still learning to make proper routes and reads on fly balls. He looked a little rough during his late-season audition with Minnesota.
The Future: The Bobby Kielty-Dustan Mohr platoon worked well for the Twins, but Cuddyer is still expected to claim the right-field job and hit in the heart of the order. Hes a top candidate for Rookie of the Year in 2003.
4. Michael Restovich, of
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 245. Drafted: HSRochester, Minn., 1997 (2nd round). Signed by: Joel Lepel.
Background: Drafted a round after Cuddyer, Restovich has been a step behind in his development ever since. Restovich headed to the Arizona Fall League for the second straight year to catch up, but he was exhausted by November and his performance reflected it.
Strengths: A gifted athlete whos built like a linebacker, Restovich has the unique ability for someone his size to combine pure strength with a short swing. His raw power, which rates a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, produces home runs that dont come down for a while. His arm strength and speed are average.
Weaknesses: Restovich understands the strike zone and has solid-average bat speed, but he can be beat with good heat and needs to learn to lay off breaking balls away. A high school third baseman who has played left field for five years, he is still learning the finer points of defense, throwing and baserunning.
The Future: With nine outfielders on the 40-man roster, the Twins can afford to start Restovich at Triple-A Rochester in 2003. He could be ready for a regular spot in the lineup by 2004, when hell be just 25.
5. Denard Span, of
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HSTampa, 2002 (1st round). Signed by: Brad Weitzel.
Background: Span transferred from Hillsborough High (the alma mater of Carl Everett, Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield) to help Tampa Catholic win a Florida 3-A state title as a junior. He hit .456 as a senior and led the county in receiving yards for the football team. Span was a key member of the U.S. junior team that finished second in a Pan American tournament in Cuba in 2001. After signing for $1.7 million in August, he got his first pro exposure in instructional league.
Strengths: Spans profile and mindset are those of a classic top-of-the-order catalyst like Kenny Lofton. He puts pressure on the defense with his speed and has been clocked at 6.45 seconds in the 60-yard dash. He has a live, athletic frame with first-step quickness and average arm strength for center field. He makes solid contact and will drive the ball to the gaps with more authority as he fills out.
Weaknesses: Span is raw. He doesnt have a classic stroke, and the Twins altered his spread-out approach at the plate this fall. He wont hit for plus power and needs to understand his limitations.
The Future: Span will make his pro debut in low Class A. Hes the Twins leadoff hitter of the future.
6. Scott Tyler, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HSDowningtown, Pa., 2001 (2nd round). Signed by: John Wilson.
Background: After signing for $875,000 in 2001, Tyler was so raw in instructional league that coaches had to stop innings before he recorded three outs. He learned to harness his power arsenal in extended spring training before leading the Rookie-level Appalachian League in strikeouts. His father Toby was an all-America basketball player at Cheyney (Pa.) University and was selected in the ABA draft.
Strengths: Physically imposing, Tyler mows batters down with a 95 mph fastball that has heavy, boring life and is delivered from a three-quarters arm slot. He shows the ability to spin a hard slider, though he needs to refine the pitch, and his changeup has become more reliable.
Weaknesses: At his size, Tyler has high-maintenance mechanics. He has worked to make his delivery compact but struggles to keep everything in sync, which affects his command. He has to tighten his slurvy breaking ball.
The Future: Tyler has a powerhouse body and the overpowering stuff to develop into a frontline starter. Hell move to low Class A in 2003. The Twins like to move their starters one level at a time, but he could hasten that timetable by continuing to dominate.
7. J.D. Durbin, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 188. Drafted: HSScottsdale, Ariz., 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Lee MacPhail.
Background: A two-way stud as a righthander/outfielder in high school, Durbin also was recruited as a wide receiver. A $722,500 bonus kept him away from his Arizona State commitment. After signing in 2000, he was limited to two innings by a sore elbow, which gave him trouble again in 2001.
Strengths: An adjustment to Durbins approach helped him develop into a prospect. Instead of trying to strike out every hitter, he learned to trust his stuff and pitch. He still led the Midwest League in whiffs, as hitters had a difficult time catching up to his 91-92 mph fastball and his darting slider, the best breaking pitch in the system. He can reach back for more velocity and touched 95 every time he took the mound.
Weaknesses: With his track record and size, Durbins durability will be monitored closely. His changeup has improved but isnt consistently average yet. One scout who saw him in the MWL thought he had a long arm action and might be better suited for the bullpen.
The Future: After making progress with his command, control and mound presence, Durbin could move quickly. Hell advance to high Class A in 2003.
8. Jason Kubel, of
Age: 20. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 193. Drafted: HSPalmdale, Calif., 2000 (12th round). Signed by: Bill Mele.
Background: Kubel earned preseason third-team High School All-America recognition in 2000 from Baseball America and turned down an offer to go to Long Beach State. He enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2002 after a pair of obscure campaigns in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He made the Midwest League all-star team despite being bothered by back problems.
Strengths: By shortening his stroke and learning which pitches to handle, Kubel took a huge step forward. Hes an aggressive contact hitter who can hit for power with a quick swing. Kubel pitched in high school and shows plus arm strength suitable for right field. He has a chance to be a solid-average defender.
Weaknesses: He held his own against lefties in 2002, but Kubel connected for just four extra-base hits in 105 at-bats against southpaws. Hes a below-average runner, though he wont clog the bases.
The Future: Kubel really impressed the Twins with his progress and is destined for high Class A in 2003. He could develop into a poor mans Brian Giles if he continues to develop power as he moves up the ladder.
9. Lew Ford, of
Age: 26. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Dallas Baptist, 1999 (12th round). Signed by: Jim Robinson (Red Sox).
Background: Originally drafted by the Red Sox, Ford had teamed with Boston prospect Freddy Sanchez to take Dallas Baptist to the NAIA World Series in 1999. The Red Sox dealt Ford to the Twins for journeyman reliever Hector Carrasco in September 2000. Ford led the minors in runs in 2002.
Strengths: Ford put his name on the map by homering four times in a 2001 game, and again showed his sneaky power by winning the home run derby at the 2002 Double-A all-star game. Hes a plus runner with the instincts to work the count and draw walks. He has an average arm and shows fine range in center field.
Weaknesses: While he wont develop into a perennial all-star, Ford doesnt show many flaws in his game. His biggest obstacle is Minnesotas depth of quality outfielders.
The Future: Ford capped the 2002 season with the MVP award in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League playoffs, and he was placed on the 40-man roster in November. After hitting well in the Venezuelan League, he could crack the Opening Day roster as an extra outfielder.
10. Adam Johnson, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Cal State Fullerton, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: John Leavitt.
Background: Known as a fiery competitor, Johnson made national headlines during spring training for his angry reaction to being sent to minor league camp. Then he went out and had a disappointing season at Triple-A Edmonton. He was the No. 2 overall pick in 2000, when he was the Big West Conference pitcher of the year and led NCAA Division I in strikeouts.
Strengths: Johnson is a different pitcher than he was at Cal State Fullerton, where he dominated opponents with a hard slider. His fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range and touches 94. His changeup has developed into an occasional plus offering as he has smoothed out his mechanics.
Weaknesses: The Pacific Coast League can be unkind to pitchers, and Johnson didnt help himself with his inconsistent location in the strike zone. His slider doesnt have the same bite it once did. He has been more of a control/command pitcher as a starter, while as a reliever he could have more of a power arsenal.
The Future: Despite his struggles, Johnson will have a chance to claim a big league bullpen job in spring training. Many scouts project him to throw in the mid-90s and flourish as a potential closer prospect.
Best of the Rest
Half of the Twins Top 10 Prospects list consists of outfielders, and Minnesotas burgeoning talent at the position doesnt stop there.
Mike Ryan joined Michael Cuddyer, Michael Restovich and Lew Ford in the Triple-A Edmonton outfield in 2002 and enjoyed a monster season at the plate. Ryan, 25, erupted for a career-high 31 home runs (tied for second in the minors) and a minor league-best 73 extra-base hits in his second tour of the Pacific Coast League.
While Ryan can mash, he appears destined for a reserve role. Two 19-year-old outfield prospects, Alex Romero and Trent Oeltjen, offer more promising upsides. The switch-hitting Romero had his coming out party in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He ranked among the top five in hitting, RBIs and on-base percentage. Romero has plus defensive skills in center field, but could move to a corner as he fills out and develops more power. Signed out of Australia in February 2001, Oeltjen has an easy line-drive cut and a .297 average in two years of Rookie ball.
On the mound, righthander Sandy Tejada had shoulder surgery but still has one of the most electric arms in the system. The Twins have several intriguing live-armed righties blossoming in relief roles, including 2002 second-rounder Jesse Crain, Matt Vorwald and Beau Kemp.
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of Opening Day 2003.
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