Minnesota Twins: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Minnesota Twins: Scouting Reports




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after 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 April 1, 2009.

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Minnesota Twins

To improve by nine victories from 2007 to 2008, the Twins followed a simple formula: They traded arguably baseball's best pitcher for little immediate return, and dealt a defensive whiz at shortstop and a developing ace for a league-average outfielder, reserve infielder and Triple-A outfielder. They lost their perennial Gold Glove center fielder, who's also a consistent power threat, and signed a raft of low-level free agents who didn't pan out.

Longtime general manager Terry Ryan stepped down in September 2007 and admitted last fall that he was leaving successor Bill Smith a mess. Impending free agent Johan Santana angled for a trade and Smith obliged, dealing him to the Mets for raw outfielder Carlos Gomez and three pitchers who didn't live up to expectations in 2008.

Smith was aggressive in his first season as GM, also pulling the trigger on the six-player deal that brought Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie from the Rays but cost Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza and minor league righthander Eduardo Morlan. Tampa Bay writers voted Bartlett the Rays' MVP while Garza was MVP of the American League Championship Series.

Yet somehow it worked. Once again, the Twins turned to their farm system and the system came through. Denard Span, a 2002 first-round pick who hit seven home runs in his minor league career entering 2008, hit six after his promotion to Minnesota and was the team's third-best offensive player, after MVP candidates Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

The system also allowed Minnesota to replace Santana, Garza and free agent Carlos Silva with rookies Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano, who returned from Tommy John surgery. Blackburn, No. 1 on this list last year, led the Twins in starts and innings while going 11-11, 4.05 and taking a tough 1-0 loss in the regular-season playoff with the White Sox. Perkins, No. 2 two years ago, tied Kevin Slowey (who was in his second year) for the team lead with 12 victories.

The success of the young, homegrown rotation—Scott Baker is the oldest member at 27—was a testament to the harmonious relationship between the Twins' scouting and player-development operations, and also to roving pitching coordinator Rick Knapp. After 13 years with Minnesota, Knapp left to become the Tigers' big league pitching coach, with 18-year organizational veteran Eric Rasmussen tabbed to replace him.

The Twins finished 88-75, falling a game short of winning the AL Central for the fifth time in seven years. Mauer, Morneau and Joe Nathan provide Minnesota a trio of superstars to build around, and the system keeps supplying cheap, complementary parts to fill out a competitive roster. The Twins keep finding talent despite rarely picking in the top half of the first round—their 14th overall pick in 2008 was their highest since they took Mauer No. 1 overall in 2001.

Mike Radcliff, Minnesota's scouting director for 14 years, ascended to player personnel director in 2008, and former crosschecker Deron Johnson ran the Twins' draft for the first time, with Radcliff's input. Johnson's initial effort started with toolsy outfielder Aaron Hicks—a first-round talent as both a hitter and a pitcher—and a pair of college righthanders, Carlos Gutierrez and Shooter Hunt. All three made this Top 10 list.

1.  Aaron Hicks, of   Born: Oct. 2, 1989B-T: B-RHt: 6-2Wt: 170
 Drafted: HS—Long Beach, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: John Leavitt
Aaron HicksBackground: Hicks is a Los Angeles kid who doesn't fit into preconceived stereotypes. He's an African-American who spent much of the last three years playing at Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy, becoming its highest-drafted alumnus when the Twins took him 14th overall in June. He's also a scratch golfer who won a slew of tournaments as a teenager and considered a golf career. When he learned that his father played baseball professionally—Joseph Hicks was a Padres 12th-round pick in 1975 and played four seasons in the minors—he decided to focus his prodigious athletic ability on the diamond, helping Wilson High win the No. 1 national ranking and its first California Interscholastic Federation title in 50 years in 2007. Minnesota considered Hicks the best athlete in the 2008 draft, and he was the Los Angeles area's best since Darryl Strawberry was the No. 1 overall choice in June 1980. While the Twins preferred Hicks as an outfielder, other clubs were prepared to take him in the first round as a pitcher after seeing his fastball range from 94-97 mph last spring. Minnesota has no reason to question its decision, as Hicks ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League after signing quickly for $1.78 million.

Strengths: Sometimes it seems like there's nothing Hicks can't do. He's a premium athlete with growing skills and true five-tool ability. He's a switch-hitter who's a natural from the right side and improved from the left by lowering his hands and unleashing his bat speed. He was more polished and selective at the plate in his debut than the Twins thought he might be, and his eye allowed him to get to his above-average power potential earlier than expected. He projects to hit 20-25 homers annually as he matures. Hicks has plus-plus speed and good baserunning instincts that should improve with experience. He glides to balls in the outfield and has a top-of-the-scale throwing arm that would play in any outfield spot or on the mound if necessary. In the unlikely event he doesn't hit, he can try to make it as a pitcher.

Weaknesses: Mostly, Hicks just needs experience facing quality breaking balls. His hands are good enough that he should be able to trust them and stay back on pitches that spin. The game comes so easily to him that at time he has concentration lapses. He's still learning to be a pro in terms of handling the grind of a long season, when to show he's having fun and when to have more of a game face.

The Future: Hicks' tools resemble those of departed Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, though he should move more quickly through the minors than Hunter did and have better plate discipline. Minnesota is deep in young outfielders in the majors and minors, but Hicks' combination of tools, skills and athletic ability stands out. He'll head to low Class A Beloit for his first full pro season and should make a steady climb to the majors, arriving in 2011.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Twins (R)
.318
.409
.491
173
32
55
10
4
4
27
28
32
12
 
2.  Ben Revere, of   Born: May 3, 1988. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 166.
 Drafted: HS—Lexington, Ky., 2007 (1st round). Signed by: Billy Corrigan.
Ben RevereBackground: Revere was far from a consensus first-round talent in 2007, but Minnesota special assistant Joe McIlvane got on him early as a potential first-round bat. The Twins took him 28th overall and signed him for a below-slot $750,000 bonus. He justified their faith by leading the minors in batting (.379) and winning low Class A Midwest League MVP honors in 2008.

Strengths: The Twins drafted Revere because of a strong conviction he would hit, and he's the system's best hitter. He has surprising gap power in his compact, muscular frame and lashes line drives to all fields. He has explosive speed and steals infield hits. While he has room for improvement at small ball, he's a solid bunter and improving basestealer.

Weaknesses: Revere started 2008 in extended spring training to work on his short game, which still needs polish. He also started on a throwing program that improved his arm strength, though it remains below average. He'll be an asset in center field but is still working on his reads and jumps.

The Future: While he has fast-track hitting ability, Revere has work to do smoothing out some of his rough edges and the Twins like to preach patience. Fully recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery in August, he'll be part of a prospect-laden high Class A Fort Myers outfield in 2009, along with Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee and Rene Tosoni.

2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Beloit (LoA)
.379
.433
.497
340
51
129
17
10
1
43
27
31
44
 
3.  Wilson Ramos, c   Born: Aug. 10, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 205.
 Signed: Venezuela, 2004. Signed by: Jose Leon.
Wilson RamosBackground: Ramos has acquired a reputation for being a slow starter. He didn't earn a spot on a full-season team to open 2007 and he batted .203 in April last season. He rallied to hit safely in his last 15 games and lead Fort Myers in homers (13) and RBIs (78) while earning Florida State League all-star honors.

Strengths: Ramos has learned to translate his raw power into games and projects to hit 20-25 homers annually down the line. With excellent size and strength in his compact, athletic frame, he's built to catch. He has a very strong arm and led the FSL by throwing out 43 percent of basestealers. He has improved to be an average receiver and blocker behind the plate.

Weaknesses: A free swinger, Ramos would hit for even more power if he became more selective. He's a slow runner who's prone to hitting into double plays. His poor starts have included playing with a lack of energy, which the Twins hope improves as he matures. He's getting better at learning English, which will help him lead pitching staffs more effectively.

The Future: He'll be added to the 40-man roster this fall, and Ramos should jump to Double-A in 2009. With 25-year-old Joe Mauer ahead of him, however, he seems destined to be a backup or trade bait rather than a regular for Minnesota.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Fort Myers (HiA)
.288
.346
.434
452
50
130
23
2
13
78
37
103
0
 
4.  Jose Mijares, lhp   Born: Oct. 29, 1984. B-T: L-L. Ht.:
6-0. Wt.: 230.
 Signed: Venezuela, 2002. Signed by: Jose Leon.
Jose MijaresBackground: Held back by inconsistent commitment to the game and conditioning, Mijares was making progress on both fronts last winter in the Venezuelan League when he was involved in a one-car crash in January. He broke a bone in his elbow and injured his shoulder but recovered to pitch by the end of June. Called to the majors in September, he became the Twins' most reliable middle reliever down the stretch.

Strengths: Mijares has reached as high as 98 mph with his lively fastball in the past and sat at 92-94 mph in September. He backs his fastball with a low-80s slider and has flashed a power curveball as well. The mix has made him as effective against lefties and righties throughout his career.

Weaknesses: Mijares must continue to watch his weight carefully. If he's in shape, he'll improve both his command and durability, his two greatest liabilities.

The Future: A mature, dependable Mijares should be the Twins' top setup man in 2009, filling a need made more acute by Pat Neshek's Tommy John surgery. He could succeed Joe Nathan as Minnesota's closer when Nathan's contract expires after 2011.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Twins (R)
2
1
0.82
7
0
0
0
11
10
0
1
16
.233
Fort Myers (HiA)
0
0
2.61
5
0
0
0
10.1
7
0
3
8
.194
New Britain (AA)
1
1
2.93
11
0
0
2
15.1
16
2
7
17
.258
Minnesota
0
1
0.87
10
0
0
0
10.1
3
0
0
5
.088
 
5.  Danny Valencia, 3b  Born: Sept. 19, 1984. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200.
Drafted: Miami, 2006 (19th round). Signed by: Hector Otero.
Danny ValenciaBackground: The Twins have been searching for an everyday third baseman since Corey Koskie left as a free agent after the 2004 season, and Valencia is the latest heir to the throne. He was a Florida State League all-star in 2008 and finished strongly at Double-A New Britain.

Strengths: Valencia's bat speed ranks among the best in the organization. He has good hand-eye coordination and can turn on good fastballs and drive them out of the park. He's strong enough to hit for power from pole to pole. He has improved his pitch recognition and can punish hanging breaking balls. He's a good athlete with first-step quickness and an above-average arm at third base.

Weaknesses: Consistency, in terms of concentration and execution, would propel Valencia from average to plus defensively. He'd also benefit from more patience at the plate. He rubs some teammates and club officials the wrong way with bouts of immaturity, including taking bad at-bats with him into the field and showing up umpires. He has below-average speed but isn't a liability on the bases.

The Future: The Twins were looking outside the organization—again—for a third baseman, but a more mature, focused Valencia could provide an internal answer. He's expected to get his first Triple-A test sometime in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Fort Myers (HiA)
.336
.402
.518
220
35
74
19
3
5
44
27
43
2
New Britain (AA)
.289
.334
.485
266
40
77
18
2
10
32
18
70
2
 
6.  Anthony Swarzak, rhpBorn: Sept. 10, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. 
 Drafted: HS—Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 2004 (2nd round). Signed by: Brad Weitzel.
Anthony SwarzakBackground: The third prep pitcher Minnesota drafted in 2004, Swarzak has stayed healthy, unlike the two selected before him (Kyle Waldrop, Jay Rainville). Swarzak's career hit a bump when he drew a 50-game suspension from MLB after testing positive for a recreational drug in 2007. He struggled in Double-A in 2008 before finishing with a flourish after his first promotion to Triple-A.

Strengths: Swarzak has the best combination of stuff, youth and experience of any Twins starter in the minors. He has two plus pitches in his 91-93 mph fastball that touches 95 and his high-70s curveball with 12-to-6 break. He has become better at locating his curve, which comes out of the same release point as his fastball.

Weaknesses: While he threw a solid changeup as an amateur, Swarzak has lost the feel for it as a pro. In Double-A, he struggled locating his fastball down in the zone, a mechanical issue tied to finishing off his pitches, and got hammered as a result. He has improved his mound demeanor but some scouts still question his competitiveness.

The Future: Swarzak's fastball-curveball combo would make him a prime bullpen candidate, but club officials prefer him in a starting role. He responded positively to his exposure to Triple-A, where he'll return in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
New Britain (AA)
3
8
5.67
20
20
0
0
101.2
126
12
37
76
.304
Rochester (AAA)
5
0
1.80
7
7
0
0
45
41
4
14
26
.243
 
7.  Shooter Hunt, rhp  Born: Aug. 16, 1986. B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200.
 Drafted: Tulane, 2006 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Jack Powell.
Shooter HuntBackground: As a New Jersey high schooler, Hunt played catcher and pitched on a scout team coached by Twins area scout John Wilson. After transferring from Virginia, he ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in ERA and strikeouts in both his seasons at Tulane. He faded down the stretch and fell out of the first round in 2008, but Minnesota happily scooped him up with the first pick of the sandwich round and signed him for $1.08 million.

Strengths: Hunt has premium stuff and reminds Twins scouts of Scott Baker. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph, and his curveball already ranks as the best in the system. It's a two-plane breaker with depth and power that he throws with conviction.

Weaknesses: Command has vexed Hunt since he became a full-time pitcher as a high school senior. He improved his strike-throwing ability in instructional league by moving his feet closer together, which aided in maintaining his load in his delivery and providing better balance. He lacks confidence and consistency with his changeup, but it does have potential.

The Future: To start 2009, Hunt will return to low Class A, where he struggled when he tired late in his pro debut. If his improvements from instructional league take hold, he could move rapidly and challenge for a big league rotation spot late in 2010.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Elizabethton (R)
0
0
0.47
4
4
0
0
19
4
0
6
34
.066
Beloit (LoA)
1
4
5.46
7
7
0
0
31.1
26
2
27
34
.230
 
8.  Kevin Mulvey, rhp  Born: May 26, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190.
 Drafted: Villanova, 2006 (2nd round). Signed by: Scott Hunter (Mets).
Kevin MulveyBackground: The Mets' top draft pick (second round) in 2006, Mulvey outperformed the other two pitchers (Deolis Guerra, Philip Humber) who came to the Twins in the Johan Santana trade. He started and finished strong at Triple-A Rochester, though he won just once in a three-month span in between.

Strengths: At his best, Mulvey competes hard with pitchability and above-average stuff. His fastball can reach 94 mph, though it usually sits at 87-91 with sink. He can vary his plus slider, giving it more tilt and bite or shortening it up to almost a cutter. He throws his curveball and changeup for strikes and has good mound savvy.

Weaknesses: Mulvey rarely had his best velocity, life or command this season, and his pitches generally were less sharp than they had been when he was a Met. Twins officials theorize the pressure of the trade and a desire to get to the majors prompted him to go for strikeouts, leading to less efficiency, deeper pitch counts and some overthrowing that sapped his stuff. He's not as good fielding his position or holding runners as he needs to be.

The Future: Mulvey and Humber will compete for a job as a middle reliever/spot starter during spring training. Mulvey projects as a No. 4 starter, but Minnesota needs him more in the bullpen in the short term.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Rochester (AAA)
7
9
3.77
27
27
1
0
148
152
16
48
121
.265
 
9.  Carlos Gutierrez, rhp  Born: Sept. 22, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. 
 Drafted: Miami, 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Hector Otero.
Carlos GutierrezBackground: Gutierrez started 17 games as a sophomore at Miami before missing 2007 with Tommy John surgery. He returned as a closer and became one of three Hurricanes drafted in the first round last June, joining Yonder Alonso (Reds) and Jemile Weeks (Athletics). Gutierrez signed for $1.29 million.

Strengths: He has the best fastball in the system when velocity, command and especially movement are factored in. His low-90s sinker has drawn comparisons to Derek Lowe's, and he had a 2.6 groundout/airout ratio and didn't allow a homer in his pro debut. Gutierrez' delivery is so easy that his pitches seem to jump on hitters. He's excellent at holding runners, and despite making a costly error in the College World Series, he's an above-average fielder.

Weaknesses: At times, Gutierrez shows a plus slider in the mid-80s, but he lacks consistency with it. His changeup is in the rudimentary stages but has flashed some sink.

The Future: The Twins intend to see if Gutierrez can emulate Lowe as a starter who works off his sinker almost exclusively. They also hope putting him in their high Class A rotation will help him hone his fastball command. If the need arises, Minnesota could shift him back to the bullpen and put him on the fast track.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Fort Myers (HiA)
3
1
2.10
16
0
0
1
25.2
23
0
7
19
.240
 
10.  Angel Morales, of   Born: Nov. 24, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180.
 Drafted: HS—Caguas, P.R., 2007 (3rd round). Signed by: Hector Otero.
Angel MoralesBackground: Morales emerged as Puerto Rico's top prospect for the 2007 draft at a winter showcase, creating some first-round buzz, but he fell to the third round after an up-and-down spring. The Twins kept him in extended spring training to start 2008. Once he got on the diamond, he led the Rookie-level Appalachian League in homers (15) and slugging percentage (.623).

Strengths: Morales has wicked raw power, with plenty of leverage and strength in his swing. He's more than a one-dimensional slugger, as only Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson have more tools and raw ability in the system. Morales has plus speed and plays a quality center field, though he's expected to slow down some as he fills out and eventually wind up in right. His plus arm plays at either spot.

Weaknesses: Hicks and Benson are raw, but Morales is behind them in terms of his tools translating into games. He struck out in 39 percent of his at-bats last season because he doesn't recognize or handle breaking balls well. He employs a dead-pull approach despite having the strength to hit for power to all fields.

The Future: Morales' upside is prodigious and the Twins will be extremely patient with him. He'll head to low Class A in 2009, part of an anticipated one-step-at-a-time climb to the majors.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Elizabethton (R)
.301
.413
.623
183
33
55
12
1
15
28
26
72
7

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
Pre-Order the 2009 Prospect Handbook
30 scouting reports on every team

Photo Credits: Jerry Hale (Hicks, Gutierrez)
Paul Gierhart (Hunt, Revere)
Rodger Wood (Morales, Valencia)
Kevin Pataky (Mulvey, Swarzak)
Chris Proctor (Ramos)