2012 Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects Chat With John Manuel




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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.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Whereabouts did Madison Boer fall on your overall top 30, and are the Twins going to let him be a starter?

John Manuel: Hi everyone. Thanks for stopping by ... second chat in a week, I'll do my best to chat with energy ... Boer just missed the top 10. The Twins do intend to let him start; same with Matt Summers out of UC Irvine. They will both start at least in the low minors to see if they can. I give Boer a better shot, for many reasons.

    Grant (NYC): How many of these guys are Top 100 candidates?

John Manuel: That's an interesting question; JJ Cooper and I just debated that on the AL West podcast we recorded this morning. I would argue four; I think JJ was thinking two. I'm still an Aaron Hicks believer, despite his struggles from the left side. But he's not a slam-dunk Top 100 guy, I understand why JJ would leave him out.

    Kelly (St Cloud MN): Did you find out what exactly happened to Wimmers during his first start last season? 11-20 prospect?

John Manuel: It's not a big state secret. He had a terrible spring in terms of conditioning (which goes back to the offseason), lost his release point, lost his confidence and then, as one guy in the organization told me, "All hell broke loose." He's still in the top 30, but the 7-inning no-hitter in his last start was pretty important. He didn't get it back together in instructs, where it didn't count; he got it back together in a game. That was important for all to see. Still a prospect, ranking took a hit, but story still could have a happy ending.

    Carlos (Twin Cities): Shooter Hunt - prospect or suspect?

John Manuel: Definition of suspect is when your club leaves you available in the minor league Rule 5 draft. Well, the definition would be when you're left available and not selected, I suppose. He is now a Cardinal.

    Frank (Chicago): How near to the top 10 was Hudson Boyd, and does his fastball impress you anywhere as much as his curve?

John Manuel: Not too far off, but his conditioning also was an issue. His velocity was down and his weight was up at instructs. He checked in at close to 280 pounds. I have been told that he's closer to 245-250 these days, and I'll leave some other good tidbits to the Handbook. I like Hudson Boyd a lot and trust the Twins on him because he's a Fort Myers kid and they have known him and followed him for a long time. But he couldn't rank in the top 10 after his instructs weigh-in. He's a big boy and that's part of his appeal, his durability, but he was not at a healthy weight.

    Morrie (New Joisey): Are there any decent lefties in the Twins' system besides Pat Dean? Did he make your 30?

John Manuel: Not a lot of great LHPs in the system. Corey Williams, likely to move fast as a reliever, is the highest-ranked southpaw in the system. Pat Dean did not make it, though he was close. Logan Darnell did make it, having had more success at upper levels, being a little taller, little more athletic, little bit firmer. Not a lot of huge separation there, but I gave Darnell the edge. Couple of far-away LHPs to watch are Hein Robb of South Africa and Luis Nunez, a lefty reliever with good stuff.

    Boris (LA, CA): Can Goodrum stick at SS at higher levels? Your thoughts on his arm?

John Manuel: Hard to say because he's so skinny right now, and no one's sure which direction is body will go. He just edged Tyler Grimes for Best IF Arm but I got 70s in and out of the organization on his arm. He's also got good hands; he's just got to grow into his body and get reps. I love Niko and feel pretty confident we'll see him in the Appy League again in 2012; the Twins have a middle infielders glut in A-ball for 2012.

    Anonymous (Heartland): Deolis Guerra put up a respectable K/BB ratio last year. Can we assume you're not ready to write him off yet?

John Manuel: You can. I was done with Deolis last year; this year I frankly ranked him aggressively, he didn't miss the top 10 by much. Our reports on him in the bullpen were excellent—two plus pitches and an improved breaking ball. His changeup is a weapon when he's able to play it off his fastball, and moving to the pen did that. He continued it with a fine winter ball showing; I think he'll pitch in Minnesota's bullpen in 2012, and he still should be the best player they got in the Santana deal. I know that's a low bar.

    Jon (Durham): After Sano, who has the highest upside in your top 10? Thanks, John.

John Manuel: I'd say Hicks. If he ever figures it out from the left side, you're talking about essentially a Denard Span offensive player who switch-hits and has better defensive ability. That would be a very valuable player. I would not put money on him figuring it out from the left side, but the Twins were patient with Span, patient with Torii Hunter, and rewarded in both instances. They will be patient with Hicks. I hope they are rewarded because I like it when players are, you know, good.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, Fl): Do you think the signing of Willingham will damper the progression of a guy like Benson? He seems ready for a shot with the Twins but there is no space...

John Manuel: I think there is a place — right field. Ben Revere is not a given to start, and Trevor Plouffe ... I don't see how Plouffe is better than Benson. I like the Willingham signing quite a bit, and don't see it affecting Benson in a negative way. His talent will win out.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, Fl): Where does the twins top 10 rank in comparison with the other teams in baseball?

John Manuel: It's a back-half farm system for sure; how low it ranks depends on the BA staffer. I think I had them 18 or 16 on my rankings; I can't quite recall. Of course that was considering the whole top 30. The lack of power arms is fairly glaring, as it has been for several years. The infusion of Latin American talent mitigates, to a certain extent, some drafts that haven't worked out—'04, also '08 with Hunt and Carlos Gutierrez not coming though; take the '09 draft. I loved it at the time, but Matt Bashore and Ben Tootle have been hurt almost from the start, Kyle Gibson had TJ and Billy Bullock was traded for Scott Diamond. The draft class rests instead on solid but unspectacular bats like Dozier and Chris Herrmann, plus Gibson's recovery. so the system's not where the Twins would like it to be. Still the No. 2 system in the AL Central though.

    Karl of DelawareD (elmarva): So who can hit the ball farther - Eddie Rosaria or Miguel Sano?

John Manuel: Sano has more raw power. Rosario's hitting ability is more advanced, he makes more hard contact, hence he was able to hit more HRs this year. Rosario is pretty interesting, obviously we have him 3rd, and he clearly has power. The Twins hope he's their Jason Kipnis. But Sano's power ... he does it easy. It's in Jesus Montero territory for just sheer raw power, approaching Harper & Stanton proportions. It's that loud. He's got a chance to be spectacular. Very fun prospect.

    Nora (FL): Is Matt Summers going to play a big part as a reliever in pro ball?

John Manuel: I believe he's going to be a reliever long-term, he has a very short arm action in the back and most scouts believe that arm action lends itself better to shorter bursts. That said, his stuff held up well over the course of a long season for Irvine, though it didn't help that UC Irvine brought him back on one day's rest in the super regional. Mike Gillespie is probably my all-time favorite college coach but that was not good for Summers, and of course Virginia rallied in the bottom of the ninth to win the super so as it turned out, it wasn't good for Mike Gillespie either. If only Jack Krawczyk had been around for the 'Eaters ...

    Tom (Long Beach, CA): Hi, thanks for the chat!! How close did Travis Harrison get to the top 10? Where do you see him starting this season? Thanks again.

John Manuel: Didn't miss by much. Hard to imagine the Twins moving him up to Beloit to start the year; they move players at a glacial pace compared to others in this division especially. Their approach contrasts so starkly with the Tigers and Good Guys. I see him at Elizabethtown getting reps at third but playing more at first base.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, Fl): Brian Dozier quietly had a very productive 2011. Do you see him being an everyday regular? He seems like an "Eckstein" type with a little more size and pop.

John Manuel: Not very quiet, since he was the organization's minor league player of the year and jumped from NO. 30 on last year's list to the top 10 this year. He's more Jamey Carroll than Eckstein but yeah, he's a grinder who gets the most out of his tools. I don't know that I'd oversell his power; it's below-average, gap power. He has enough pop so pitchers won't knock the bat out of his hands, but if he's an everyday big leaguer, it's 6-10 HRs a year.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, Fl): Is it possible to project Kyle Gibson at this point? Or do we have to wait and see how his body responds to TJ?

John Manuel: I think we have to wait and see. It's a shame because he came out of the gate throwing very well—fastball velo good, slider sharp, changeup was there. He was pretty close to getting to Minnesota. He's already old for his experience level, that's one reason why he fell all the way to 7. I like his chances of getting back but we really won't be able to evaluate him well until, most likely, 2013.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, Fl): Over/Under Chris Parmalee MLB at bats in 2012: 210?

John Manuel: I'm sadly going to go over because I don't expect Justin Morneau to stay healthy. I would like to be wrong.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, Fl): Who is the most underrated prospect in the Twins organization who will surprise in 2012?

John Manuel: Already sort of answered this with Deolis Guerra; I also will submit Tom Stuifbergen. If he just wore his Netherlands jersey underneath his regular jersey all day, I think he'd pitch much better. It's clearly in there. Maybe the Twins need to bring a Brian Farley cutout with them (that's the Netherlands' head coach and pitching coach). I'm a Stuifbergen guy, but he needs to be a lot more consistent. I also kind of like Adam Bryant, always respected Troy's baseball program, and Bryant can hit and play fundamental, sound defense. He's not a SS but could be a nice 2b or 3b.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, Fl): Terry Ryan seems to do an incredible job with the Twins farm system. What differences if any will he bring to the table that Bill Smith did not?

John Manuel: Smith was not a talent evaluator. He was in charge of the Twins' Latin American program for a long time—mostly the time where it wasn't terribly productive. It's just night and day between him and Terry Ryan as an evaluator; Terry Ryan is one of the most respected evaluators in the industry, period. So I anticipate the system will be better with Terry in charge rather than in an advisory role. That said, Bill didn't really change the system very much. I think the Twins realized they lacked power arms and have tried to address that with the 2011 draft, which obviously happened on Smith's watch. But again, they tried to get power arms before. Shooter Hunt, Carlos Gutierrez, Ben Tootle, Matt Bashore ... they just haven't worked out (yet). I don't see huge changes in terms of philosophy, but I do expect the organization's execution of that philosophy to improve with Ryan back in charge.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, Fl): Who's better in the next 5 years...Joe Benson or Ben Revere?

John Manuel: Joe Benson is better in five seconds, five minutes ... whatever slice of time you choose. Joe Benson is better. I like Ben Revere but the impact is not there, nor is the defensive value.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): I know he young, but Rosario seems to have a lot going for him. Are the Twins very high on him? Could he be other organizations #1 prospect or it that rushing things?

John Manuel: I think you're rushing things; in many ways I'm rushing things by having him No. 3 without seeing how the second-base experiment will turn out. But the upside is significant and he can truly hit. I know a lot of jokers who believe in the bat; that's why he ranks that high. He probably would still rank third even as a CF, though you could argue him behind Hicks, Arcia and even Levi Michael if he's just an OF. Not a ton of separation there.

    Dan (St Paul): How close was Adrian Salcedo to making the top 10? Does he have a chance to breakout and become a strong #3 starter or is his ceiling more a generic Twins strike throwing 4th starter type?

John Manuel: Right now, he's more the generic strike thrower. He hasn't added any weight and doesn't sustain his velocity or the quality of his stuff on a consistent basis. He's in the 15-20 range.

    Matt (Minn): I thought Kyle Gibson had his surgery pretty late in the year and would miss all of 2012, but you're report holds out hope that he could pitch in the second half. How realistic is it to expect him back on the mound in game conditions in Aug/Sept?

John Manuel: Some pitchers have returned in nine or 10 months from TJ; there are always outliers. I also could see him returning to pitch in the AFL. It's quite unlikely that he'll pitch in the 2012 regular season, though.

    Chris H (Boston, MA): Could you see Brian Dozier starting at 2B, SS or even 3B in the near future? How does he compare to someone like Tyler Saladino of the WhiteSox? Thanks!

John Manuel: Hadn't thought of that comp but my impression is that Saladino has a bit more juice, but Dozier has more hitting and on-base ability, better defender in the middle infield and has proved it at higher levels. Dozier is a 2b or ss, not going to be a 3b unless it's in a Nick Punto, temporary kind of way.

    Muggsy (The Minny-apple): Curious about some of the other E-towners that didn't make the top 10: J. Williams put up great numbers and Niko Goodrum bounced back from a terrible GCL and slow start to last season to tear it up by the end of the season. Thoughts on the two of them? Also, Max Kepler seems to have a distinct inability to drive the ball - what are your thoughts on his progress or lack thereof?

John Manuel: Kepler has a good swing and developing strength, but he's far behind other players his age in terms of pitch recognition and facing quality stuff. He's going to need time. Ranking him in the top 10 a couple of years back was probably a mistake because it created more hype than was merited for Kepler. I like him and believe in him as a prospect, but he's going to need a lot of time. The Twins are the perfect organization for him; no one is more patient. JD Williams didn't make the 30 but I believe he made the chart as fastest Twin; if he's not fastest he was certainly in the discussion, and he's an interesting guy but needs to make more contact to stand out from the crowd. Goodrum is in the 30 and has been discussed.

    Bill (Tampa): What are the reports on Manuel Soliman RHP for Beloit?

John Manuel: Not that different from last year's reports, though that is part of the problem. His season seemed to be step forward, step back. He's just inexperienced and has trouble with basics such as repeating his delivery. I like the arm, he's one of the Twins' harder throwers. But he's a ways off and likely will be in A-ball all season at Fort Myers. He's in the Handbook.

    Mike M. (Aberdeen, SD): Did David Bromberg's injuries set him back far enough that he is no longer a prospect?

John Manuel: Well, he's no longer in the top 30. He was not in pitching shape in instructional league so he's going to have to get back in shape, not just get healthy.

    Ryan (Az): The twins have had some awful drafts, pitching wise. They have to realize that drafting low upside pitchers isn't going to help them much, right? The highway upside pitcher on the major league roster, besides liriano, is more of a number four. Do you see a future for the twins in which they change this philosophy and draft for upside? Thanks!

John Manuel: Just want to reiterate, they have drafted some pretty good power arms, consensus guys. They haven't been as good at developing them. But it's also hard to complain when they have had so much success with their approach—what was it, six division titles in nine years? I do think they drafted for a bit more upside this year but also see most of those pitchers, aside from Boer, being relievers rather than starters. Bringing back TR and Wayne Krivsky and otherwise keeping the gang together tells me they believe in their pitching philosophy and will not be changing anytime soon.

    Mike M. (Aberdeen, SD): It seems that Yu Darvish's reputation is enhanced by how he performed in international events like the World Baseball Classic. Tom Stuifbergen of the Twins performed very well on that platform as well, especially against the Dominican Republic. What makes Darvish's performance that much better, or is Stuifbergen that good?

John Manuel: The only reason Stuifbergen is in the Top 30 is what he's done internationally. He had a pretty rotten year in high A—his opponents' average was .319. Also, Darvish's stuff is much better; he's enhanced by the WBC but not built on it. Stuifbergen's reputation is almost built on how good he's been internationally. I understand the question but I think you're missing out also on the fact that Darvish dominated NPB, which is a high-level league (Japan's major league). Stuifbergen has yet to dominate in Class A ball. Big difference in stuff and big difference in results. Their only similarity is their international success.

    herb (scranton): Arcia and Rosario put up almost identical numbers in Rookie Ball. Does how Arcia has progressed tell us anything about what to expect from Rosario?

John Manuel: They're pretty different players. Rosario has more polish, more plate discipline, less raw power. Now they will play very different positions — 2b for Rosario, RF for Arcia. So I do not see Arcia's progression as instructive for Rosario.

    Mike M. (Aberdeen, SD): Is Angel Morales decline last year due to injury, just a need to adjust to a new level, or did the holes in his swing catch up to him? Can he overcome it?

John Manuel: All of it. He's always been raw; he was not the kind of player who could handle a year off. He's always been a showcase, workout kind of guy who looks better in a uniform and better in BP or pregame than in actual game action. I'm not a big Morales guy anymore; his swing is still rough, lots of swing and miss, and he has pitch recognition issues as well as holes in his swing, and he's 22 with a likely ticket back to high A. Perhaps I'm being too harsh but he doesn't do a lot for me anymore.

    Liam Hendriks (Rochester and/or Minnesota): In AAA, I posted an unfortunate 4.56 ERA. Looking a little deeper, I put up 30/3 K:BB ratio while stranding just 54.4% of runners and giving up a .317 avergage on balls in play. I think I just got unlucky at AAA. But Kyle Gibson rags on me, saying I gave up hits and let runners advance because my stuff is weak and easy to square up. Who is right?

John Manuel: I saw Hendriks pitch in Durham and he wasn't very good in that start at all. He didn't have a putaway pitch. That said, his stuff grades out similar to Gibson's stuff. Fastball may not be quite as firm, but slider and changeup are quite similar, command is as good or better, and Hendriks adds a curveball. He's a classic Twins 4-5 starter type from the mold that seems to frustrate many of their bloggers to no end.

    Norv (Twin Cities): Does Terry Doyle crack the top 30? What are the odds he cracks the opening day roster?

John Manuel: I would up slipping him in. I gave him credit for his durability; 200 innings is no joke, and his stuff was solid in the Arizona Fall League. He's always been kind of intriguing considering he had a great summer in the Cape after his sophomore year, but 2011 was the first time he had approached that success since then. I still kind of can't believe the White Sox didn't protect him, but the Twins drafting him makes all kinds of sense.

    Mike M (Aberdeen, SD): It looked for a while like Dakota Watts was going to be a potential power arm in the bullpen that would make it to Minnesota. Did his showing in the AFL expose him?

John Manuel: He throws hard, but doesn't have great control or a second pitch. That's the bigger issue. He had an ERA over 7 in New Britain; that was more telling than his AFL stint, and his K rate was in the low 7s for the year, a reflection of the inconsistency of his curveball. He's got some David Aardsma in him in terms of his delivery, velocity and upside. That's his best-case scenario.

    Rafa (LA): Tell us about Angel Mata... Prospect?

John Manuel: He made the book. Twins fans will be happy to know he's a command guy but has some power—we have reports of him touching 94. He also throws a curveball and changeup but he's more notable for the fastball and his size (6-2, 227) than anything else.

    Robert (California): What are your thoughts about Tim Shibuya, pitcher of the year for the Twins at Elizabethton last summer?

John Manuel: He's an organizational guy who had a tremendous career at UC San Diego. If memory serves he's an 85-88 mph fastball guy who throws downhill and throws a lot of strikes. I'm sure he wishes the Twins had drafted Vince Ablitz, who I believe is toiling in indy ball.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): It's a fairly safe bet that Sano won't stick at the hot corner as he fills out, but what about Travis Harrison? Your thoughts on his defensive skills at 3B, specifically his arm? Did he make the second ten of your top 30?

John Manuel: I believe that is not a safe bet on Sano. He's already 232 pounds, and his frame, while not maxed out, also does not appear to be in any hurry to get a lot bigger. I don't think it's a given he moves off 3b, and in fact, the Twins expect him to still play some SS in 2012. Long term, I believe he's a 3B. Harrison will be a 1B down the line.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Do you believe Max Kepler is ready for Beloit, or will he likely head back to Elizabethton for a third stint? Did he remain in the teens on your list?

John Manuel: He's in the 20s and he's headed back to E-town.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, Fl): What is the Twins plan in 2012 with Trevor Plouffe? Utility IF/OF? What's the biggest challege standing in Plouffe's way?

John Manuel: According to what I've read from Terry Ryan's point of view, Plouffe is in their RF mix. I've never been a big Plouffe guy, lots of swing and miss without the power track record, but if TR thinks he can do it, maybe we should believe him.

    Gary S. (Fort Myers, FL): In a perfect scenario is there any chance Sano is another Miguel Cabrera?

John Manuel: In a perfect scenario, he's the first Miguel Sano. I understand the Cabrera comps and think they do fit, though.

    Ben (Leland Grove): As he hasn't exactly raked at the plate as of yet, is there any talk whatever about moving Hicks back to the mound?

John Manuel: Not from the Twins. Maybe if he fails, but they don't see him as failing yet. They have discussed not having him switch-hit anymore; that would change first before they put him on the mound.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Is it just me or do the Twins seem to have some very good minor league prospects? How many of these guys would you put in the Top 100?

John Manuel: I think it's just you; it's an interesting system but there's precious little upper-level pitching or power arms, and the top talent, for the most part, has yet to play full-season ball. That's not a top-tier farm system. As I said before, it's a 2-4 man contingent in the top 100. I'd say four but could see other staffers leaving Hicks and-or Benson or Rosario out.

    Robert (Secaucus, NJ): Tim Atherton seemed to come out of nowhere last year, and put up fantastic strikeout numbers in 2 Rookie ball levels. Is he for real?

John Manuel: He's going to have to keep proving it obviously because he was old for the league. He came 'out of nowhere' because he was a position player earlier in his career, both with the Twins (who released him) and the Padres (who also released him). The Twins signed him again and gave him a chance to pitch, and he obviously took to it. I'm skeptical that he'll keep it up.

    Brett (Minnetonka, MN): Not many premium arms in the Top 10 to help in 2012, but which pitcher outside of the Top 10 might provide some help for the Twins this year in any capacity?

John Manuel: Carlos Gutierrez; the Twins hold out hope for him but clearly were disappointed. Lester Oliveros should be in the major league bullpen at some point; only other guys I could see would maybe be Stuifbergen; sleeper/Canadian cheeseball Andrew Albers, who I could see in a lefty relief role; and Logan Darnell, who has some AA experience.

    Robert (Secaucus, NJ): Did Jairo Perez get top 30 consideration after his huge year in the Midwest League?

John Manuel: Not really, because while he can hit, he has no defensive home and he was 23.

    Mike M. (Aberdeen, SD): Where do former bonus babies Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco fit at this point?

John Manuel: Polanco was a disappointment to guys who saw him in the GCL, he didn't stand out as much defensively as hoped. His biggest issue is strength. He's still in the Handbook but toward the back of the 30.

    Mike M. (Aberdeen, SD): Other than Chris Hermann, do the Twins have any other catchers in the system that have a chance to be a prospect?

John Manuel: Mike also asked about Danny Rams so I'll throw these questions together. The answer is no, they have no other catching prospect. None of their other catchers are more than a Drew Butera type—Danny Lehmann is their best defensive C by default. He's fine, a good organizational guy, but not an elite defender. Herrmann is pretty interesting, can hit and is coming along with the glove. But Rams is not a prospect, and catcher is a real sore spot in the system other than Herrmann.

John Manuel: That's going to do it for TwinsChat 2012. Don't forget we podcasted on the AL Central last week, plenty of Twins talk there for free. Next week we'll wrap up the Top 10s with the AL West, so tune in again Monday.