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, 2007.

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Minnesota Twins

The names change. The results, for the last five years, hardly have.

The Twins won their fourth American League Central title in the last five seasons under manager Ron Gardenhire, streaking past the Tigers in September after trailing by a dozen games at the all-star break. While they were doomed by uncharacteristically sloppy play in the Division Series and swept by the Athletics, 2006 was a success.

Minnesota rallied after it jettisoned some of the mistakes dotting its Opening Day roster and turned to internal candidates to get the team going. Jason Bartlett and Nick Punto replaced Juan Castro and Tony Batista on the left side of the infield, and while neither hit for much power, they provided much more offense and better defense.

On the mound, the Twins found middle-relief help in Pat Neshek after trading malcontent J.C. Romero for infield prospect Alexi Casilla during the offseason. When they finally gave up on Kyle Lohse, they turned loose Francisco Liriano, who was among baseball's most dominant pitchers before being sidelined late in the season by a strained elbow. Liriano complemented ace Johan Santana, who won the major league pitching triple crown en route to Baseball America's Major League Player of the Year award.

Postseason Tommy John surgery will sideline Liriano in 2007, and even Minnesota's abundant pitching depth may be hard-pressed to replace his brilliance. General manager Terry Ryan and his trusted, experienced staff do have options such as Boof Bonser, 2006 phenom Matt Garza, fellow righties J.D. Durbin and Kevin Slowey and Minnesota native Glen Perkins.

The Twins have more questions when it comes to finding capable everyday players.

Catcher Joe Mauer won the AL batting title, while first baseman Justin Morneau became the first Twin since 1987 to hit 30 homers in a season (along with Torii Hunter). Add in right fielder Michael Cuddyer, a 1997 first-round pick who finally established himself as a regular and drove in 109 runs, and the Twins have a young, vibrant core for their lineup.

Hunter's one-year contract extension buys Minnesota another season to find out if 2002 first-rounder Denard Span eventually can take over for him in center field. Third base, still a question mark, could be filled in the near future by Matt Moses, David Winfree or Trevor Plouffe, but the position remains a point of emphasis for the organization. The Twins addressed third base again in the draft, taking collegians Whit Robbins, Garrett Olson (both in the fourth round) and Danny Valencia (19th).

Minnesota focused on position players in a draft notable for its pitchers. However, in prep outfielders Chris Parmelee (first round, the fifth time in six years the Twins spent their top pick on a high school hitter) and Joe Benson (second), they may have found two more impact bats for a few years down the road.

By then, their new ballpark should be ready. Scheduled for completion in 2010, the stadium took years of political wrangling before billionaire owner Carl Pohlad and the state could agree on a plan. The park secures the club's future in the Twin Cities.

Despite the increase in projected revenues with the new stadium, the Twins still have to plan ahead and rebuild from within. Few organizations do it better.

1. Matt Garza, rhp   Born: Nov. 26, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 185
 Drafted: Fresno State, 2005 (1st round)Signed by: Kevin Bootay
Matt GarzaBackground: Garza's rise has been even more meteoric than it looks. While he was a prospect in high school at Fresno's Washington Union High, where he also played quarterback, he didn't seriously consider signing when the Rockies drafted him in the 40th round in 2002. His son Matt Jr., born the day of the draft, was a big reason he went to college, and Matt and his girlfriend Serina Ortiz now have a daughter Sierra as well. Garza stayed home to attend Fresno State, a once-proud program in rebuilding mode. He was a part-time starter for his first two seasons, posting a 9.55 ERA as a freshman, before anchoring the Bulldogs rotation as a junior. He went 6-5, 3.07 and ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference with 120 strikeouts in 108 innings. The Twins took Garza 25th overall in 2005 and signed him for $1.35 million, and he paid immediate dividends. He finished his debut by excelling at low Class A Beloit and totaled 76 pro innings, putting him at 183 for the year including college. He was just getting warmed up for 2006, when he was the most dominant pitcher in the minors. Starting the year at high Class A Fort Myers and continuing to deal at Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester, Garza was leading the minors in strikeouts when he was promoted to the big leagues in early August. He pitched 186 innings overall between the majors and minors and tired late, when the Twins left him off their postseason roster in favor of fellow rookie Glen Perkins.

Strengths: Garza has evolved from a two-pitch power arm as a college freshman to a guy with a quality four-pitch repertoire. Yet he's still all about the fastball. While his heater usually sits at 90-94 mph, Garza showed the ability to dial it up to 97-98 at times in 2006, including late in games. It's his out pitch and has enough life that he trusts it in any count. He refined his delivery slightly, and his improved fastball command was another reason he dominated minor leaguers. Garza also throws a curveball, slider and changeup. Both the curve and the slider are above-average pitches at times, and he throws both with power, particularly his low-80s slider. His changeup grades out as solid-average and he spots it well against lefthanders, who hit just two home runs against him all year. He has a smooth delivery that he repeats well, along with plenty of mound presence.

Weaknesses: With his slender build, Garza appeared to wear down while facing his first full pro season and facing big league hitters. When he tired, his mechanics broke down and his command suffered. Righthanders teed off on his fastball when he nibbled in the majors, tagging him for a 1.014 OPS, but Garza just needs to trust his stuff more and maintain his strength. His curveball and slider can get more consistent.

The Future: No one expected Garza to be this good this fast, not even the Twins. While his late-season fade means he probably has to earn a spot in the 2007 rotation, Francisco Liriano's injury and Brad Radke's retirement make Garza's inclusion a near certainty. Garza's ceiling is all that's in question, and calling him a No. 2 starter behind Johan Santana almost seems conservative.
Fort Myers (Hi A)511.428800442731153.169
New Britain (AA)622.51101000574021468.190
Rochester (AAA)311.85552034201733.174
2. Glen Perkins, lhp   Born: March 2, 1983B-T: L-LHt: 5-11Wt: 200
 Drafted: Minnesota, 2004 (1st round)Signed by: Mark Wilson
Glen PerkinsBackground: A Minnesota native, Perkins starred for the hometown Golden Gophers for two years before the Twins took him 22nd overall in 2004. He finished the 2006 season with a September callup, pitching so well out of the bullpen that he beat out Matt Garza for a spot on the playoff roster.

Strengths: Perkins has above-average stuff and throws strikes. His fastball took a small jump in 2006, regularly sitting at 92-93 mph and touching 95. It has been his strikeout pitch for much of his career. His curveball is a put-away pitch, and he can add and subtract velocity from it. He long has shown a good feel for a solid-average changeup.

Weaknesses: While Perkins has matured, he still sometimes lets mistakes in the field get to him. He was more focused the higher up the ladder he pitched. Staying in top shape has been difficult for him, but he generally has succeeded.

The Future: With Francisco Liriano shelved, Perkins is at the front of the line along with Garza to earn a spot in the big league rotation. At the least, the Twins believe Perkins can help them immediately as a reliever.
New Britain (AA)4113.912323201171091145131.243
Rochester (AAA)012.08110046053.333
3. Kevin Slowey, rhp   Born: May 4, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Drafted: Winthrop, 2005 (2nd round)Signed by: Ricky Taylor
Kevin SloweyBackground: Slowey finished 2006 with two pressure-packed starts: one in Cuba in the finale of the Americas Olympic qualifier against the host nation, the other with Triple-A Rochester in the International League playoffs. His bullpen blew a lead for him in the former—though Team USA rallied for the victory—and he won the latter.

Strengths: Slowey resembles Brad Radke for his fastball command, which some scouts rate an 8 on their 2-8 scale. He puts his 88-92 fastball wherever he wants, usually with good life. His delivery is so easy that it creates deception. In the high Class A Florida State League all-star game, Slowey threw nine straight fastballs to strike out the side, and only one drew a swing. His moxie makes his tools play up.

Weaknesses: He throws 90 percent fastballs with average velocity, and it's hard to see Slowey succeeding in the majors with that approach. He saw the benefits of pitching backward—throwing secondary pitches in fastball counts, and vice-versa—against Cuba, when he gave up only one run in five innings. His changeup is ahead of his slurvy breaking ball at this point, but both need more work.

The Future: Slowey could use some Triple-A time and doesn't have to be protected on the 40-man roster, but he's also so polished that it would be no surprise if he won a roster spot in spring training. If he learns to use his secondary pitches effectively, his command could make him a frontline starter.
Fort Myers (Hi A)421.0114140089522999.164
New Britain (AA)433.199910595061352.223
4. Chris Parmelee, of   Born: Feb. 24, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS--Chino Hills, Calif., 2006 (1st round)Signed by: John Leavitt
Chris ParmeleeBackground: Parmelee cemented his place in the first round of the 2006 draft by adding game power to his patient, polished package. He hit 11 homers as a high school senior, then went deep in his first pro appearance after signing for $1.5 million as the 20th overall pick. He finished the season by holding his own in the low Class A Midwest League.

Strengths: With plate discipline, leverage and a short, repeatable stroke, Parmelee is the total package as a power hitter. He actually has shown the Twins more raw power than they thought he had as an amateur, and he seems to swing better with wood than he did with metal. He has an above-average arm that fits in right field.

Weaknesses: A below-average runner already, Parmelee will get bigger and slower as he gets older. His instincts, jumps and routes will have to compensate if he's to stay in the outfield. He's a solid defender at first base if he has to move there.

The Future: Parmelee has the advanced bat to move quickly. He's similar to what the Twins thought they had in Jason Kubel before Kubel's knee injury, but with better power. Parmelee will start 2007 back in low Class A, but it would be an upset for him to spend the whole season there.
GCL Twins (R).279.369.53215429437483223473
Beloit (Lo A).227.370.27322251002590
5. Anthony Swarzak, rhp   Born: Sept. 10, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS--Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 2004 (2nd round)Signed by: Brad Weitzel
Anthony SwarzakBackground: He began 2006 in the same rotation as Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey, but Swarzak couldn't keep pace with his older teammates. Instead, he served as the rock of the Fort Myers rotation, making every start and leading the Florida State League in strikeouts.

Strengths: Swarzak has an ideal pitcher's body and has shown three solid-average to plus pitches at times. His fastball touched 94-95 in 2006, and his curveball is major league average already. It could be a plus pitch as he improves his consistency and command of it. Swarzak also shows a feel for his changeup and savvy beyond his years.

Weaknesses: Fastball velocity and command were issues for Swarzak, especially in the first half of the season. He pitched at 89-90 mph much of the year and had to learn to succeed without his best stuff. He'll need to pitch down in the zone more consistently without the FSL's big ballparks and heavy air to help him.

The Future: Swarzak moves to Double-A, where he'll pitch the entire season at age 21. If his velocity bounces back to 2005 levels, he could speed up his accelerated timetable.
Fort Myers (Hi A)1173.27272720146131860131.242
6. Pat Neshek, rhp   Born: Sept. 4, 1980B-T: B-RHt: 6-3Wt: 205
 Drafted: Butler, 2002 (6th round)Signed by: Billy Milos
Pat NeshekBackground: It only seems like Neshek came from nowhere. He was voted top pitcher of the first Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association showcase back in 1998, and he had a stellar career at Butler, where he set records for strikeouts in a game (18), season (118) and career (280). A Minnesotan, Neshek was a regular at Twins games while growing up. He's an avid autograph collector, fully in evidence at his Website, patneshek.com.

Strengths: Neshek earned his way to the majors, posting a career 2.17 ERA over five minor league seasons. He has pinpoint command despite a unconventional sidearm delivery that creates tremendous deception. He annihilates righthanders (.140 average, 37 strikeouts in 86 big league at-bats) with his 86-91 mph sinking fastball and slurvy breaking ball.

Weaknesses: Lefthanders usually feast on sidearmers, and Neshek is susceptible as well. He gave up four home runs in 45 at-bats to major league lefties, who slugged .511 against him. He needs to focus on movement and command and use his changeup more to combat them. When he tries to overpower hitters, his stuff flattens out.

The Future: Neshek is what he is, funky on the mound and off. He already has demonstrated he can be an effective middle reliever, but that's also probably his ceiling.
Rochester (AAA)621.95330014604171487.189
7. Alexi Casilla, ss/2b   Born: July 20, 1984B-T: B-RHt: 5-9Wt: 160
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003Signed by: Leo Perez (Angels)
Alexi CasillaBackground: The Twins were eager to get rid of J.C. Romero in a December 2005 trade with the Angels, and they were equally happy to get Casilla, whom they believed could be a solid utility player or second baseman. After making a poor first impression by failing to make the Double-A team out of spring training, he wowed the organization with a strong season, leading the system in stolen bases.

Strengths: Casilla is a top-of-the-lineup igniter who showed defensive ability at shortstop and second base. He’s a well-above-average runner. His quick hands work well at the plate, where he’s a spray hitter who makes excellent contact, and in the field. He also has more than enough arm for shortstop and turns the double play well at second.

Weaknesses: Slight and not exceptionally strong, Casilla has an utter lack of power that limits his ceiling. It will be hard for him to be an impact hitter if he doesn’t draw more walks, get on base and steal a lot of bases.

The Future: Big league second baseman Luis Castillo becomes a free agent after the 2007 season, and Casilla is poised to take over for him after spending a year in Triple-A. He may have played his way into the future shortstop discussion as well.
Fort Myers (Hi A).331.390.40632356107126033303631
New Britain (AA).294.375.3821702850101113182019
8. Joe Benson, of   Born: March 5, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS--Joliet, Ill., 2006 (2nd round)Signed by: Billy Milos
Joe BensonBackground: A high school catcher who also played some outfield, Benson is one of the organization's top athletes. He rushed for 2,183 yards as a senior and could have played college football if he hadn't signed for $575,000 as a second-round pick in June. He joined Chris Parmelee in jumping to low Class A late in the year, though he was gassed by season's end.

Strengths: Benson has first-round tools across the board and has the best power/speed combination of any Twins farmhand. He has above-average raw power and speed (4.1 seconds to first base from the right side), and with more experience he could be a center fielder. His average arm should play in either center or left field.

Weaknesses: Players with a football mentality like Benson's have to learn to grind their way through a baseball season, rather than going all-out all the time. His ability to make adjustments at the plate will determine whether his raw power becomes usable power.

The Future: He's far less polished than Parmelee, but he also has a higher ceiling. Benson probably will need to rise one step at a time through the minor leagues, which means he'll return to low Class A in 2007.
GCL Twins (R).260.335.444196305111552821419
Beloit (Lo A).263.263.26319250001061
9. Paul Kelly, ss   Born: Oct. 19, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS--Flower Mound, Texas, 2005 (2nd round)Signed by: Marty Esposito
Paul KellyBackground: Flower Mound (Texas) High righty Craig Italiano showed more velocity than any pitcher in the 2005 draft, and Kelly, his teammate, also threw 94-95 mph while doubling as a shortstop. His bat and defensive potential prompted the Twins to draft Kelly as a hitter in the second round—one pick after the Athletics chose Italiano—even though they selected prep shortstop Trevor Plouffe in the first round the year before.

Strengths: Kelly has passed Plouffe on the organization's shortstop depth chart. He knows the strike zone and has power, leading some scouts to project him to hit 15 homers annually. He wows scouts with the organization's best infield arm and positions himself so well that he rarely has to rely on his arm strength to make plays. He's a quiet, confident leader.

Weaknesses: A torn meniscus in his left knee ended Kelly's season in late July, and he hadn't recovered sufficiently to make it through a full instructional league. A fringe-average runner before he got hurt, he'll have to prove his range is sufficient for shortstop once he returns. Offensively, his swing tends to be choppy and causes him to hit a lot of balls in the air, and some scouts doubt he's strong enough to translate those fly balls into home runs.

The Future: The Twins believe in Kelly's bat, and some club officials think they may have a young Alan Trammell on their hands. A healthy Kelly could push Plouffe to third base in high Class A in 2007.
Beloit (Lo A).280.352.3843785810622434832604
10. J.D.  Durbin, rhp   Born: Feb. 24, 1982B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS--Scottsdale, Ariz., 2000 (2nd round)Signed by: Lee MacPhail
J.D. DurbinBackground: Durbin dubbed himself “The Real Deal” early in his career, when he threw upper-90s gas and reached Minnesota at age 22. Then he was derailed by surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in 2004 and shoulder tendinitis in 2005. He was rolling in 2006 until missing the last two months with a nerve problem in his biceps, which didn't require surgery.

Strengths: Durbin still ranks among the Twins’ hardest-throwing starters. His fastball sits at 92-94 mph and he still can reach back for more. His curveball, which managers rated the best in the Triple-A International League, is a power low-80s breaker that comes out of his hand looking like a fastball. He has improved his ability to throw his curve and changeup for strikes. He has matured into a gamer and takes his job more seriously.

Weaknesses: The missed time the last three years not only clouds Durbin's durability, but it also cost him development time he needed to hone his control. He was more pitch-efficient this season but still needs to improve in that regard. If he can't hold up, he may have to move to the bullpen.

The Future: Just when he had turned the corner, Durbin had to combat one more obstacle with his biceps injury. He's out of options, so 2007 is likely his last chance with Minnesota. The Twins rotation has holes, and a healthy Durbin could step forward and seize a spot.
Rochester (AAA)432.33161600896735081.209

Photo Credits:
Garza: Bill Mitchell
Casilla: Rich Abel
Kelly: Paul Gierhart