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, 2009.

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The Twins experienced a slew of firsts and lasts in 2009, most notably wrapping up the final season in the Metrodome with a dramatic playoff run.

The hermetically sealed Dome had its warts, but it also provided one of sport's great home-field advantages. It gives way to Target Field and its open air and natural grass for 2010.

Minnesota extended the dome's run by a couple of games by charging through September. It was 68-68 on Sept. 6 and trailed the Tigers by seven games before rallying to catch Detroit on the second-to-last day of the regular season, forcing a 163rd game for a second straight season. After losing 1-0 to the White Sox in 2008, the Twins won in walkoff fashion, 6-5 in a 12-inning thriller.

That would have been a tremendous sendoff for the Metrodome, but Minnesota came back home for one more game, the finale of a Division Series sweep at the hands of the Yankees. New York won all 10 meetings between the two clubs.

The Twins' offense couldn't match that of the Yankees, but offense was the team's strength in 2009. They ranked fourth in the American League in runs thanks to a homegrown group of hitters, with AL MVP and three-time batting champion Joe Mauer leading the way with an epic .365/.444/.587 season. Michael Cuddyer hit 32 homers, Justin Morneau added 30 and Mauer and Jason Kubel belted 28 each.

They needed all that offense because Minnesota didn't pitch or defend up to previous standards, posting a 4.50 ERA (11th in the AL) with much the same cast of characters that put up a 4.18 mark in 2008. Even closer Joe Nathan looked mortal down the stretch and blew Game Two against the Yankees, which the Twins led 3-1 entering the ninth inning.

To settle the rotation and infield, general manager Bill Smith made two August deals, trading minor leaguers for Carl Pavano, Jon Rauch (who both will return in 2010) and Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera was a stopgap, and Minnesota acquired J.J. Hardy in November after the season as a more long-term answer at shortstop.

Those moves should improve Smith's trade track record, sullied early in his tenure when he gave Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza to the Rays in a deal for Delmon Young and sent Johan Santana to the Mets for four players who have done little since. Minnesota gave up the best player in that foursome, Carlos Gomez, to get Hardy from the Brewers. For his next act, Smith must lock up Mauer, whose contract expires after the 2010 season.

The Twins were active acquiring talent all summer. With the 22nd overall pick in June, they drafted Missouri righthander Kyle Gibson, a projected top-10 pick choice who was available because he had a stress reaction in his right forearm. Gibson signed at the Aug. 17 deadline for $1.85 million, marking the first time Minnesota took a premier talent who slid and paid him a seven-figure, above-slot bonus.

In another first, the Twins paid the highest bonus on the international market in 2009 and the highest for an international player in franchise history when infielder Miguel Sano signed in September for $3.15 million. Minnesota had kicked off the international period by signing German outfielder Max Kepler for $800,000, the largest bonus ever given to a European position player.

1.  Aaron Hicks, of   Born: Oct. 2, 1989B-T: B-RHt: 6-2Wt: 170
 Drafted: HS—Long Beach, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: John Leavitt
David StonerBackground: Hicks is a product of Long Beach's Wilson High, alma mater of such baseball luminaries as Hall of Famer Bob Lemon, 1974 American League MVP Jeff Burroughs and all-stars Bud Daley and Bobby Grich. Focusing on baseball after showing tremendous talent as a teenager golfer, Hicks was a two-way star at Wilson. He ran his fastball up to 97 mph and could have been a first-round pick as a pitcher. However, the Twins considered him the best athlete available in the 2008 draft and liked his competitiveness, as he led Wilson to a No. 1 national ranking and its first California district title in 50 years as a junior. They drafted him 14th overall—their highest first-round pick since Joe Mauer went No. 1 in 2001—and signed him for $1.78 million. Hicks ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in his pro debut, then started 2009 in extended spring training. One he was assigned to low Class A Beloit in mid-June, he overcame a slow start to establish himself as the Midwest League's No. 1 prospect as well.

Strengths: Hicks combines five-tool athleticism with a surprisingly advanced approach at the plate. He has dynamic tools, starting with an arm that some scouts rate as an 80 on the 20-80 scale. His speed rates at least above-average if not better, and he has the tools to be a premium defender in center field. His hitting tools are in some ways similar to those of top Phillies prospect Domonic Brown, though Hicks has more explosiveness in his hands and may have more raw power. Like Brown, Hicks is more patient than most young, developing five-tool players. He repeats his swing and he recognizes pitches fairly well. He has good bat speed, especially from the left side of the plate.

Weaknesses: The questions with Hicks revolve more around how high the ceiling will be, and how quickly he arrives there. At times he was too patient for his own good last year, letting pitches he could drive go by in hitter's counts. However, it's easier to learn to unload on those pitches than to learn patience, and he has the leverage in his swing and wiry strength to take advantage in the future. He's inexperienced in baserunning and basestealing, as well as other subtle aspects of the game. He's stronger from the left side than from the right, like most switch-hitters, and his swing tends to get long from the right side.

The Future: Denard Span taught the Twins some lessons. First, they want all of their center fielders to experience playing the corners in the minors, rather than learning in the majors as Span did. Expect Hicks to work in all three spots in 2010. Second, Span's development reiterated the lesson that power is often the last tool to develop. With his patience and aptitude, Hicks could move quicker than Span but come into his power down the line, perhaps like Span's predecessor, Torii Hunter. Hicks won't challenge Span anytime soon, and he may even return to low Class A to start this season. But when his skills and experience level catch up to his tools, he could take off, making his big league ETA of 2012 look conservative.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Beloit (Lo A) .251 .353 .382 251 43 63 15 3 4 29 40 55 10
2.  Wilson Ramos, c   Born: Aug. 10, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 220
 Signed: Venezuela, 2004Signed by: Jose Leon
Wilson RamosBackground: When he wasn't hurt in 2009, Ramos was Double-A New Britain's best player, but he missed a month with a broken tip of his left middle finger and nearly two months with a hamstring injury. He hit .341 (including the playoffs) after he returned, then batted .332/.397/.582 in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Strengths: Ramos fits the catcher profile. He is physical and strong, with plus raw power and the ability to get the barrel to the ball. He's aggressive but covers the plate well, has natural hitting actions and shows power to all fields. He's agile for his size, receives well and has a cannon for an arm, throwing out 42 percent of basestealers last year.

Weaknesses: His hamstring injury and physical maturity have left Ramos a below-average runner, and he's on his way to being a baseclogger if he's not careful. He gained weight during his layoff but got back in shape in winter ball, where he improved his pedestrian walk rate. He's a slow starter who doesn't always play with energy, though that improved in 2009.

The Future: Ramos is insurance in case the Twins can't re-sign Joe Mauer. If Mauer locks up a long-term deal, though, Ramos becomes a valuable trade chip as a catcher who's almost big league-ready and has significant upside. He's likely headed for Triple-A Rochester in 2010.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
New Britain (AA) .317 .341 .454 205 31 65 16 0 4 29 6 23 0
GCL Twins (R) .316 .316 .947 19 4 6 1 1 3 6 0 0 0
3.  Kyle Gibson, rhp   Born: Oct. 23, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 208
 Drafted: Missouri, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: .R. DeMercurio
Kyle GibsonBackground: Gibson was the third Missouri pitcher drafted in the first round of the last four drafts, joining Max Scherzer (2006) and Aaron Crow (2008). In his final college start, an NCAA regional game against Monmouth, his fastball velocity dipped into the mid-80s. Doctors diagnosed a stress fracture in his right forearm, which dropped him down many draft boards. The Twins snagged him with the 22nd overall pick and signed him for an above-slot $1.85 million bonus.

Strengths: Gibson has premium secondary stuff, but his fastball's no slouch. He pitches at 91-92 mph with sinking life and commands his fastball to both sides of the plate. He'll run his four-seamer up to 94 mph, and scouts think there's more velocity to come. His plus slider already is a swing-and-miss pitch, sitting at 82-85 mph when he's at his best. It has sharp movement and good depth. His changeup gives him a third pitch with plus potential, and at times it's as good as his slider.

Weaknesses: The forearm injury scared off some clubs, as it's often a precursor to elbow damage. Some scouts thought Gibson trusted his offspeed stuff so much that he didn't learn to pitch off his fastball, so the Twins will emphasize that in his first pro season.

The Future: Gibson threw well in instructional league and reported no problems. Minnesota is bullish on his health and will start his career at high Class A Fort Myers. A strong, healthy season would put him in the mix for the 2011 rotation. His upside is as a true No. 1 starter.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Injured
4.  Miguel Sano, ss/3b   Born: May 11, 1993B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 195
 Drafted: Dominican Republic, 2009Signed by: Fred Guerrero
Miguel SanoBackground: Sano was the consensus top prospect available in the international amateur signing period last summer. While the Pirates were considered the leader to sign him for most of the summer, the Twins landed him for $3.15 million in September. It was the second-largest bonus in franchise history, trailing only Joe Mauer's $5.15 million as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2001. After dabbling with using the surname Jean (his father's name), he confirmed to the Twins in December that he wants to use the name Sano.

Strengths: Sano's tools fit perfectly with the profile major league clubs look for at third base. He's a physical, aggressive hitter who should hit for average and power. He has thunder in his hands and forearms and could hit 30 homers annually down the line. His arm strength is well above-average, and he has the hands to stay in the infield.

Weaknesses: Sano is already too big for shortstop, and it's possible he could outgrow the infield altogether and end up in right field. He has no obvious physical limitations, so he'll just have to prove that his obvious tools will play against pro competition.

The Future: The last significant hurdle for Sano was to get his work visa, which he did in December. After getting the stamp of approval from Major League Baseball's investigations unit, he's cleared to play. The Twins like to handle prospects conservatively and likely will keep him in extended spring training before starting his career in Rookie ball.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed Late
5.  Ben Revere, of   Born: May 3, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 5-9Wt: 166
 Drafted: HS—Lexington, Ky., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Billy Corrigan
Ben RevereBackground: Revere's father John was a 19th-round pick in 1972, and his brother J.R. was a 49th-round pick of the Rockies in 2001. Ben was the first Revere to sign, though. His $750,000 bonus was the second-lowest first-round bonus of the decade.

Strengths: Revere is the best pure hitter in the organization and one of the best in the minors, with a .337 average and nearly as many walks (80) as strikeouts (85). He lashes line drives from pole to pole when he's locked in, and handles lefthanded pitchers well. His hand-eye coordination and plus-plus speed allow him to make contact and beat out even routine grounders for infield hits, and he also has shown gap power. He can be a disruptive force on the basepaths and has plus range in the outfield.

Weaknesses: Revere's power and arm grade out as below average, and his arm has had to improve to even get to that point. He may have a well below-average arm when all is said and done. His power is strictly to the gaps, and he'll have to keep proving he can handle hard stuff in. His routes and jumps in the outfield are rough, though he has the speed to make up for them. He has had left knee problems, missing two weeks after getting fluid drained last July.

The Future: His overall game still needs polish, but Revere has a chance to be an impact leadoff hitter. With Denard Span ahead of him and Aaron Hicks behind him, the Twins have other center-field options, making him possible trade bait. He'll advance to Double-A this year.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Fort Myers (Hi A) .311 .372 .369 466 75 145 13 4 2 48 40 34 45
6.  Danny Valencia, 3b   Born: Sept. 19, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Drafted: Miami, 2006 (19th round)Signed by: Hector Otero
Danny ValenciaBackground: The Twins started four different third basemen for at least 20 games in 2009 and have used 17 players there since Corey Koskie left following the 2004 season. Valencia has evolved into their best in-house option, reaching Triple-A last June and earning a spot on the 40-man roster in November.

Strengths: With good strength in his hands and wrists plus leverage in his swing, Valencia has plus raw power and tied for the organization lead with 38 doubles in 2009. He has the bat speed to get to good fastballs and trusts his hands, staying back on breaking balls and using the whole field. He has the defensive tools to play third base, with average hands, solid first-step quickness and plus arm strength.

Weaknesses: Valencia committed 20 errors in 124 games last year, which scouts attribute to his subpar concentration and footwork. He's just not consistent defensively. His plate discipline regressed in Triple-A, which bears watching. His brash, cocky demeanor has turned off some club officials and teammates in the past, but he has matured in the last year. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: Valencia will challenge for the third-base job in Minnesota in 2010. Defense will be the determining factor for a team that started Matt Tolbert twice at the hot corner in the playoffs.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
New Britain (AA) .284 .373 .482 218 44 62 14 4 7 29 31 40 0
Rochester (AAA) .286 .305 .454 269 35 77 24 0 7 41 8 37 0
7.  Carlos Gutierrez, rhp   Born: Sept. 22, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 205
 Drafted: Miami, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Hector Otero
Carlos GutierrezBackground: Gutierrez helped lead Miami to the College World Series and was one of three Hurricanes first-rounders in 2008, along with Yonder Alonso and Jemile Weeks. His younger brother David, a righthander, still pitches for the Hurricanes. Carlos closed for the 2008 club, but the Twins liked him as a starter and used him in that role for most of 2009, until he neared his innings limit.

Strengths: Gutierrez's hard sinker delivers groundouts by the bushel. It's a 92-94 mph bowling ball that produced a 3.45 groundout/airout ratio, the best of any minor leaguer with 100 innings last year. He's difficult to elevate when he commands his sinker, and it helps his average changeup and slider both play up. He's athletic, controls the running game and fields his position well.

Weaknesses: The Twins were cautious with Gutierrez's workload after he had Tommy John surgery in 2007 and pitched just 80 innings between college and pro ball in 2008. He'll need to get stretched out even more to be ready to start in the majors. Command is his other big obstacle, as his ball moves too much for him to keep it in the strike zone at times.

The Future: Improved command would allow Gutierrez to make good on the Derek Lowe comparisons he has earned. He's headed back to Double-A as a starter, but if he falters in that role, he should be able to make a big league impact as a setup man or possibly a closer.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Fort Myers (Hi A) 2 3 1.32 11 10 0 0 55 37 1 22 33 .192
New Britain (AA) 1 3 6.19 22 6 0 0 52 62 6 24 32 .300
8.  Angel Morales, of/strong>   Born: Nov. 24, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Caguas, P.R., 2007 (3rd round)Signed by: Hector Otero
Angel MoralesBackground: Morales led the Rookie-level Appalachian League with 15 homers in 2008. He led Beloit in homers (13), RBIs (62) and steals (19) in his full-season debut last year, despite missing time with several nagging injuries. With more than a dozen Twins farmhands in Europe for the World Cup, Morales moved up for the Eastern League playoffs, going 0-for-5 with an error.

Strengths: Only Aaron Hicks and Max Kepler rival Morales for raw five-tool ability in the system. He has four plus tools now, with his arm and speed grading out the highest. He's athletic enough to play center field and may stay there, though as he fills out he's more likely to move to right, where he has the tools to be a strong defender. His raw power also grades out as above average.

Weaknesses: Morales has an aggressive approach that has led to contact issues, though he trimmed his whiff rate to 28 percent of his at-bats from 39 percent in 2008. The twin culprits are pitch recognition—he doesn't identify breaking balls early enough—and a two-part swing. While he's lowered his hands and gets through the zone quicker, he doesn't have a classic swing path and has holes that even Class A pitchers have been able to exploit.

The Future: Morales has an all-star ceiling if he continues to cut down his strikeouts, but he may have to move a step at a time. He'll advance to high Class A in 2010.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Beloit (Lo A) .266 .329 .455 376 63 100 22 5 13 62 30 104 19
9.  David Bromberg, rhp   Born: Sept. 14, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-5Wt: 241
 Drafted: Santa Ana (Calif.) JC, D/F 2005 (32nd round)Signed by: Dan Cox
David BrombergBackground: Signed for $40,000 as a draft-and-follow in 2006, Bromberg already has given the Twins value. In his last three seasons, he has led three leagues in strikeouts and topped the minors with 177 in 2008. Last year, he started the high Class A Florida State League all-star game and was Minnesota's minor league pitcher of the year.

Strengths: Bromberg chews up innings with a durable body and four pitches he can throw for strikes. He usually uses a two-seam fastball that sits at 89-92 mph, but he can run a four-seamer up to 95 when needed. He keeps the ball in the ballpark and pitches downhill. His curveball is his next-best pitch, and at times it has sharp downward break. He has confidence in his changeup and slider and pitches with a good tempo. He stays poised when in a jam, minimizing damage.

Weaknesses: His fastball command comes and goes, as Bromberg finished third in the FSL with 63 walks. He's not a great athlete, which can get his delivery out of whack. Because he doesn't command his fastball and his curve is a bit slurvy, he doesn't own a true plus pitch.

The Future: Bromberg profiles as a No. 3 to No. 5 starter who will eat innings. He's headed for Double-A this year.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Fort Myers (Hi A) 13 4 2.70 27 26 1 0 153 125 6 63 148 .224
10.  Max Kepler, of   Born: Feb. 10, 1993B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 192
 Signed: Germany, 2009Signed by: Glen Godwin/Andy Johnson/Howard Norsetter
Max KeplerBackground: The Twins have scouted Europe more actively than most clubs, and that groundwork paid off with Kepler, whose $800,000 bonus is the largest ever for a European position player. His Polish father and American mother met as ballet dancers in Berlin. He attended instructional league in September and enrolled at Fort Myers (Fla.) High, across from the Twins' Florida facility.

Strengths: Kepler has fast-twitch athleticism and graceful actions in the field. He does everything easily—running with plus speed, swinging the bat with authority and gliding after balls in the outfield. He has good hand-eye coordination and excellent size, projecting as every bit the five-tool athlete. He has plus raw power and the makings of a sound swing.

Weaknesses: Projecting 16-year-olds already is tough, and there's no precedent for Kepler, who's trying to become the first German amateur to reach the major leagues. He'll have to prove he can hit much better pitching than he saw in Germany.

The Future: The door is open for Miguel Sano and Kapler to establish themselves in Rookie ball in 2010. Kepler will report to extended spring training and play in the Gulf Coast League as a 17-year-old until high school starts again in the fall. He probably won't make it to full-season ball until after he graduates from high school in 2011.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed Late

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