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Mike Berardino took your Twins questions
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, 2006.
three-year run atop the American League Central came to an end in 2005,
but the Twins continued to position themselves as modest-budget contenders
for years to come.
The ever-thriving farm system pushed several contributors to the big
league team, including Joe Mauer, Jesse Crain, Francisco Liriano, Jason
Bartlett and Scott Baker—half of last year's Top 10 Prospects
list. Minnesota also replenished the system at the back end with another
strong draft under scouting director Mike Radcliff.
Thanks to the free-agent defections of Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman
and Henry Blanco, the Twins owned seven picks in the first three rounds.
They spent a total of $4.615 million to sign those picks, which began
with hard-throwing Fresno State righthander Matt Garza. They also added
high school slugger Henry Sanchez, toolsy prep infielders Paul Kelly
and Drew Thompson, polished righthander Kevin Slowey and college lefties
Brian Duensing and Ryan Mullins.
Garza was the only 2005 draftee to make the top 10 list this time,
but that was a testament to the depth of the organization as well its
2004 draft, which featured five picks before the second round.
Stability remains a Twins hallmark. General manager Terry Ryan signed
with the Twins as a high school pitcher, has been in the front office
since 1986 and enters his 12th season running the baseball operation.
Farm director Jim Rantz has been with the franchise since signing with
the then-Washington Senators after winning the final game of the 1960
College World Series. He moved into the front office in 1965 and has
been in charge of the farm system since 1986. Radcliff joined the Twins
as an area scout in 1987 and became scouting director in 1994.
Assistant GMs Bill Smith and Wayne Krivsky and director of baseball
operations Rob Antony all have been with Minnesota for more than a decade.
Minnesota's continuity extends to field operations as well, as minor
league hitting coordinator and Jim Dwyer and pitching coordinator Rich
Knapp enter their 10th year in their jobs.
Having such continuity makes it easier to implement a unified philosophy.
The Twins place a strong emphasis on developing young pitching, and
no fewer than 30 of their pitching prospects averaged 90 mph of better
with their fastballs in 2005. Baker won the ERA title in the Triple-A
International League, Kyle Aselton did the same in the low Class A Midwest
League, and Adam Hawes (Appalachian) and Kyle Edlich (Gulf Coast) captured
ERA crowns while making their pro debuts in Rookie ball. The farm system
has posted only one losing season (1999) in the past 13 years and just
two losing seasons since 1987.
Besides developing their own talent, the Twins have an eye for grabbing
it from other organizations. Most famously, they got ace Johan Santana
by orchestrating a 1999 Rule 5 draft trade with the Marlins. Top prospect
Francisco Liriano was considered the third-best player in the November
2003 A.J. Pierzynski deal with the Giants, in which Minnesota also stole
closer Joe Nathan.
Regulars Bartlett (from the Padres for Brian Buchanan) and Lew Ford
(from the Red Sox for Hector Carrasco) arrived in transactions that
received little attention at the time. Matt Guerrier, who played a key
bullpen role last year, was claimed off waivers from the Pirates.
October 26, 1983 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt: 185
Dominican Republic, 2000 Signed by: Rick Ragazzo
Background: A former outfielder who
converted to the mound shortly after signing with the Giants, Liriano
has exceeded all expectations. That includes those that accompanied his
arrival as an overlooked part of a three-player package sent to the Twins
in exchange for catcher A.J. Pierzynski in November 2003. While Joe Nathan
has become an all-star closer and Boof Bonser a solid Triple-A starter,
Liriano could turn out to be the best of the bunch. He missed part of
2002 and most of 2003 with shoulder problems, but Twins scout Sean Johnson
recommended the team grab him after seeing him during instructional league.
Liriano has been healthy since switching organizations and was spectacular
in 2005, when he was Minnesota's minor league pitcher of the year. He
led the minors in strikeouts while ranking as the No. 1 prospect in the
Double-A Eastern League and No. 2 (behind Minor League Player of the Year
Delmon Young) in the Triple-A International League.
Strengths: Some scouts say Liriano's stuff is better than that
of Twins teammate Johan Santana, the 2004 American League Cy Young Award
winner. They say Liriano throws harder, has a better slider and owns
a changeup that is equal in quality. When he gets rolling, Liriano can
dominate for long stretches behind a 94-96 mph fastball that has reached
98 mph and a hard, tight slider that comes in at 89 mph. He can throw
the slider for strikes in any count, and he also features a plus changeup.
The fastball and slider grade out as the best in the system. He has
thrown a curve in the past, but has pushed it aside for now. While at
Triple-A Rochester, Liriano fanned Red Sox prospect Kevin Youkilis twice
on a total of six pitches, much to the amazement of players on both
sides because Youkilis might have been the most patient hitter in the
minors. Liriano has a reserved personality and shows good baseball aptitude,
a strong work ethic and solid makeup. It’s not uncommon for him
to beat his teammates to the ballpark and start running and long-tossing
well before the others arrive. He has learned English well and has no
trouble communicating with teammates and coaches.
Weaknesses: Liriano's history of shoulder woes means his durability
must be monitored. He battled mechanical issues early in 2005, failing
to repeat and flying open too often, which caused him to labor noticeably.
Once he got to Triple-A, Rochester pitching coach Bobby Cuellar did
a good job of keeping Liriano’s delivery on track and showing
him the benefits of maintaining a smooth motion. Liriano also had problems
with overstriding in 2004, causing his arm to drag behind his body.
He has bouts where he doesn’t command or trust his fastball the
way he should, but minor league pitching coordinator Rick Knapp has
stayed on him about that.
The Future: After striking out 33 in 24 innings during his first
taste of the majors in September, Liriano has been penciled into Minnesota's
rotation to begin 2006. Just as the Twins hope location-first righthander
Scott Baker will gain from working alongside Brad Radke, they believe
Liriano will benefit from pitching with Santana. The pair seemed to
hit it off last year. Barring a spring surprise, Liriano’s minor
league seasoning is complete and he should be on his way to becoming
a No. 1 starter.
2005 Club (Class)
New Britain (AA)
May 25, 1982 B-T: L-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 190
HS--Palmdale, Calif., 2000 (12th round) Signed by: Bill
Background: A self-made prospect, Kubel rose
steadily through the system and reached the majors by the end of 2004,
when he hit .352 in the upper minors. Minnesota's minor league player
of the year, he even got seven at-bats in the American League Division
Series. His banner year ended disastrously, however, when he tore up his
left knee in an outfield collision in the Arizona Fall League. He missed
the 2005 season.
Strengths: Often compared to a young Brian Giles, Kubel
has a tremendous approach at the plate. His plate discipline is
the best in the system, while his stroke is quick and compact
with some opposite-field power. It’s no problem for him
to hit righties or lefties. Defensively, his best tool is a plus
Weaknesses: Even before the injury, Kubel wasn’t
considered much of a basestealing threat, though he did swipe
16 bags in 19 tries at Triple-A. He has limited speed and range
in the outfield. Like many young hitters, he can become overly
pull-conscious at times.
The Future: Kubel made it back last year in time for instructional
league, where he had to wear a large brace on his knee and couldn't
do much running or fielding. Though he says otherwise, the Twins
doubt he'll be 100 percent for spring training. Rather than competing
for the right-field job, he likely will start the season in Triple-A.
2005 Club (Class)
Did Not Play- Injured
3b Born: February
10, 1985 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 210
HS--Richmond, 2003 (1st round) Signed by: John Wilson
Background: Shortly after he was taken 21st
overall in the 2003 draft, Moses had a routine physical that revealed
a tiny hole in his heart. A 20-minute surgical procedure fixed the problem,
and he signed for $1.45 million. More concerns followed in 2004, when
he missed nearly four months with a stress fracture in his lower back,
a recurrence of an old high school injury. He stayed healthy through 2005,
which was his primary objective, and reached Double-A.
Strengths: One of the best pure hitters in his draft class,
Moses has a smooth, compact swing that has drawn comparisons to
Hank Blalock's. Moses was pushed to Double-A, which was hard enough,
but also remade his swing at the Twins’ suggestion to cut
down a pronounced toe tap. He shows a strong work ethic and a
Weaknesses: Some wonder whether Moses' power will follow
him up the ladder. He's a below-average runner, and though he
was worked hard on defense may have to move to a corner outfield
spot in the majors. A high school shortstop, he has decent range
at third base, but his footwork and throws remain a concern.
The Future: Moses figures to return to Double-A New Britain
to start 2006, and a full, healthy season will again be the objective.
Michael Cuddyer hasn't been able to seize Minnesota's third-base
job, and Moses could be ready to challenge him at some point in
Minnesota, 2004 (1st round) Signed by: Mark Wilson
Background: The last player to sign out of the
Twins' 2004 draft class, Perkins accepted a $1.425 million bonus and got
right to work. He turned heads with his debut and continued to gain admirers
when he reached Double-A in his first full season. His stock continued
to rise when he was one of the few starting pitchers to have consistent
success in the Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Perkins got in better shape as a pro and saw
his fastball increase from 88-92 to 91-94 mph. That made his advanced
changeup even better. He also began throwing two different curveballs,
a hard breaker and a slower version to throw off hitters’
timing. He has a strong mound presence, good feel for pitching
and solid makeup.
Weaknesses: Perkins isn't much of an athlete and has flat
feet, which previously kept him from working out as aggressively
as some would have liked. Wearing orthotics has solved that problem.
He had lower-back issues at the end of 2004 but none last year.
The Future: Hit harder than expected in Double-A, Perkins
will return there to anchor the rotation. With a successful first
half, he could soon find himself in Triple-A, knocking on the
door to the majors.
2005 Club (Class)
Fort Myers (Hi A)
New Britain (AA)
September 10, 1985 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 195
Background: As a senior at Nova High in 2004,
Swarzak was the ace for a team that won a Florida 5-A championship, the
first state title for a Broward County public high school in 57 years.
He was the consensus best pitching prospect on a loaded low Class A Beloit
staff last year, and he reached high Class A Fort Myers by the middle
of his first full pro season.
Strengths: Swarzak was dominant at times during the first
half at Beloit. He pitched at 91-93 mph with his fastball, showing
a hard downer curve and a devastating changeup as well. He has
touched 95 mph and has generally electric stuff to go with a prototypical
pitcher’s frame, loose arm and strong mound presence.
Weaknesses: He stumbled a bit near midseason, so the Twins
promoted him to jar him out of perceived boredom. Pitching close
to home in the Florida State League, Swarzak seemed to press at
times and developed minor delivery issues. He doesn’t trust
his changeup enough at times. His body is starting to fill out
and he must be careful not to pack on weight in the wrong places.
The Future: The fifth of six pitchers the Twins took in
the first three rounds in 2004, Swarzak remains near the head
of that class. He figures to return to high Class A to start 2006,
where he'll again head a prospect-laden rotation.
2005 Club (Class)
Beloit (Lo A)
Fort Myers (Hi A)
of Born: February
27, 1984 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-1 Wt: 180
HS--Tampa, 2002 (1st round) Signed by: Brad Weitzel
Background: A star wide receiver in high school,
Span received interest from NCAA Division I-A football programs until
they realized baseball was his first love. He turned down a 2002 predraft
deal to go ninth to the Rockies and wound up signing for $1.7 million
as the 20th pick. Nagging injuries to his legs and ankle slowed him in
2003, and a broken hamate bone in his right wrist caused him to miss more
than two months in 2004, but he stayed healthy in a strong 2005 campaign.
Strengths: The fastest player, best athlete and best defensive
outfielder in the deep Twins system, Span has begun to justify
the hype. Without hesitation, club officials name him as the farmhand
who improved the most last year. He has been timed at 3.8 seconds
to first base and has learned to use his speed as an offensive
weapon. He has sharpened his bunting, taken more pitches, done
a better job of keeping the ball out of the air and generally
warmed to the role of leadoff hitter. Comparisons to Juan Pierre
are starting to make sense.
Weaknesses: Span doesn’t have much power. He sometimes
has to rely on his quickness to make up for mistakes on routes
in center field. His arm is fringe average at best, though he
makes up for it by playing shallow. He gets caught stealing more
than he should because he's still perfecting his leads and jumps.
The Future: With Torii Hunter the subject of trade rumors,
Span’s window of major league opportunity is drawing closer.
Hunter isn’t likely to be in Minnesota beyond 2006, at which
point the Twins hope Span is ready for his close-up. He'll probably
open the season in Triple-A.
2005 Club (Class)
Fort Myers (Hi A)
New Britain (AA)
November 11, 1983 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 190
Fresno State, 2005 (1st round) Signed by: Kevin Bootay
Background: Garza has come a long way from the
scared kid who went 1-6, 9.55 as a Fresno State freshman in 2003. Afterward,
he had eye surgery to correct cloudy vision in his right eye. Over the
next two seasons, he went a combined 12-8, 3.99, pitching himself into
the first round of the 2005 draft. He signed for $1.35 million as the
25th overall pick.
Strengths: Garza showed a full mix of pitches in his debut,
including a 90-94 mph fastball that touches 96, a hard slider
at 82-84 mph, a 72-78 mph curveball and a changeup that needs
work but shows potential. A hard worker with outstanding makeup,
he's a serious pro, a young husband and father who wants to make
Weaknesses: His main weakness is a reluctance at times
to trust his stuff. Garza will drop down on occasion in an attempt
to bury his slider instead of repeating his delivery. The Twins
hope he'll be more willing to pitch to contact as he gains experience.
The Future: Garza needed just four starts in the Rookie-level
Appalachian League before moving up to the low Class A Midwest
League, where he figures to start out this season. He may not
stay there long, as he ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the MWL
2005 Club (Class)
Beloit (Lo A)
October 16, 1985 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 230
HS--Pawtucket, R.I., 2004 (1st round) Signed by: Jay
Background: Drafted out of the same Bishop Hendricken
High (Warwick, R.I.) program as Rocco Baldelli, Rainville signed for $875,000
as the fifth of five Twins first-round picks in 2004. He was also an NHL
prospect as a defenseman. His brother Michael, a third baseman, signed
as a nondrafted free agent with the Devil Rays last summer.
Strengths: A big, physical presence on the mound, Rainville
pounds the strike zone with an 88-91 mph fastball, 12-to-6 power
curveball and improving changeup. With his strong thighs and intense
approach, he reminds some of a young Curt Schilling. Rainville
made great strides last year in terms of game management, showing
an ability to identify situations that's beyond his years. His
command ranks with the best in the system and he posted 3.4 strikeouts
for every walk.
Weaknesses: Rainville's velocity was down a tick or two
from the 91-94 mph he reached regularly in his debut. The Twins
weren’t concerned, attributing that to physical changes
anyone his age would experience. Still, his debut season ended
with weakness in his throwing shoulder, so durability could be
The Future: While he could wind up at the back of the bullpen,
Rainville remains a starting prospect now with the potential to
be a 230-inning horse. He should start the year back in high Class
A as a member of star-studded rotation.
HS--Northridge, Calif., 2004 (1st round) Signed
by: Bill Mele
Background: A two-way star in high school, Plouffe
didn’t convince the Twins he was a better position player until
March of his draft year. On the mound, he showed a four-pitch mix and
could hit 91 mph with command. He went 25-2 his final two seasons, but
area scout Bill Mele recommended Plouffe remain at shortstop. He accepted
a $1.5 million bonus as the 20th overall pick in the 2004 draft.
Strengths: Plouffe gets the nod as the Twins best defensive
infielder, slightly ahead of 2005 second-round pick Paul Kelly,
a fellow shortstop. Plouffe’s arm is a shade below Kelly’s
but still rates a solid 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Plouffe
showed soft hands and good power in 2005, continuing to draw comparisons
to former Twins shortstop Greg Gagne. He has average speed.
Weaknesses: Plouffe got off to a miserable start at Beloit
with the bat, struggling with timing because of late activity
in his swing. He adjusted in the second half and became a threat
at the plate, though he could use more strength on his smallish
frame. Defensively, he needs to stay lower on balls and work to
improve his balance.
The Future: With Kelly and second-rounder Drew Thompson
entering the system last year, Plouffe suddenly has lots of company
at his position. He figures to open the year in high Class A.
--Knoxville, Tenn., 2004 (1st round) Signed by:
Background: Kentucky-based Twins scout Tim O’Neil
managed Waldrop in the 2003 East Coast Showcase, and that familiarity
played a role in Minnesota taking Waldrop 25th overall and signing him
for $1 million. Though he went 22-0 over his final two prep seasons, some
teams liked him more as a power-hitting first baseman/outfielder. The
Twins have no plans to move him off the mound.
Strengths: Waldrop's changeup already is the best in
a system that features several polished soft-tossers, and his
command is right there with the best of the Twins' prospects.
He won’t blow hitters away with his 88-91 mph fastball,
but he also features a big-breaking curveball and has a slider
as well. His work ethic is beyond question and his mound presence
is good. His yes-sir, no-sir personality draws comparisons to
Weaknesses: Waldrop had trouble maintaining his arm slot
for most of last season, but he rallied late. He gave up too many
hits considering his profile, but some of those were due to mediocre
defense behind him. His curveball tends to get loopy at times.
The Future: Unlike Anthony Swarzak and Jay Rainville, Waldrop
stayed in low Class A throughout his first full pro season. He
figures to join them in high Class A to begin 2006 and could reach
Double-A by midseason if he starts fast.
2005 Club (Class)
Beloit (Lo A)
Span: Bill Mitchell
Perkins, Ploufee, Waldrop: Steve Moore
Moses: Kevin Pataky
Liriano: Sports on Film