Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By David Rawnsley
1. Michael Cuddyer, 3B
Strengths: Cuddyer had few problems at the plate in his pro debut, leading Fort Wayne in home runs, RBIs, doubles, triples, runs and walks. He showed excellent power potential and should dramatically increase his home run total as he grows into his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. Twins officials save their highest praise for Cuddyer's approach to the game. He did not let his defensive struggles affect his offense or his leadership role, even early in the season. Where the pressures of pro ball sometimes eat up young prospects, the Twins feel that Cuddyer will thrive on them.
Weaknesses: Cuddyer's defensive struggles at shortstop resulted in 61 errors. The errors weren't primarily in one area where a correction or extended repetitions could address the problem. The Twins felt that Cuddyer's above-average arm strength and hands were fine and that his limited range was forcing him to try to make plays he couldn't. The Twins also realized that they had two premium shortstop prospects in Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman. Cuddyer was switched to third base during instructional league and made an "instantaneous" conversion to the corner.
The Future: The Twins feel that Cuddyer's maturity, makeup and advanced approach to hitting put him on the fast track. He will most likely start 1999 in the Class A Florida State League, but the Twins will be watching for a fast start, especially in his conversion to third base. Probably the most comparable player in body, makeup and tools to Cuddyer is Phillies third baseman Scott Rolen.
2. Mike Restovich, OF
Age: 20 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 225
Drafted: HS--Rochester, Minn., 1997 (2nd round) Signed by: Joel Lepel
Background: Restovich signed late in 1997--four days before he was scheduled to enroll in classes at Notre Dame, where his father played basketball and his brother baseball. The Minnesota high school ranks in the 1990s are full of touted prospects who have floundered: Tom Nevers (Astros), Jamie Ogden (Twins), Chris Schwab (Expos) and Chris Weinke (Blue Jays), to name a few. Restovich's great debut indicates he could be the exception.
Strengths: When asked Restovich's best position in the future, one Twins executive said "cleanup." He already has the best raw power in the system and has shown an early mastery of hitting to right center field and working the strike zone.
Weaknesses: Restovich was a high school first baseman and is just learning the fundamentals of playing defense in the outfield. He needs plenty of repetitions on getting jumps on fly balls and getting his footwork set on throws.
The Future: The Twins are hungry for power and having a Kent Hrbek-type native in the middle of their lineup is a potential added bonus. He should begin 1999 back in the Midwest League at Class A Quad City.
3. Cristian Guzman, SS
Age: 21 B-T: B-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 150
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1994/Yankees Signed by: Vic Mata/Rudy Santin
Background: Guzman arrived from the Yankees in the Chuck Knoblauch trade prior to the 1998 season. At Double-A New Britain, Guzman enjoyed a steady and sometimes spectacular season against much older competition. He has continued his strong play this winter in his native Dominican Republic.
Strengths: The Twins consider Guzman their top tools player. He has exceptional defensive tools across the board at shortstop and is a 7 runner on the scouts' 8-point scale. Though he has only nine home runs in four pro seasons, Guzman has raw power from both sides of the plate. He puts on a first-rate power display in batting practice. The Twins feel he can become a run-producer from the bottom of the lineup in the future.
Weaknesses: Guzman must learn how to take a pitch. He has only 38 walks in more than 1,000 at bats the past two seasons. He also needs to improve his baserunning instincts.
The Future: There seems little doubt that Guzman can become a quality major league shortstop on defense. The Twins plan to continue to push him up the ladder despite his age and present offensive shortcomings.
4. Luis Rivas, SS
Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 5-10 Wt: 165
Signed: Venezuela, 1995 Signed by: Enrique Brito
Background: Despite turning 19 during the final week of the Florida State League season, Rivas is a Twins veteran. He has been an all-star in three leagues already and established career highs in most offensive categories in 1998.
Strengths: Rivas is a virtual clone of Guzman as an athlete and a baseball player. Rivas showed tremendous improvement defensively from 1997, when he made 58 errors in the Midwest League, and also has improved his ability to drive the ball. Rivas' baserunning instincts are much more advanced than Guzman's.
Weaknesses: Like Guzman, Rivas' major flaw at present is his inability or unwillingness to take pitches. He will be hard pressed to hit better pitching without changing his approach. A positive sign--he already had surpassed his total summer walk total this winter playing in the Venezuelan League.
The Future: Rivas or Guzman, Guzman or Rivas? Few organizations can boast the athleticism or youth the Twins have in their two shortstops. Rivas is likely to continue his rapid run through the Twins system by moving to New Britain in 1999 and pushing Guzman to Triple-A Salt Lake.
5. Matt LeCroy, C
Age: 23 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 225
Drafted: Clemson, 1997 (1st round supplemental) Signed by: Ricky Taylor
Background: Like Cuddyer and Restovich, LeCroy was a '97 draftee making his pro debut in '98. LeCroy was expected to move the fastest because of his college background, but he exceeded even the Twins expectations, finishing the year in Triple-A.
Strengths: LeCroy's ticket is his offensive potential and particularly his power. He is exceptionally strong with short, muscular arms and a compact swing that can put the ball out of the park to all fields. He retains good looseness and athletic ability, though, and his arm strength is average to above average.
Weaknesses: When LeCroy was drafted, most scouts thought he would quickly be moved to first base. But the Twins feel LeCroy made significant progress behind the plate this year, though he still needs work with his foot work and game-calling ability.
The Future: The Twins plan on doing everything possible to give LeCroy a chance to catch in the major leagues. With his offensive potential, they feel that they just need a competent receiver who will be able to hit in the middle of the lineup.
6. Ryan Mills, LHP
Age: 21 B-T: R-L Ht: 6-5 Wt: 200
Drafted: Arizona State, 1998 (1st round) Signed by: Clair Rierson
Background: Mills, son of former big league pitcher Dick Mills and the Twins' top draft pick in 1998, was shut down soon after signing for a $2 million bonus with labrum problems in his throwing shoulder. Amid concerns that the Twins purchased damaged goods, Mills was able to rehab the injury without surgery and was throwing at his regular velocity without pain the last two weeks of instructional league.
Strengths: Mills has the raw stuff and overall package to be a No. 1 starter. His fastball can reach 96 mph at times and is comfortable in the 92-93 range. He throws a plus curveball and good changeup along with a cut fastball that could be his out pitch against wood bats.
Weaknesses: The Twins are hoping they dodged a bullet with Mills' shoulder injury. For a college pitcher, Mills has surprisingly not thrown a large number of innings and still needs a lot of work on pitching and fielding fundamentals.
The Future: The Twins need a healthy Mills because they do not have another top-of-the-rotation starter in their system. They plan to build their future major league staff around him. He should start 1999 back at Fort Myers.
7. Jacque Jones, OF
Age: 23 B-T: L-L Ht: 5-10 Wt: 175
Drafted: Southern California, 1996 (2nd round) Signed by: Kevin Murphy
Background: The knock on Jones coming out of college was that he didn't have the ideal speed to play center field or the power to play the corners. He punched holes in the power concerns with his fine 1998 season in New Britain's cavernous ballpark.
Strengths: Jones hits with power to all fields and has the speed to stretch hits for an extra base. The Twins feel that with a little more work he can be a solid outfielder, especially with his range and routes to the ball.
Weaknesses: Jones has yet to see a pitch he didn't think he could hit, and he's missed his share of them. But scouts say he often hits balls out of the strike zone harder than balls in the middle of the plate. Jones needs work on his throwing to become a more complete center fielder.
The Future: Minnesota has opened its center field job to see if Jones, Torii Hunter or Chris Latham will claim it. Jones has the most dynamic bat of the trio but will need some more fine-tuning in Triple-A before he is ready for the job.
8. Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B
Age: 24 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 193
Drafted: Florida State, 1995 (5th round) Signed by: Brad Weitzel
Background: Mientkiewicz went straight to the Florida State League after being drafted and has always been a highly polished player. His improvement the past two years has been due to a lifestyle change to nutritional foods and weightlifting.
Strengths: Mientkiewicz does everything a first baseman should do except hit home runs. He is a masterful fielder, has an exceptional batting eye and enough gap power to produce runs. He is also a surprisingly good runner. Twins officials love his intensity on and off the field and look for him to be a leader in their clubhouse.
Weaknesses: Mark Grace is the stereotype for slick-fielding first basemen with only average power, but in reality few teams give extended trials to his kind of player. Mientkiewicz's backers in the organization think he will develop more power; others think he has reached his potential in that area.
The Future: Incumbent David Ortiz, who has the power that Mientkiewicz lacks but little else, will likely be moved to DH this spring so that Mientkiewicz will get a full shot at first base.
9. Corey Koskie, 3B
Age: 25 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 217
Drafted: Kwantlen, B.C., College, 1994 (26th round) Signed by: Howard Norsetter
Background: Koskie was a nationally-ranked hockey and volleyball player in his native Canada before turning his sights to baseball. He has progressed step by step through the Twins system and made his major league debut in September.
Strengths: Like many of the Twins best prospects, Koskie's bat is his best tool. He led the organization in home runs in 1998, kept his strikeout totals low for a power hitter and is an average runner. Defensively his arm strength is average to above average.
Weaknesses: Koskie's hands and range are cause for concern, and Twins manager Tom Kelly is known as a stickler for emphasizing defense in making out his lineup. His significant drop in walks (90 to 51) between Double-A and Triple-A, usually a negative sign in a young hitter's development.
The Future: Third base, a glaring weakness for the Twins in 1998, will be Koskie's to lose in spring training. Lefthanded power is at a premium in the Metrodome and Koskie, coupled with Mientkiewicz and Ortiz, could provide much-needed punch in the Twins lineup.
10. Mike Lincoln, RHP
Age: 23 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 205
Drafted: Tennessee, 1996 (13th round) Signed by: Tim O'Neil
Background: Lincoln has enjoyed outstanding success as a pro, compiling a 33-14 record while averaging 1.76 walks per nine innings. The Twins are keeping a close eye on back problems that sidelined Lincoln both in college and in 1997.
Strengths: With outstanding command of four pitches--fastball, curve, slider and straight change--Lincoln is able to make short work of minor league hitters. His fastball is in the 88-90 mph range and his best secondary pitch is his curveball. His easy, balanced delivery is key to his command.
Weaknesses: Lincoln doesn't have a weapon to get hitters to swing and miss on a consistent basis (208 strikeouts in 373 pro innings). He compares to Astros righthander Shane Reynolds, before Reynolds added his killer split-finger. Without an "out" pitch, Lincoln is most likely to end up as a middle reliever in the Mark Petkovsek mold.
The Future: Lincoln is the best of the finesse pitchers the Twins brought into their system before 1998. He will get every opportunity to win a spot in the big league rotation in spring training.
Rest of the Best:
11. Matt Kinney, rhp
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