Minnesota Twins: Top 10 Prospects Chat With John Manuel

Minnesota Twins: Chat

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.

Moderator: John Manuel will chat about the Twins farm system beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

    Chad (Toronto, Canada): Was Chris Parmelee considered for the top 10? Is his line this year what you would expect to see from year in, year out? Will he ever hit for a higher average?

John Manuel: Hi, everyone, thanks for coming out to the chat. Congrats to Chad for the first question. Parmelee actually was strongly considered for the Top 10. He's not a typical Twins prospect but he performed quite well in 2009, especially considering he was coming off a wrist injury in '08 and moved up to the FSL. His power numbers were excellent in that context. I don't think he'll ever hit for a high average. He reminds me of John-Ford Griffin, who was similarly touted as a hit-first, power-second guy as an amateur, and then both guys became low-average power guys in the minors. I'm sure the Twins hope Parmelee is better, and I think he's a bit better, but he still seems more like a second-division regular at his peak rather than an impact bat.

    JAYPERS (IL): Would you say Hicks has a lower or higher ceiling than Justin Upton did after his first season in the MWL a few years ago? (Both seemed to have similiar seasons, judging by their numbers.)

John Manuel: I don't think he has quite Upton's thunder and upside, Mr. Jaypers (if that's your real name). The only things the numbers tell me about Hicks is (a) he held his own, with basically a league-average season despite being pretty young for the league, and (b) he's got a lot of rough edges, such as the stolen-base ability.

    Ben (Leland Grove): If Mauer isn't going anywhere anytime soon, is there another position for Ramos he could attempt?

John Manuel: I suppose first base, but Morneau is obviously not going anywhere, either. No, I don't think he's going anywhere other than C, 1b or DH. The other option would of course be another team.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How many of the Twins' Top 10 get your vote for the Top 100 overall prospects list?

John Manuel: The first three are locks, and in fact the first three might all end up in the top 50. I'm the high man on Ramos, I believe. Beyond him, it's a toss-up whether guys like Miguel Sano (no track record) and Ben Revere (limited power) also make it. I doubt that Danny Valencia will make the cut, so it's 3 to 5.

    JAYPERS (IL): What can you tell us about Michael Tonkin, and did he make your top 30?

John Manuel: Made the top 30 last year, just missed this year, throws a ball with good natural sink and has a chance to be a nice sinker-slider guy down the line. Lots of moving pieces so his early command numbers are quite encouraging. Not the highest upside guy but would have made the top 30 if not for the influx of new talent into the system this year.

    Ken (Rochester): What is the status of 09 pick SP Matthew Bashore, I see he debuted last year but then was quickly shut down?

John Manuel: He had some bone chips removed in the late summer from his elbow. He's in the Top 30 and is expected to be at full strength for 2010 spring training, but it wouldn't shock me if he started in extended and then went up to Beloit after an extended build-up.

    Ben (Leland Grove): What's your assessment of Loek Van Mil? Is he still on your prospect radar?

John Manuel: Definitely. If not for Kyle Gibson he'd probably win Best Slider in the system. I've had reports of his slider touching 88. Problem is, he's never even thrown 45 innings in a season, and he's 25. He's hard to compare to anyone else — he's taller, he's less experience, he's more Dutch . . . he's just different. He's in the Top 30 but I really had no idea where to rank him, and wound up with him toward the back. Fun guy to write up and talk about and discuss. Being on the 40-man roster clinched him a spot in the 30, that was a good sign.

    Grant (St. Cloud, MN): In retrospect, was Deolis Guerra's ceiling overstated? How far did he fall since last year's list?

John Manuel: I don't think so, because the Twins have admitted he threw harder before they got him. I've gotten that consistently from inside and outside the organization. When the Twins got him, he was flashing a plus fastball, he had the changeup that is definitely his best pitch, and the breaking ball was short. Now he still has the change, and the breaking ball actually has made progress, but the fastball command and velocity have regressed. The Twins last year were basically debating if Guerra changed on his own or if he was changed. Whatever happened, he's not the same pitcher, but he's also still just 20 (at least officially). The Twins haven't given up on him, and he's still ranked.

    JAYPERS (IL): If you had to speculate, who would you compare Max Kepler to at this early stage?

John Manuel: His athleticism gets compared to guys such as Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson internally, i.e., he gets compared to the Twins' top athletes. He's almost as unique as Van Mil, though not quite. His bat will be the million-dollar question, of course, but the fundamentals are there for him to have a good swing. One thing to note is, he's fairly fresh meat, in a manner of speaking. It's not like he's been in the cage a billion times and his swing is his swing, like it might be for some other guys. I'm not sure what the best nickname for him should be though — Twinkletoes? Barishnikov? Elmer Fudd? Those are the only ballet references I can make. I apologize for my lack of sophistication.

    Dan (Miami, FL): The scouting report on Shooter Hunt coming out of Tulane was that he was a little wild, but this year he put up Neighborgall type numbers. Do you see him righting the ship, or is he already a bust as a supplemental 1st round pick?

John Manuel: Great reference, there were fairly Neighborgallian. I would also throw out Eric Beattie, a Tigers pick in 2003 who got The Thing. It's really not a laughing matter but Hunt's issues are clearly distressing. The track record of players overcoming that sort of thing is, well, I can't think of any who overcame it. I'm rooting for him, I've heard great things about Shooter. But when I asked one Twins official about him, he just replied, "John, here I thought we were having a great time talking baseball, and you had to bring that up?"

    Frank (Milwaukee): Did Adrian Salcedo come close?

John Manuel: Yes, he's actually No. 11. I have yet to receive a negative report about him. I just think the Twins have 10 guys who are both closer to the majors and should be solid or better big leaguers combined with other higher ceilings such as Sano and Kepler. I talked more about him in the recent Prospect Pulse. http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/prospects/prospect-pulse/2010/269340.html

    Pete (Chicago): What is Rene Tosoni's ceiling at present? 11-20 range?

John Manuel: He just missed the Top 10. I can't shake the feeling that he's a tweener on a good team, kind of a Ryan Church type, a second-division regular or fourth outfielder. It's hard to see him hitting for the power teams want in a corner OF, and it's hard to see him playing CF. He *might* just hit enough to be a Rusty Greer Lite kind of guy. I could keep going with mindless comps but the point is, he seems like a tweener, hence he's in the 11-20 range. He's such a grinder, too, would be in quite a few other Top 10s by the looks of it.

    Paul (Oakland, CA): Thanks for the chat John. Is BJ Hermsen a top 30 guy? What is the scouting report on him and what is his ceiling?

John Manuel: He is a top 30 guy. He also threw a ton of strikes, the velocity wasn't super this year, in fact it was below average frequently, but he creates angle to the plate and drives the ball downhill, making him tough to elevate. He's a strong-bodied innings-eater. Funny, the Twins compare all their guys like that to Nick Blackburn now . . .

    Troy (Tallahassee FL): Did Trevor Plouffe's stock rise or fall any since last year?

John Manuel: Fall. He was on the 40-man and they were in a pennant race, and not only did they not call him up, but they sent him to Europe to play for Team USA. Even if they needed him (which they sort of did), they couldn't call him up. He's still just 23, but he's a tweener, too. He doesn't run enough to be a great bench guy, like say Matt Tolbert is; he doesn't have the power to be an everyday 3b, like say Valencia could; he doesn't field well enough at SS to be a factor there, as they acquired Hardy. I just don't see how he's in their plans and I don't know what his fit is, unless the power improves or the glove significantly improves.

    Trey (Houston, TX): Oswaldo Arcia put up some good numbers in his North American debut. Is he a guy that you could see making the top 10 in future years?

John Manuel: Love that guy. Fits the right-field profile, plus power potential, and he was among the toughest hitters to strike out in the GCL. It's just the GCL and he has some rough edges to polish up, but he's a potential Top 10 guy next year if he can make the jump to the MWL and continue to show that kind of plate coverage, power and arm strength. Pretty interesting guy.

    Dr. Greg House, MD (Princeton-Plainsboro): Could you tell us your thoughts on Joe Benson and whether he fell out of your Top 30?

John Manuel: Definitely still in, ranked in the 11-20 range. The tools are all still there. The most important tool is the bat and he's still lagging there. He made some progress in 2009, and it would be nice to see him stay healthy. His speed and throwing arm give him survival tools that should allow him to stick around and figure out the hit tool, so the thinking goes.

    JAYPERS (IL): Just how certain are you (and the Twins, for that matter) that Kyle Gibson won't become Deolis Guerra V. 2?

John Manuel: I don't quite see the connection. Gibson was hurt, that's why his velo was down. His velo was back in the fall at instructional league. Guerra didn't get hurt; there was a change in his mechanics that I discussed earlier.

    Ryan (Fayetteville, FL): Blayne Weller showed outstanding control for a large bodied pitcher at his age. What does he throw and does he have a high ceiling?

John Manuel: He's more of an over-the-top fastball-curve-changeup guy. His ceiling ranks behind the other GCL Twins starters such as Salcedo, Hermsen and Tonkin, he's not quite the power arm or sinkerballer those guys are, nor is he as athletic. But he's worth mentioning because he also pounded the bottom of the K zone and he's got some feel for pitching.

    Kyle (Chicago, IL): Will Anthony Slama make the big league pen this season, and is he a potential closer in the majors?

John Manuel: I will take yes on the first question but no on the second. He's still not quite adept at retiring lefthanded hitters. His fastball command will have to be more precise because it doesn't seem like he's got an out pitch for them yet, but he hasn't failed yet in the minors. I think he'll earn a shot with his performance, and now he has to hope he gets his shot when he's throwing well. AT least Bob Keppel's out of his way, that's one less competitor . . .

    Ian (Vancouver, Canada): Josmil Pinto hit for some big power in the Appy league this season but he is already listed as a DH. Is he a bat only guy, and is his bat good enough carry him through higher levels in the minors?

John Manuel: Yes, he's a bat only guy, and I am betting that his bat is not going to be enough. He didn't make the top 30. The Twins have excelled at bringing in some no-hit catchers lately such as Pinto, Alex Soto and Danny Rams, who was an expensive get there as a second rounder. I don't think any of them has made a top 30 yet.

    Dale (Miami, FL): Do you see Billy Bullock being a quick mover through the minors? Is it realistic to think he could be in the majors in 2011?

John Manuel: It is realistic; that's half of why you draft a college reliever that high. Bullock had a poor instructional league; he ran out of gas and his fastball was sitting in the upper 80. However, he hit a lot of 97s in the spring and after signing before he got tired. He's been an inconsistent performer since his high school days, so I think the Twins would take a consistent 93-94 if he could command it. He has closer potential, but again, I think you have to temper the enthusiasm a bit because his track record of performing at his best is frankly spotty.

    willy (pitt): How did you assess someone like Angel Morales or Joe Benson with big tools but contact issues, versus someone like Rene Tosoni with a higher floor but a lower ceiling?

John Manuel: Good question. Morales has done more than Benson, though Benson frankly has better tools — better defense, better runner. Morales' best tool is his power, and he's tapped into that as a pro, which deserves some respect. Tosoni had his first true full season this year, but as I discussed earlier, he doesn't really fit a profile. Benson's inability to stay healthy, combined with his contact issues and power (or rather his lack of game power), pushed him to third here, even though he has the best tools of this trio. I ranked Morales — the best combo of tools & performance — first. Still have some doubts about him but he has earned a top 10 spot, it's serious power and he fits the RF profile for sure.

    John (Harrisonburg, VA): Is it just me, or does Ben Revere look like he's wearing a size 25 hat?

John Manuel: It's you, and our photog (credits are omitted on our site right now . . . we'll get on that). But that photo is goofy. Sorry Ben! If I were Brett Myers I'd tell him to show the game some respect and straighten out his cap, but thankfully, I'm not.

    John (Harrisonburg, VA): Does it look like Rob Delaney might help the major league bullpen in 2010? What would his scouting report look like?

John Manuel: Maybe, though he wasn't quite as good in '09 as he had been in '08. He was in last year's Handbook, and he didn't quite combat LH hitters as he did previously. His fastball command also wasn't quite as good as it needed to be in Triple-A. I think he'll be a big leaguer but more as an up-and-down guy rather than making an impact. Still, excellent value for a $500 non-drafted free agent.

    Fred (Ohio): Hi- Can Kyle Gibson be a true number 1 starter? Thanks!

John Manuel: Probably not, because those are few and far between, but he has the raw ingredients. He's shown three plus pitches at times; the slider might be a 70, the fastball touches 94 and sits 91-92 with sink and command, which make it a 60 pitch when he's right; and his changeup is probably a 60 as well. As with everything else in pitching, it comes back to the fastball. That was always the criticism of Gibson in the past, that he didn't throw his fastball enough. If you want to command the fastball, you better practice it, and to practice you have to throw it. I can't think of a No. 1 starter who doesn't have average or plus fastball command, except perhaps Tim Lincecum. And his command is much better than it was in college, when he walked the same number of guys (or more) in half the innings.

    Fred (Ohio): Do you think that Blair Erickson has a shot at making the majors?

John Manuel: Signs point to no. He's got that NCAA saves record so that's something but no, he's not really stamped himself as a factor in the Twins system.

    Luke (Des Moines): How excited are you for the college baseball season? When will the preview podcast come out?

John Manuel: Right now I'm still in Twins mode, but the college preview has begun and we'll probably podcast tomorrow, actually. Top 25 is less than two weeks away, I believe, but that has been decided, so we're getting geared up. Just back this week from the coaches convention which always gets us ready.

    Fred (Ohio): What are your thoughts on Steve Singleton?

John Manuel: Part of a passel of Twins infield prospects who are interesting but who also are not The Answer at 2b or ss, for that matter. Infield is the organization's current Achilles' heel, both at the major league level and in the farm system. Hence the renewed, better efforts in the Dominican Republic.

    Fred (Ohio): Do you know why the Twins were unable to sign 10th round pick Blake Dean?

John Manuel: I didn't delve into that signing, but Dean was primarily a DH the last two seasons and has some real limitations athletically. He's moved to first for LSU for 2010. He's a very nice college hitter but that's no huge loss for the Twins.

    Sal (Bloomington, IN): Did Matt Bashore come close to making the top 10? I wouldn't think that there are too many LHP who have a 4 pitch repertoire and can get it up to 94-95. I know he was injured this year, but isn't the list based on upside?

John Manuel: It's upside mixed with chance to reach that upside. Bashore was awfully inconsistent last year for IU, though he came on strong down the stretch when the Hoosiers made us look good after a bad start and won the Big Ten tournament. His fastball was more frequently 88-91 in the spring, though he will touch those radar-gun readings you mentioned. He's a four-pitch LHP in the Glen Perkins mold, and if that's the upside, then I'm pretty satisfied leaving him out of what I believe to be a very strong top 10. Then add in the bone chips and the track record of IU players in pro ball (what IU track record? Precisely!), and I think it's prudent to rank him lower. I look forward to Eric Arnett and Bashore improving that IU track record, mind you.

    Jacob (Northfield, MN): What are the odds Danny Valencia is the everyday 3B this year and what kind of impact do you think he will have if he does?

John Manuel: Every day that goes by without a 3B signing in Minnesota or being traded to the Twins moves his odds up a bit. His in-house competition is Tolbert or Punto (one could be at 2B), Luke Hughes (frankly a similar hitter but lesser defender) and Brendan Harris. Valencia should be able to win playing time through all of that if he plays consistent defense, plays with energy and gives Ron Gardenhire some competitive at-bats. You've got to know your audience; Valencia's audience is Gardy.

    Jeff (Slidell): I was wondering what your thoughts were on Tyler Robertson and a young first baseman by the name of Michael Gonzales?

John Manuel: Two Sacramento products, if I recall correctly, one HS and one Juco. Robertson is fascinating, hold you hats for it — he's a long-toss guy! The Twins have long been a strict 120-foot long-toss organization, but Rick Knapp isn't walking through that door anymore, so new pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen has allowed players who want to stretch it out to stretch it out, starting with instructs 2009. Robertson was a big long-toss guy in high school, so the hope is he'll regain some of his lost velocity. He's still got that funky arm action, which lends him deception while making him less projectable than someone his size ordinarily would be. He's still got good breaking stuff, so if the fastball can be average, he'll have a shot to stick in a rotation long-term. Gonzales is a nice hitter with some power but more of an organizational guy who will have to hit his way to prospect status.

    Zach (Mpls.): Hey John, thanks for doing the chat. So, if J.J. Hardy regresses back to last years form, is there anybody from within that could help them out at SS this year? Also, who are some of the sleeper prospects in their minor league ranks? Thanks again!

John Manuel: The in-house SS candidates other than Hardy are (a) B. Harris, (b) Estarlin de los Santos, who's on the 40-man but has yet to reach even Double-A, and (c) Plouffe. I think that tells you why they traded for Hardy. If he fails, Harris probably is your best bet, I don't think Plouffe is a big league first-division shortstop.

    Kevin (Minnesota): With this recent infusion of talent where does the Twins organization rank as far as minor league talent is concerned?

John Manuel: I had them in my Top 10 but I frankly can't find those notes right now. We did wind up putting them in the Top 10, but you'll have to wait for the book to see exactly where.

    kaderbop (chippewa falls,wi.): Have the twins decided on Gutierrez as a closer or are you guys speculating? Thanks.

John Manuel: They have not decided on him as a closer. If you read the report, he's going to remain a starter. They still have Derek Lowe hopes for him, and considering he led the minors in groundout-airout ratio for pitchers with 100 IP, I think it's reasonable. We put him at closer because Joe Nathan's old, Gutierrez has closed before and they have a ton of starting pitching options. In other words, it's informed speculation.

    Kevin (Minnesota): Has Luke Hughes value as a prospect been hurt by the emergence of Danny Valencia?

John Manuel: No, it's been hurt by him being injury prone and short defensively. He might have been a better fit at 2b all along, but the Twins' never-ending quest for a 3b pushed them to move him there.

    Kevin (Minnesota): If you had to compare Wilson Ramos to another player who would it be?

John Manuel: I've tried to get a comp from scouts but haven't gotten one. He's got some similarities to Bengi Molina, though he's a better hitter and thankfully is faster. I believe he's going to be a .270-.330-.480 type of guy with 20-25 home runs, in his best years. He just flat crushed the ball in Winter ball in Venezuela, 14 doubles, 12 homers, hit .332 and took some walks when pitched around. That was going on as I was finishing the list and encouraged my aggressive ranking.

    Billy (California): Alex Burnett had a couple of really nice seasons in his career but he really seemed to flourish and have a breakout season when the Twins moved him to the bullpen - whats is his ceiling - nice 7th/8th inning guy, potentially a closer or an average arm in the pen?

John Manuel: Nice 7th or 8th inning guy sounds like a good ceiling.

    James (Australia): Co-mvp of the Beloit team and a great showing in the WBC (including a double off of Mr. Chapman) - have I done enough to finally break into the top 30? Where do you see my future possibly heading?

John Manuel: Yes, James Beresford is in the top 30 this year.

    Sean (Calgary, Canada): Are Hicks and Span the same player? Which would you rather have at their ceiling potential (assuming they reach it)?

John Manuel: No, Hicks has more raw power and more all-around ability. Span surprised us all — me, the Twins, everybody probably but himself. I would say Hicks' ceiling is higher but Span's become very good.

    Michael (Toronto): I was very surprised to see Ben Revere down at #5. Has he taken a step backwards as a prospect, or does this just tell us how much stronger the Twins top 10 is this year? I thought that Revere had a solid 2009 season.

John Manuel: Both, two of those guys ahead of him are new, but also Revere isn't going to hit for the average power the Twins were forecasting for him. I think he's got a real chance to be a Juan Pierre clone, both the good part of that and perhaps the bad part. He's got a big more juice than Pierre but he's also not as adept at stealing bases as Pierre was.

    Sean (Calgary, Canada): I know the projected line-ups are make-believe at best but no Liriano in the rotation? Is he done? I can assume you do not believe his slider will come back or he will develop another secondary pitch?

John Manuel: He's not a sure thing for 2010, so I thought 2013 was a stretch. He's thrown well in winter ball but let's see him do it in the regular season.

    Josh G (Sacto, CA): If he hadn't been traded would Tyler Ladendorf be in the top 10?

John Manuel: No, he was down their SS depth chart, which is why they traded him.

John Manuel: Wow, more than 100 questions still to go, but I have got to go pick up the kids. Thanks for all the questions. Next Top 10 and chat comes Monday with Matt Eddy and his new favorite organization, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.