MINNEAPOLIS—Nobody will ever confuse Joe O'Brien Field in Elizabethton, Tenn., with Yankee Stadium or Target Field. But for the Twins' purposes, it's close enough.
"It sounds funny, but these kids are playing at night, and in front of a crowd in the stands," vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said.
"People say, 'It's just the Appy League,' but you would be surprised what a big difference that makes to a young guy."
That's why Minnesota, prior to this season, wasn't ready to get too excited about Oswaldo Arcia's impressive pitch recognition skills in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer or Gulf Coast leagues, where pitchers largely don't have command of the strike zone.
The Venezuelan outfielder signed with the Twins in 2007 when he was 16, and though he played well at the lowest rungs of the minors, Radcliff said, "Until you get him in there at a higher level, playing against advanced guys in a pro-ball setting, he's just a heap of tools."
A month into his first season with Rookie-level Elizabethton, the 19-year-old Arcia demonstrated to the Twins just how big his toolbox is. The 6-foot, 210-pound outfielder had made himself at home in the cleanup spot.
Through 170 at-bats, Arcia was batting .388/.432/.747 while leading the Appalachian League in nine key categories, including on-base percentage, slugging, home runs (12), doubles (17), hits (66), RBIs (37) and runs scored (36).
"There's lightning in his bat. He's really standing out," Radcliff said. "He's a powerful guy who really explodes to the ball. We've got him as a definite prospect now."
The Twins believe he may have the speed to play center field and bat near the top of the lineup, but "he's so strong through the chest and shoulders, he may end up in the middle of the lineup."
Arcia is a switch-hitter, though a natural lefty, and has yet to show any sign of a platoon disadvantage, Radcliff said.
"Mostly, he's showing confidence, which is the most important thing," he said. "You have to show you can handle a professional atmosphere, and it's not that easy."
Maybe Arcia just makes it look easy.
• Triple-A Rochester catcher Jose Morales batted .318/.375/.485 in July to earn a big league callup. The Twins' plan called for Morales to back up Joe Mauer all season, but offseason wrist surgery set Morales back about four months.
• The Twins hired former outfielder Tom Brunansky, who played for the organization from 1982-88, as a coach in the Gulf Coast League.