International Reviews: Minnesota Twins

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Baseball America's annual International Reviews provide scouting reports on every team's top international amateur signings from the 2012 calendar year, as well as a look at any notable signings from the Cuban market.

See also: 2011 American League Central International Review

Minnesota Twins

Top signing: SS Amaurys Minier, Dominican Republic, $1.4 million.
Six-figure signings: LHP Lewis Thorpe (Australia), RHP Chih-Wei Hu (Taiwan), C Rainis Silva (Venezuela), RHP Johan Quezada (Dominican Republic), OF Antonio Tovar (Venezuela).

Minnesota's Latin American pipeline has started to bring impact talent into the organization in recent years with Miguel Sano from the Dominican Republic and Oswaldo Arcia out of Venezuela. Last year year the organization's top international signing was Amaurys Minier (video), a Dominican shortstop signed for $1.4 million on July 2. Minier, who is from San Cristobal and turned 17 last month, trained with Jaime Ramos and played in the Dominican Prospect League. He's 6-foot-2, 190 pounds with good bat speed from both sides of the plate and plus raw power. He's more advanced batting lefty, where he has a smooth, pretty swing with good balance despite some noise in his setup. Even with Minier's swing and raw power, several scouts had concerns about his hitting in games, so he's going to have to make adjustments and improve his pitch recognition.

Minier is a shortstop in name only. He may start at the position, but with his below-average speed and thick lower half, he should quickly move over to third base. He has the hands and arm strength to play third, though his footwork and some of his defensive actions will have to come along. If he gets too big, he could end up at first base, but third base is a reasonable goal. Minier has a chance to start in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, but he might follow Sano's path by opening the year in the Dominican Summer League before matriculating over to the GCL once that league begins.

The Twins are among the more active teams in the Pacific Rim, where they signed two of the region's top prospects last year. Their most notable signing from that part of the world was Lewis Thorpe (video), an Australian lefthander who signed for $500,000 shortly after July 2. Thorpe's bonus was the biggest of the year for an Australian player and some scouts think he's the best prospect to come out of Australia in years.

Thorpe pitched at the 16U World Championships in Mexico in 2011 and in Major League Baseball's Australian academy, where he posted a 2.70 ERA with 30 strikeouts (second most in the academy) and 16 walks in 23 1/3 innings last year. At Australia's 18U National Championships last month, Thorpe struck out a tournament-best 20 batters in nine scoreless innings and allowed just three hits. Thorpe even made one start for the Melbourne Aces in the Australian Baseball League, a circuit filled with professional players several years older than him, and carried a one-hitter into the sixth inning, then left after giving up a run with five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

Thorpe was around 6 feet, 170 pounds when he signed but he has grown nearly nine inches in the past couple of years and is now up to 6-foot-2. He has long arms and legs and might not be done growing. Some teams before July 2 saw Thorpe throwing 86-88 mph and touching 91, but most recently he's been 88-92 mph and his fastball is tough to pick up out of his hand. His changeup has good sink and fade and could be an above-average pitch. He's also shown feel to spin a curveball and worked on the pitch over the winter with Travis Blackley to do a better job of getting it out front. Thorpe also learned a cutter from former major league reliever Graeme Lloyd at the Australian academy last summer. His delivery is good for his age, though he did walk a lot of batters in Australia so he'll need to become more efficient with his pitches. He'll report to extended spring training in April.

The Twins also signed righthander Chih-Wei Hu (video) out of Taiwan for $220,000 in August. There were four Taiwanese amateur players who signed last year, and Hu's bonus was the biggest of the four. The Twins have plucked a few of the top pitchers from Taiwanese junior national teams in recent years, including righthander Kuo-Hua Lo in 2011 and righthander Hung-Yu Chen in 2010, and Hu has experience as the ace of the Taiwan squad that hosted the 16U World Championships in 2009.

Hu, who turned 19 in November, has a thick 6-foot, 210-pound frame that he'll have to keep in check, but he's an aggressive pitcher who works quickly and throws strikes. His fastball parks around 89-91 mph and he's hit 94. He also throws a sharp curveball with good power and bite as well as a changeup that he mixes in regularly.

Venezuelan catcher Rainis Silva, who trained with Felix Olivo and signed for $175,000 in July, was one of the most polished defensive catchers in last year's July 2 class. Silva, 16, has been the catcher on several Venezuelan youth national teams, including at the 14U Pan-American championships in Nicaragua in 2010 and at the 16U World Championships in Mexico the following year. His extensive experience behind the plate is evident, as even more advanced pitchers enjoy throwing to him. He receives well, has a plus arm and looks natural behind the plate. At 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, Silva is a defensive-oriented catcher. He tracks pitches well and he can have success when he keeps his righthanded swing short, but it's a shoulder-heavy swing with only fair bat speed. He has gap power, though like many young amateur players from Latin America, he can get too power-conscious at times.

Venezuelan outfielder Antonio Tovar (video), a righthanded hitter who signed for $100,000 in July, doesn't have a ton of tools but stands out in the batter's box. Tovar, 16, was teammates with Silva at the 14U Pan-American championships in 2010 and shows more offensive upside. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Tovar has wide shoulders and a wide back that project for him to add more strength. He's already strong and has natural hitting instincts with the ability to hit the ball to all fields. Once he learns to use his lower half more in his swing, that should allow him to get better balance, free up his hands and help him generate more power. For Tovar, the bat is his ticket. He doesn't run or throw well, so he's limited to left field or perhaps first base, and he's still getting the hang of the outfield.

The Twins also signed Dominican righthander Johan Quezada for $150,000 in September. Quezada, an 18-year-old from Santo Domingo, has an enormous but thin frame at 6-foot-6, 190 pounds. Quezada was signed mostly for his physical projection. He throws 87-89 mph and flashes an occasional breaking ball that has its moments, though he works heavily off his fastball. His mechanics are solid given his size and lack of experience. With his long, skinny build, he'll likely be brought along carefully as he adds weight and strength.

The Twins also signed Venezuelan left fielder Jorge Parra for $45,000 in September. Parra, 17, became eligible to sign on July in 2011, and he could prove to be a solid sleeper. The 6-foot, 175-pound lefty made an impression at Minnesota's Dominican instructional league with his hitting. Whether he has enough speed for center field or the power to play on a corner is still in question, but his hit tool and the natural whip in his bat make him intriguing.