Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

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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, 2011.

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The American League Division Series almost obscured an otherwise storybook 2010 season for the Twins.

Minnesota opened Target Field and played home games outdoors for the first time since 1981. The ballpark drew rave reviews and attracted 3.22 million fans, third-best in the AL. The expected infusion of revenue helped the Twins lock up franchise icon Joe Mauer with an eight-year, $184 million contract in March.

That was general manager Bill Smith's biggest task last offseason, but he also made other moves that helped the club defend its AL Central title, its sixth in the last decade. Jim Thome may have been the biggest free-agent bargain of the year, hitting 25 homers after signing for just $1 million. Rookie Danny Valencia filled their third-base hole. Closer Joe Nathan had Tommy John surgery in March, but Smith built an excellent bullpen anyway, adding Matt Capps (for catching prospect Wilson Ramos) and Brian Fuentes (for minor league righthander Loek Van Mil) during the summer to fortify it.

The Twins seemed ready for October, but that's when their magical season turned sour. They lost eight of their last 10 regular-season games before getting swept in the Division Series by the Yankees. New York has beaten Minnesota in four Division Series meetings since 2003, winning 12 of 14 games.

While the Twins ranked third in the AL in runs allowed and fifth in runs scored, they didn't pitch or hit well against the Yankees, and lacked the athleticism to pressure New York's defense like the Rangers did in the AL Championship Series. Though they haven't won a postseason series since 2002, the Twins' window of opportunity remains open as long as they have Mauer and his solid supporting cast. Justin Morneau's concussion—he was hurt in July and never returned to the field—is cause for concern.

Despite trading Johan Santana for pennies on the dollar to the Mets in January 2008, Minnesota has retained a solid rotation. Francisco Liriano re-emerged as an ace in 2010, his second year removed from Tommy John surgery, with homegrown products Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing and Kevin Slowey all reaching double digits in wins. The Twins believe their last two first-round picks, righties Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers, are at least as good and consider Gibson more of a front-of-the-rotation fit.

Minnesota has maintained its focus on scouting and player development, even though it didn't pay an above-slot bonus to a single draftee in 2010. While sticking to its draft principles of polished pitchers and athletic position players, the Twins have revitalized their Latin American scouting, spending big on the likes of Dominican infielder Miguel Sano while also developing better depth of Latin prospects, including righthanders Adrian Salcedo and Manuel Soliman, outfielder Oswaldo Arcia and middle infielders Jorge Polanco and Danny Santana.

While the Twins have prospects throughout their system, top affiliates New Britain and Rochester combined for just 93 victories, with poor bullpens and lax defense the main culprits. However, the rosters of both clubs will be counted on to provide low-cost reinforcements as the big league club may have to replace six free-agent pitchers, including 17-game winner Carl Pavano and relievers Capps, Fuentes, Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch.

1.  Kyle Gibson, rhp   Born: Oct. 23, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 210
 Drafted: Missouri, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: J.R. DiMecurio/Mike Ruth
Kyle GibsonBackground: Gibson has the ceiling, pedigree and performance of a No. 1 prospect. He ranked No. 100 on BA's list of 2006 draft prospects out of an Indiana high school before starring for three seasons at Missouri, first in the bullpen, then in the rotation. He also starred in the Cape Cod League and with Team USA, putting him in line to go in the top 10 picks of the 2009 draft. His junior season, however, ended on a down note when his velocity dropped into the mid-80s in his final start a week before the draft. He was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his forearm, causing him fall to the Twins at the No. 22 overall pick. Gibson signed for an above-slot $1.85 million bonus in August, then proved he was healthy during instructional league. He reinforced that point with a productive pro debut 2010, leading the system with 152 innings and 126 strikeouts while finishing the year at Triple-A Rochester.

Scouting Report: The Twins have produced a bevy of pitchers in recent years who thrive on their knack for throwing quality strikes with solid but not outstanding arsenals. Gibson has similar pitch-making ability to Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and former ace Brad Radke—and he has better stuff. Gibson's tall, lean frame wore down a bit toward the end of last season, but he usually showed average fastball velocity, ranging from 86-92 mph. He generally throws a two-seamer that's more notable for his command of the pitch and its excellent life than for its velocity. He can make it run, sink or cut, and has become more aggressive and confident with his fastball as a pro. He works off the fastball more now than he did as an amateur, but Gibson's secondary pitches remain his primary weapons for getting swings and misses. His slider is a plus offering that helps him generate plenty of groundballs—2.3 groundouts for every airout in 2010—and some scouts project it as a future 70 pitch on the 20-80 scale. HIs changeup at times equals his slider as a present plus pitch, with similar sink to his two-seamer. His command, control and makeup all enhance his total package. His ability to induce groundouts and his knack for finding a little extra velocity when needed make him adept at controlling damage and avoiding big innings. Added strength, staying healthy and a slight lack of deception (his delivery is very clean) are the only items he needs to address.

The Future: Gibson did everything the Twins could have asked last season, including staying positive while pitching for bad teams. In 2011, he likely will be asked to pitch in the major league rotation at some point, especially if Minnesota loses free agent Carl Pavano. Gibson is all but assured of a nonroster invitation to spring training, though he'll probably open the season back in Triple-A and be first in line for a promotion if and when a need arises. The Twins see him as a future No. 2 starter on a playoff club—he'd need more fastball to qualify as a true ace—and even more skeptical scouts outside the organization see him as no worse than a No. 3.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Fort Myers (Hi A) 4 1 1.87 7 7 1 0 43 33 2 12 40 .213
New Britain (AA) 7 5 3.68 16 16 1 0 93 91 5 22 77 .259
Rochester (AAA) 0 0 1.72 3 3 0 0 16 12 0 5 9 .214
2.  Aaron Hicks, of   Born: Oct. 2, 1989B-T: B-RHt: 6-2Wt: 178
 Drafted: HS—Long Beach, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: John Leavitt
Aaron HicksBackground: Hicks ranked No. 1 on this list in each of his first two years after signing for $1.78 million as the 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft. He also ranked first on our low Class A Midwest League list in 2009, but the Twins sent him back to Beloit last season. He got off to a 1-for-30 start before regaining his footing.

Scouting Report: Hicks remains all tooled up. As a hitter, his best asset is his patience, though at times he's too passive. He has above-average raw power from his natural right side but still has work to do from the left side, where he has more of a slap approach. His above-average speed plays better in center field than it does on the bases. He has improved his route-running and reads and projects as a possible Gold Glover as he adds more polish. Some teams liked him more as a pitcher coming out of high school, thanks to his athleticism and a fastball that reached 97 mph at times, and he retains excellent arm strength, his best present tool.

The Future: Hicks could hone his swing and become a five-tool center fielder with 20-25 home run power who bats in the middle of a lineup. He also may wind up more as tablesetter, along the lines of Denard Span but with better defensive ability. He'll finally move up to high Class A Fort Myers in 2011.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Beloit (Lo A) .279 .401 .428 423 86 118 27 6 8 49 88 112 21
3.  Miguel Sano, 3b/ss   Born: May 11, 1993B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 230
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009Signed by: Fred Guerrero
Miguel SanoBackground: The Twins have dedicated more time, energy and money to signing players out of the Dominican Republic in recent years, and Sano is the crown jewel of those efforts. They spent $3.15 million on him in 2009 after sweating out a thorough MLB investigation into his age.

Scouting Report: Sano already has grown significantly since the Twins signed him, from 195 to 230 pounds. He has prodigious tools to go with his size, starting with ferocious raw power. The strength, bat speed, swing path and leverage are all there for him to hit 30 homers once he refines his approach and learns to recognize pitches. Like many young hitters, he sometimes struggles with spin, but he also shows encouraging opposite-field power. Though he split time between shortstop and third base in his 2010 pro debut, his range fits much better at the hot corner, where he shows solid hands and feet and plenty of arm strength. He projects as a below-average runner.

The Future: Sano's future is tied up with how big he gets. If he doesn't grow much more, he should be able to hold down third base or an outfield corner. Even if he outgrows those spots, he could have enough bat for first base. Headed for Rookie-level Elizabethton in 2011, he has the higher offensive ceiling among Twins farmhands.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
DSL Twins (R) .344 .463 .547 64 11 22 2 1 3 10 14 17 2
GCL Twins (R) .291 .338 .466 148 23 43 14 0 4 19 10 43 2
4.  Joe Benson, of   Born: March 5, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 211
 Drafted: HS—Joliet, Ill., 2006 (2nd round)Signed by: Billy Milos
Joe BensonBackground: Signed away from a Purdue football scholarship for a $575,000 bonus, Benson showed flashes of talent in his first four pro seasons. He also struggled with strikeouts and his own aggressiveness, which at times landed him on the disabled list. He had his best season in 2010, shaking off a mid-May demotion to earn his way back to Double-A New Britain a month later and lead the system with 27 homers.

Scouting Report: Benson still has five-tool ability, though he likely will never be more than an average hitter. His other tools all rate as 60s or 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale. His raw power would be the best in the system if not for Miguel Sano, and his speed ranks right behind Ben Revere's. Benson has fast hands and excellent strength, though he must trust his hands and let balls travel deeper in order to make more consistent contact. He needs to do a better job of identifying and lay off breaking balls. He has center-field range to go with a right-field arm.

The Future: Scouts who saw Benson in the second half and in the Arizona Fall League were impressed by his offensive progress. He'll advance to Triple-A in 2011 and could replace free-agent-to-be Michael Cuddyer in right field in 2012.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
New Britain (AA) .251 .336 .527 374 65 94 20 7 23 49 39 115 14
Fort Myers (Hi A) .294 .375 .588 85 16 25 11 1 4 13 8 21 5
5.  Ben Revere, of   Born: May 3, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 5-9Wt: 178
 Drafted: HS—Lexington, N.Y., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Billy Corrigan
Ben RevereBackground: Revere's $750,000 bonus remains the lowest for a healthy first-rounder since 1997. The Twins took him because he was the top player on their board, not to save money, and he has justified the decision by batting .328 in the minors. He played in the 2010 Futures Game and reached the big leagues for the first time in September after an errant pitch broke his jaw a month earlier.

Scouting Report: Revere's raw speed and quickness are as good as any Minnesota farmhand, and his speed is the most playable. He outruns his mistakes in center field and runs the bases with abandon, though he still can become a more efficient basestealer. Revere also is the system's best hitter, making contact easily and showing good feel for the barrel. While the Twins once projected him to have average power, they no longer have that conviction and he'll have to fend off power stuff inside. He has improved in terms of bunting and drawing walks, understanding that his focus is getting on base. His well below-average arm is his biggest weakness.

The Future: The Twins see Revere as a potential top-of-the-order catalyst with Brett Gardner upside—a singles hitter who draws walks and steals bases. Minnesota's outfield is too crowded for him to jump to the majors full-time in 2011, so he'll get regular playing time in Triple-A.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
New Britain (AA) .305 .371 .363 361 44 110 10 4 1 23 32 41 36
Minnesota .179 .233 .179 28 1 5 0 0 0 2 2 5 0
6.  Liam Hendricks, rhp   Born: Feb. 10, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 201
 Signed: Australia, 2007Signed by: Howie Norsetter
Liam HendricksBackground: His father played in Australian Rules Football and Hendriks also played the sport before the Twins signed him in 2007. He almost immediately had knee surgery (his second), then missed all of 2008 and half of 2009 following back surgery. He stayed healthy enough to make a run at the minor league ERA title last season, though an appendectomy in July knocked him out of the Futures Game.

Scouting Report: Hendriks repeats his compact, efficient delivery and pumps four quality pitches for strikes. He has good sinking life on his fastball, which sat at 86-91 mph early in the season but jumped to 90-93 mph when he returned from the appendectomy. His slider is tight and short with late break, and some scouts consider it his best pitch. Others prefer his changeup, and his curveball—his best pitch prior to the back surgery—isn't far behind. He also throws a cutter at times. Hendriks has true command and a knack for making pitches, keeping the ball in the ballpark. Scouts in and out of the organization laud his makeup.

The Future: The Twins aren't sure if Hendriks will pitch in Australia's resurgent winter league this offseason, though he could use the work. He's ticketed for Double-A in 2011 and could become the best product of the Twins' extensive Australian scouting efforts.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Beloit (Lo A) 2 1 1.32 6 6 0 0 34 16 0 4 39 .138
Fort Myers (Hi A) 6 3 1.93 13 12 1 0 75 63 2 8 66 .225
7.  Alex Wimmers, rhp   Born: Sept. 28, 1990B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 195
 Drafted: Ohio State, 2010 (1st round)Signed by: Jay Weitzel
Alex WimmersBackground: Wimmers set the school record for career batting average (.457) at Cincinnati's Moeller High, the alma mater of Buddy Bell, Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin. He was strictly a pitcher in college, becoming Ohio State's ace and gong 18-2 in his final two seasons. A hamstring strain limited him late last spring, but he still went 21st overall in the draft and pitched well in his brief pro debut —including five no-hit innings in his third start—after signing for $1.332 million.

Scouting Report: Wimmers fits the Twins' pitching model well, throwing strikes with three pitches that have a chance to be average or better. His best pitch is a changeup that's a tick above average now and projects as plus once he adds some life to it. He has excellent arm speed on the changeup, which is usually straight but has some sink at times. His lively fastball sits at 88-92 mph and reaches 94 at times. He needs to refine his fastball command, something Minnesota has a good track record of teaching. He's athletic and should improve his ability to repeat his delivery and throw consistent strikes. His curve gives him a third solid pitch.

The Future: Wimmers isn't as polished as Kyle Gibson and doesn't have the same upside, but he could be an innings-eating No. 3 starter if his fastball command improves. Despite his late-season dominance in high Class A, he's likely to start 2011 back there.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Fort Myers (Hi A) 2 0 0.57 4 4 0 0 16 6 0 5 23 .113
8.  Adrian Salcedo, rhp   Born: Feb. 5, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 175
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007Signed by: Fred Guerrero
Adrian SalcedoBackground: Salcedo emerged on the prospect scene by posting a 1.46 ERA and 58-3 K-BB ratio in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2009. His ability and injuries at Fort Myers prompted the Twins to move him from extended spring training to high Class A last May. He got hit hard but regrouped and showed more trust in his secondary pitches when sent to Elizabethton, his originally planned destination.

Scouting Report: Long and thin, Salcedo has room to grow physically but is mature mentally. He's the system's hardest worker, establishing that reputation even as a teenager. His 90-93 mph fastball features late changes, as does his changeup. He throws both a slider and a curveball, with his slurvy slider reaching the low 80s. It can get a little big, and Salcedo must focus on either tightening his slider or committing to more of a true curveball. He has excellent movement on all of his pitches, yet manages to throw them for strikes. Thanks to his sound delivery and excellent athleticism, he projects to have at least average command.

The Future: The Twins usually move pitchers slowly, but Salcedo's stuff, feel and dedication could put him on the fast track. He's slated to start 2011 in low Class A.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Fort Myers (Hi A) 1 3 6.26 6 6 0 0 27 42 3 8 16 .378
Elizabethton (R) 4 3 3.27 16 8 0 1 66 55 3 10 65 .230
9.  Oswaldo Arcia, of   Born: May 9, 1991B-T: L-RHt: 6-0Wt: 215
 Drafted: Venezuela, 2007Signed by: Jose Leon
Oswaldo ArciaBackground: The Twins have international outfield depth in their farm system. A Venezuelan, Arcia pushed himself past German teenager Max Kepler, Puerto Rican toolshed Angel Morales and solid Canadian Rene Tosoni in 2010. He led the Rookie-level Appalachian League in nine categories, including batting (.375), on-base percentage (.424) and slugging (.672) while winning MVP honors.

Scouting Report: Arcia has has good plate coverage and a sound, strong swing, giving him present hitting and power-hitting ability. He already hits balls to all fields with some authority, though he'll need to make more consistent contact. He got plenty of experience against offspeed pitches last season, getting a steady diet of them after getting off to a fast start. Previously a switch-hitter, he has batted solely lefthanded since leaving the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League two years ago. Arcia has played a lot of center field and is a solid runner, but he projects better at a corner spot. Though his average arm could allow him to fit in right field, he may be better suited for left.

The Future: Arcia earns comparisons to Bob Abreu for his stance, hitting ability and body, though he lacks Abreu's trademark plate discipline. He'll be challenged to keep putting up Nintendo numbers at Beloit in 2011, when he'll play in cold weather for the first time.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Elizabethton (R) .375 .424 .672 259 47 97 21 7 14 51 19 67 4
10.  Carlos Gutierrez, rhp   Born: Sept. 22, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-3Wt: 210
 Drafted: Miami, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Hector Otero
Carlos GutierrezBackground: Gutierrez recoved from Tommy John surgery in 2007 to go 27th overall in the 2008 draft, signing for $1.29 million after serving as the closer on Miami's College World Series team. The Twins used him as a starter in 2009 and for the first half of 2010 before returning him to the bullpen after he struggled in Double-A. They signed his brother David, also a righthander, as an 18th-rounder in June.

Scouting Report: Gutierrez has a power sinker that has earned him Derek Lowe comparisons, though he throws harder, reaching 97 mph at times. His sinker was much more effective once he moved to the bullpen, getting 4.4 groundouts for every airout, compared to a 2.6 ratio as a starter. His slider is better than his changeup, though it's more of an average pitch than a true weapon. He needs to command it better against lefthanders and throw more strikes in general. He's a solid athlete who repeats his delivery.

The Future: As soon as Gutierrez can throw consistent strikes with his sinker, he'll join Minnesota's bullpen. Free agency could leave several openings in the Twins' relief corps, giving him an outside chance to open 2011 in the big leagues. It's more likely that he'll begin the season in Triple-A.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
New Britain (AA) 5 8 4.57 32 16 0 2 122 136 7 50 81 .291
Rochester (AAA) 0 0 2.25 2 0 0 0 4 5 1 2 6 .333

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Photo Credits:
Ken Babbitt (Gibson)
Rodger Wood (Benson)