Best Player: In an organization largely devoid of power hitters, Double-A New Britain outfielder Joe Benson stood out—eventually. A second-rounder in 2006, he batted .169 with one home run in April, prompting the Twins to demote him to high Class A Fort Myers for three weeks.
The move restored Benson's confidence and batting stroke. "He was a different hitter when he came back," farm director Jim Rantz said. "He learned how to attack the ball when he gets his pitch. He's shown a little more power than we projected for him."
Benson smacked 27 home runs on the year—all but one after May 1—after having never hit more than five in any previous season. He batted a composite .259/.343/.538 in 459 at-bats.
Best Pitcher: The Twins exceeded slot recommendations for the first time in their history in order to sign 2009 first-round righthander Kyle Gibson, and he showed he was worth the extra money right away.
Gibson outclassed high Class A hitters at Fort Myers in April, then put himself in position to earn a spot in the Twins' rotation as soon as next year with a solid season with New Britain and Triple-A Rochester. He finished 11-6, 2.96 with a 126-to-39 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 152 innings.
"It was a tough year for (the Rock Cats, who went 44-98), but he didn't let it affect him." Rantz said of the Missouri alum. "He's a level-headed kid, He's got great stuff, but he's so smart in his approach to hitters—that's what's impressive to watch."
Keep An Eye On: Righthander Liam Hendriks, a 21-year-old Australian, wouldn't even let an emergency appendectomy at midseason spoil his breakout year. He returned from the July surgery in time to make three final starts for Fort Myers and ended the season with nine straight shutout innings.
With a four-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball that rarely reaches 90 mph, he walked 12 batters in 19 games and allowed just two home runs in 109 innings. Hendriks struck out 105 and posted a 1.74 ERA, missing by three innings qualifying for the lowest ERA in the minors.
• Exactly one month after a pitch fractured the bone around his right eye, New Britain outfielder Ben Revere not only returned to action but also earned his first callup to Minnesota. When batting, he wore a face guard on his helmet.
• Five New Britain players—righthander David Bromberg, lefty Tyler Robertson, first baseman Chris Parmelee and outfielders Benson and Revere—all earned assignments to the Arizona Fall League, where they'll try to erase the bad taste of a 98-loss season.