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Gibson has the ceiling, pedigree and performance of a No. 1 prospect. He ranked No.100 on BA's list of 2006 draft prospects out of an Indiana high school before starring for three seasons at Missouri, first in the bullpen, then in the rotation. He also starred in the Cape Cod League and with Team USA, putting him in line to go in the top 10 picks of the 2009 draft. His junior season, however, ended on a down note when his velocity dropped into the mid-80s in his final start a week before the draft. He was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his forearm, causing him fall to the Twins at the No. 22 overall pick. Gibson signed for an above-slot $1.85 million bonus in August, then proved he was healthy during instructional league. He reinforced that point with a productive pro debut 2010, leading the system with 152 innings and 126 strikeouts while finishing the year at Triple-A Rochester. The Twins have produced a bevy of pitchers in recent years who thrive on their knack for throwing quality strikes with solid but not outstanding arsenals. Gibson has similar pitch-making ability to Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and former ace Brad Radke--and he has better stuff. Gibson's tall, lean frame wore down a bit toward the end of last season, but he usually showed average fastball velocity, ranging from 86-92 mph. He generally throws a two-seamer that's more notable for his command of the pitch and its excellent life than for its velocity. He can make it run, sink or cut, and has become more aggressive and confident with his fastball as a pro. He works off the fastball more now than he did as an amateur, but Gibson's secondary pitches remain his primary weapons for getting swings and misses. His slider is a plus offering that helps him generate plenty of groundballs--2.77 groundouts for every airout in 2010--and some scouts project it as a future 70 pitch on the 20-80 scale. His changeup at times equals his slider as a present plus pitch, with similar sink to his two-seamer. His command, control and makeup all enhance his total package. His ability to induce groundouts and his knack for finding a little extra velocity when needed make him adept at controlling damage and avoiding big innings. Added strength, staying healthy and a slight lack of deception (his delivery is very clean) are the only items he needs to address. Gibson did everything the Twins could have asked last season, including staying positive while pitching for bad teams. In 2011, he likely will be asked to pitch in the major league rotation at some point, especially if Minnesota loses free agent Carl Pavano. Gibson should get a nonroster invitation to big league spring camp, though he'll probably open the season back in Triple-A and be first in line for a promotion. The Twins see him as a future No. 2 starter on a playoff club--he'd need more fastball to qualify as a true ace--and even more skeptical scouts outside the organization see him as no worse than a No. 3.
Hicks ranked No. 1 on this list in each of his first two years after signing for $1.78 million as the 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft. He also ranked first on our low Class A Midwest League list in 2009, but the Twins sent him back to Beloit last season. He got off to a 1-for-30 start before regaining his footing. Hicks remains all tooled up. As a hitter, his best asset is his patience, though at times he's too passive. He has above-average raw power from his natural right side but still has work to do from the left side, where he has more of a slap approach. His above-average speed plays better in center field than it does on the bases. He has improved his route-running and reads and projects as a possible Gold Glover as he adds more polish. Some teams liked him more as a pitcher coming out of high school, thanks to his athleticism and a fastball that reached 97 mph at times, and he retains excellent arm strength, his best present tool. Hicks could hone his swing and become a five-tool center fielder with 20-25 home run power who bats in the middle of a lineup. He also may wind up more as tablesetter, along the lines of Denard Span but with better defensive ability. He'll finally move up to high Class A Fort Myers in 2011.
The Twins have dedicated more time, energy and money to signing players out of the Dominican Republic in recent years, and Sano is the crown jewel of those efforts. They spent $3.15 million on him in 2009 after sweating out a thorough MLB investigation into his age. Sano already has grown significantly since the Twins signed him, from 195 to 230 pounds. He has prodigious tools to go with his size, starting with ferocious raw power. The strength, bat speed, swing path and leverage are all there for him to hit 30 homers once he refines his approach and learns to recognize pitches. Like many young hitters, he sometimes struggles with spin, but he also shows encouraging opposite-field power. Though he split time between shortstop and third base in his 2010 pro debut, his range fits much better at the hot corner, where he shows solid hands and feet and plenty of arm strength. He projects as a below-average runner. Sano's future is tied up with how big he gets. If he doesn't grow much more, he should be able to hold down third base or an outfield corner. Even if he outgrows those spots, he could have enough bat for first base. Headed for Rookie-level Elizabethton in 2011, he has the higher offensive ceiling among Twins farmhands.
Signed away from a Purdue football scholarship for a $575,000 bonus, Benson showed flashes of talent in his first four pro seasons. He also struggled with strikeouts and his own aggressiveness, which at times landed him on the disabled list. He had his best season in 2010, shaking off a mid-May demotion to earn his way back to Double-A New Britain a month later and lead the system with 27 homers. Benson still has five-tool ability, though he likely will never be more than an average hitter. His other tools all rate as 60s or 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale. His raw power would be the best in the system if not for Miguel Sano, and his speed ranks right behind Ben Revere's. Benson has fast hands and excellent strength, though he must trust his hands and let balls travel deeper in order to make more consistent contact. He needs to do a better job of identifying and laying off breaking balls. He has center-field range to go with a right-field arm. Scouts who saw Benson in the second half and in the Arizona Fall League were impressed by his offensive progress, as were the Twins, who added him to the 40-man roster. He'll advance to Triple-A in 2011 and could replace free-agent-to-be Michael Cuddyer in right field in 2012.
Revere's $750,000 bonus remains the lowest for a healthy first-rounder since 1997. The Twins took him because he was the top player on their board, not to save money, and he has justified the decision by batting .328 in the minors. He played in the 2010 Futures Game and reached the big leagues for the first time in September after an errant pitch broke his jaw a month earlier. Revere's raw speed and quickness are as good as any Minnesota farmhand, and his speed is the most playable. He outruns his mistakes in center field and runs the bases with abandon, though he still can become a more efficient basestealer. Revere also is the system's best hitter, making contact easily and showing good feel for the barrel. While the Twins once projected him to have average power, they no longer have that conviction and he'll have to fend off power stuff inside. He has improved in terms of bunting and drawing walks, understanding that his focus is getting on base. His well below-average arm is his biggest weakness. The Twins see Revere as a potential top-of-the-order catalyst with Brett Gardner upside--a singles hitter who draws walks and steals bases. Minnesota's outfield is too crowded for him to jump to the majors full-time in 2011, so he'll get regular playing time in Triple-A.
Hendriks' father played in Australian Rules Football and Hendriks also played the sport before the Twins signed him for $170,000 in 2007. He almost immediately had knee surgery (his second), then missed all of 2008 and half of 2009 following back surgery. He stayed healthy enough to make a run at the minor league ERA title last season, though an appendectomy in July knocked him out of the Futures Game. Hendriks repeats his compact, efficient delivery and pumps four quality pitches for strikes. He has good sinking life on his fastball, which sat at 86-91 mph early in the season but jumped to 90-93 mph when he returned from the appendectomy. His slider is tight and short with late break, and some scouts consider it his best pitch. Others prefer his changeup, and his curveball--his best pitch prior to the back surgery--isn't far behind. He also throws a cutter at times. Hendriks has true command and a knack for making pitches, keeping the ball in the ballpark. Scouts in and out of the organization laud his makeup. Hendriks pitched in Australia's resurgent winter league in the offseason, getting useful extra work. He's ticketed for Double-A in 2011 and could become the best product of the Twins' extensive Australian scouting efforts.
Wimmers set the school record for career batting average (.457) at Cincinnati's Moeller High, the alma mater of Buddy Bell, Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin. He was strictly a pitcher in college, becoming Ohio State's ace and going 18-2 in his final two seasons. A hamstring strain limited him late last spring, but he still went 21st overall in the draft and pitched well in his brief pro debut --including five no-hit innings in his third start--after signing for $1.332 million. Wimmers fits the Twins' pitching model well, throwing strikes with three pitches that have a chance to be average or better. His best pitch is a changeup that's a tick above average now and projects as plus once he adds some life to it. He has excellent arm speed on the changeup, which is usually straight but has some sink at times. His lively fastball sits at 88-92 mph and reaches 94 at times. He needs to refine his fastball command, something Minnesota has a good track record of teaching. He's athletic and should improve his ability to repeat his delivery and throw consistent strikes. His curve gives him a third solid pitch. Wimmers isn't as polished as Kyle Gibson and doesn't have the same upside, but he could be an innings-eating No. 3 starter if his fastball command improves. Despite his late-season dominance in high Class A, he's likely to start 2011 back there.
Salcedo emerged on the prospect scene by posting a 1.46 ERA and 58-3 K-BB ratio in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2009. His ability and injuries at Fort Myers prompted the Twins to move him from extended spring training to high Class A last May. He got hit hard but regrouped and showed more trust in his secondary pitches when sent to Elizabethton, his originally planned destination. Long and thin, Salcedo has room to grow physically but is mature mentally. He's the system's hardest worker, establishing that reputation even as a teenager. His 90-93 mph fastball features late action, as does his changeup. He throws both a slider and a curveball, with his slurvy slider reaching the low 80s. It can get a little big, and Salcedo must focus on either tightening his slider or committing to more of a true curveball. He has excellent movement on all of his pitches, yet manages to throw them for strikes. Thanks to his sound delivery and excellent athleticism, he projects to have at least average command. The Twins usually move pitchers slowly, but Salcedo's stuff, feel and dedication could put him on the fast track. He's slated to start 2011 in low Class A.
The Twins have international outfield depth in their farm system. A Venezuelan, Arcia pushed himself past German teenager Max Kepler, Puerto Rican toolshed Angel Morales and solid Canadian Rene Tosoni in 2010. He led the Rookie-level Appalachian League in nine categories, including batting (.375), on-base percentage (.424) and slugging (.672) while winning MVP honors. Arcia has has good plate coverage and a sound, strong swing, giving him present hitting and power-hitting ability. He already hits balls to all fields with some authority, though he'll need to make more consistent contact. He got plenty of experience against offspeed pitches last season, getting a steady diet of them after getting off to a fast start. Previously a switch-hitter, he has batted solely lefthanded since leaving the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League two years ago. Arcia has played a lot of center field and is a solid runner, but he projects better at a corner spot. Though his average arm could allow him to fit in right field, he may be better suited for left. Arcia earns comparisons to Bobby Abreu for his stance, hitting ability and body, though he lacks Abreu's trademark plate discipline. He'll be challenged to keep putting up Nintendo numbers at Beloit in 2011, when he'll play in cold weather for the first time.
Gutierrez recoved from Tommy John surgery in 2007 to go 27th overall in the 2008 draft, signing for $1.29 million after serving as the closer on Miami's College World Series team. The Twins used him as a starter in 2009 and for the first half of 2010 before returning him to the bullpen after he struggled in Double-A. They signed his brother David, also a righthander, as an 18th-rounder in June. Gutierrez has a power sinker that has earned him Derek Lowe comparisons, though he throws harder, reaching 97 mph at times. His sinker was much more effective once he moved to the bullpen, getting 4.4 groundouts for every airout, compared to a 2.6 ratio as a starter. His slider is better than his changeup, though it's more of an average pitch than a true weapon. He needs to command it better against lefthanders and throw more strikes in general. He's a solid athlete who repeats his delivery. As soon as Gutierrez can throw consistent strikes with his sinker, he'll join Minnesota's bullpen. Free agency could leave several openings in the Twins' relief corps, giving him an outside chance to open 2011 in the big leagues. It's more likely that he'll begin the season in Triple-A.
In addition to Miguel Sano, the Twins made another big international splash in 2009, giving Kepler the largest bonus ever for a European position player at $800,000. He's from Berlin and the son of ballet dancers, with his father being Polish, his mother American. Scouts often describe him as balletic or graceful, because they like the joke and because he's an athletic, coordinated big man. His athleticism allowed Kepler to step in as a 17-yearold from Europe and hold his own in the Gulf Coast League last year while also earning his diploma at South Fort Myers (Fla.) High, across Plantation Road from the Twins' complex. His maturity helped make it work as well. Minnesota signed him for his impressive tools, particularly at the plate. He has a gap approach and an easy, low-maintenance swing that belies his age and experience. He has solid strength but has to learn to handle better pitching and how to loft the ball to develop above-average power. It's tricky projecting power on any 17-year-old, moreso one from Germany. Kepler has the range, speed and fringy arm strength to profile as an average defender in center field. He's raw in many baseball skills, such as running the bases and hitting the cutoff man. The Twins are as patient as any organization and Kepler has the makeup to grind through the low minors. He'll need it, as he'll advance one step at a time and play at Elizabethton in 2011.
Tosoni had a huge 2009, hitting a career-high 15 homers in Double-A, winning MVP honors at the Futures Game after delivering the game-winning hit and leading Canada to a third-place finish at the World Cup. Last season was the opposite. He injured his right shoulder during spring training, then tried to play through it. He lasted through the first week of June, playing all but eight games at DH, before having surgery to repair his labrum. Despite his lost year and their outfield depth, the Twins placed him on the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Even with a bad shoulder, Tosoni was one of New Britain's best hitters, and his pure swing remains his best attribute. He's a solid athlete with enough strength to shoot line drives to the gaps and develop average home run power. He has average speed and is a capable center fielder when healthy, though not good enough to profile as an everyday player there. He has an average arm and has good defensive instincts. On a perennial playoff team, like Minnesota is now, he profiles best as an extra outfielder rather than as a regular. If healthy, Tosoni will advance to Triple-A this year.
The Twins drafted Bromberg in the 32nd round out of high school in 2005, even though he pushed 275 pounds, and signed him for $40,000 as a draft-and-follow the next spring, Since then, he has won three league strikeout crowns, reached Triple-A and earned a spot on the 40-man roster. Bromberg quietly had a solid 2010 season despite pitching on two awful teams, logging his third consecutive season with at least 150 innings. Strong and durable, he got better as the season wore on at maintaining his velocity and filling the strike the zone. Bromberg's solid-average curveball rates as the best in the organization. He can throw it for strikes or use it as a chase pitch when he's ahead in the count. More advanced hitters haven't chased it as much as lower-level batters did, which accounts for his declining strikeout rate since he led the minors in whiffs in 2008. Bromberg has enough fastball, touching 94-95 at times, to work up in the zone to set up his curve. He has an 86-92 mph two-seamer to induce early-count contact, as well as an average changeup that he used to hold lefthanders to a .229 average last season. Bromberg's elbow gets low in his delivery, causing his stuff to flatten out at times and costing him command, but he has become more consistent in maintaining his delivery. He projects as a back-ofthe- rotation innings-eater and should start 2011 anchoring Rochester's rotation along with Kyle Gibson.
The Twins have drafted an outfielder from Puerto Rico early in three of the last four drafts, starting with Morales in the third round in 2007. He still has the highest ceiling of the group, which also includes Danny Ortiz (fourth round, 2008) and Eddie Rosario (fourth, 2010), but Morales hasn't made tremendous progress in four pro seasons. As a right fielder with power and speed, his tools compare to those of Joe Benson. Morales isn't quite as explosive an athlete as Benson, though, and he continues to produce plenty of empty swings as he moves up the ladder. He still struggles with pitch recognition and offspeed stuff. He hasn't smoothed out his two-part swing, which leaves him with some holes he can't close. If he learns to trust his hands and stay back on breaking balls, Morales could take off as a hitter, because he has plenty of bat speed and raw power. The Twins weren't concerned that he hit just five homers in 2010, as he spent the majority of his season in the larger parks of the high Class A Florida State League. His speed and arm are plus tools, and his arm is as accurate as it is strong. He doesn't get the most out of his physical ability because his instincts are lacking and he's too aggressive. Minnesota will be patient with Morales, giving him a chance to add polish and sending him back to Fort Myers to start 2011.
With their bullpen in flux, the Twins have internal options if they can't find help on the free-agent market. They include Bullock, who has one of the system's better arms and reached Double-A in 2010, his first full pro season. Despite pitching on poor teams, he ranked 11th in the minors with 27 saves, and his 105 strikeouts placed fourth among minor league relievers who didn't start a game. Bullock's velocity took a dive during instructional league in 2009, but he bumped his fastball back to 92-94 mph last year, touching 95 regularly. He drives his fastball downhill and has some armside run when he's at his best. Bullock lacked the fastball command and feel for pitching to succeed as a starter in college, which is when he moved to the bullpen, and his command remains an issue. His slider has its moments where it's a low-80s pitch with depth and power, though it can get slurvy at times. He also throws a changeup on occasion. Bullock isn't efficient and can give up some big innings, but he has the short memory and repertoire required for late-inning work. He could factor into Minnesota's mix in 2011, though he'll have to improve his command to be the club's future closer.
The Twins signed Soliman as a third baseman, but it clearly wasn't working out. He hit just .199/.318/.288 and committed 37 errors in two seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. Minnesota decided to try Soliman on the mound, and he has become one of their hardest-throwing starting pitching prospects in short order. He'll have to be protected on the 40-man roster after the 2011 season, so he could get pushed a bit faster than the average Twins prospect, and he has the raw stuff to make it work. Soliman sits at 90-93 mph with his fastball and hits 94. He could find more velocity if he becomes more consistent with his arm slot and release point, as he tends to drop down and get on the side of the ball. When he keeps his hand behind the ball, he gets good late life on his fastball, which can be heavy in the bottom of the strike zone at its best. He throws a power slider that sits in the mid-80s, though it lacks depth when he gets on the side of it. He also has surprising feel for a changeup for someone so new to pitching. Soliman throws strikes but doesn't have the command potential of most of Minnesota pitching prospects. He'll have to get more consistent with his tempo and delivery to throw more quality strikes against better opponents. Soliman has intriguing upside in a system that could use some strong-armed starters. He's likely to start 2011 in Beloit, with a good chance to finish the year in Fort Myers.
The Twins have linked Polanco and Miguel Sano, signing them as part of their 2009 international class and sending them to the Dominican Summer League to start 2010. They came to the U.S. together on July 4, debuted the next day (Polanco's 17th birthday) and spent the rest of the season in the Gulf Coast League. Polanco split time at shortstop and second base there with 2010 second-round pick Niko Goodrum. Polanco has topshelf defensive tools at shortstop, with his actions, range, hands and arm strength all rating above average. His bat isn't as advanced as his glove, and he realizes he'll have to play small ball to contribute offensively. A switch-hitter, he focuses on making contact and has the makings of good plate discipline. He needs to add strength but won't ever provide much power. Polanco is more quick than fast and won't be a big basestealing threat, though he has plus speed under way. He has impressed Minnesota with his work ethic and leadership qualities. Polanco's bat will dictate whether he's a future regular or a utility player, but his glove and makeup should get him to the majors. He's slated to join Sano at Elizabethton in 2011.
Parmelee finally reached Double-A in 2010, his fourth full season since signing for $1.5 million as the 20th overall pick in the 2006 draft. He hit just .186 in the first six weeks, prompting a monthlong demotion to high Class A. Rene Tosoni's shoulder injury opened an outfield spot back in New Britain, and Parmelee took advantage of his second chance, batting .304 the rest of the way. Parmelee was drafted high for his line-drive swing and power potential, and his stroke remains pretty. He's short to the ball and uses the whole field while controlling the strike zone with a mature approach. Though he hit just eight homers in 2010, the Twins know he has plus raw power and had him focus on cutting down his strikeouts in the second half. He struck out 29 times in his first 102 at-bats in Double-A, then just 41 times in his 309 at-bats after rejoining New Britain. With a thick, unathletic body and below-average arm, Parmelee has moved down the defensive spectrum to first base, with occasional stops on the outfield corners. He has improved around the bag at first and isn't a liability there anymore. For Parmelee to be an impact player, he'll have to keep making contact while hitting for more power. While he batted .339 in the Arizona Fall League, he didn't homer in 109 at-bats. Parmelee did enough last year to get a 40-man roster spot, and he could earn a job in Triple-A with a strong spring.
The Twins' international spending spree in 2009 focused on athletes in part because the domestic draft was short in that regard. They wanted to get back to more athletes in the 2010 draft, and the long, lean Goodrum was part of that focus. Minnesota drafted him 71st overall and signed him away from a Kennesaw State commitment with a slot bonus of $514,800. He emerged from the scrum of Georgia's amazing high school talent last year, and his plus-plus arm may have been the best in the state. Goodrum is raw at the plate, where he switch-hits and has some holes because of his long arms, and in the field, where he lacks classic infield actions. Goodrum generates leverage and raw power in his swing, and he's an above-average runner, especially under way. He has good hands and there's some thought he could wind up at third base eventually. However, some with the Twins believe he has enough athletic ability and the requisite work ethic to stick at shortstop, unless he gets too big. He has the frame to get much bigger and heavier--his father is a solid 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds--and could wind up as a right fielder with big power and arm strength. As one club official put it, "Whichever way the body goes, if he gets just a little bigger or a lot bigger, it will be a great body." The Twins will take it slow with Goodrum, who could wind up back in the Gulf Coast League or move up to Elizabethton this season.
While Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco attracted more attention as big-money Dominican Republic signees in 2009, Santana was at the vanguard of the Twins' renewed efforts in the baseball hotbed. He signed in December 2007, soon after turning 17. Santana's bat may take a while to develop, but the Twins showed faith in him by jumping him to low Class A last May as they shuffled the system's middle infielders, and the dominoes left Beloit an infielder short. Santana wasn't ready for the colder weather or the level of competition but has the tools to play there in 2011. He'll need to polish up his hitting skills and become more aware of game situations on both sides of the ball. Santana is one of the organization's better runners, earning 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale, and has the first-step quickness to play either middle-infield spot. His plus arm, actions and footwork should make him a good defender at shortstop with experience, and scouts like how his hands work. Those hands also give him some pop at the plate, and Santana hit four homers in his month at Elizabethton last summer. His biggest problem offensively is his aggressiveness, as he often hacks at the first fastball he sees, rarely draws walks and gets himself out too often. He also needs more maturity, as Santana's inconsistent effort earns criticism inside and outside the organization. He'll be young for the Midwest League when he returns there as a 20-year-old this season.
Rosario was the highest-drafted player out of Puerto Rico in 2010, signing with Minnesota for $200,000 in the fourth round. He immediately started tearing up the Gulf Coast League, with three hits and a home run in his first start. His hitting success in the GCL wasn't unexpected, because scouts rated him as Puerto Rico's top amateur hitter heading into the draft. He has a short swing and a polished, professional approach at the plate, which along with his batting stance attract comparisons to Bobby Abreu. Rosario has average power and his other tools came a bit better than advertised, and he's not just a high-contact, high-average hitter. While most scouts who saw him as an amateur projected him as a right fielder with a plus throwing arm, the Twins see him sticking in center field. He has a tick above-average speed and has good instincts, helping his quickness play up in the outfield and on the bases. He succeeded in his first 17 steal attempts as a pro before wearing down and slowing down a bit late in the summer. Rosario will have to make adjustments at higher levels to get better at hitting lefthanders, but it's nothing he can't handle with experience. His polish could allow him to skip past Elizabethton and reach Beloit sometime in his first full pro season.
Watts pitched at three California schools in his college years, at Feather River JC, San Joaquin Delta JC and NCAA Division II Cal State Stanislaus. The Twins had an eye on him the whole time, both when scouting director Deron Johnson was their West Coast crosschecker, then when he ran his second draft in 2009. Minnesota signed him for $15,000 as a 16th-round pick. Johnson saw Watts throw 93-95 mph as an amateur, and he continues to sit in that range as a pro while touching as high as 99. He has the best raw arm strength in the system and used it to reach Double-A in his first full season. Watts showed excellent durability throughout 2010, working with quality velocity even in back-to-back outings. His fastball has some armside run and he likes to elevate it for strikeouts. He also has a power curveball that comes in at around 80 mph with tight spin and good depth, allowing him to change hitters' eye levels. Watts' stiff front leg and herky-jerky delivery cost him command and extension out front. The Twins have several vacancies in their bullpen, and Watts has the arm to force himself into the picture. More than likely, he'll return to New Britain to open 2011.
The Twins have had success drafting and developing college lefthanders, getting big league production from Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing. They hope Dean can be next in line after signing him for $319,500 as a third-round pick last June. He somewhat resembles Perkins physically, though he's not quite as stocky. Perkins had more fastball velocity when he signed, but Dean has a four-pitch repertoire and a similar ceiling as a No. 4 starter. His compact delivery helps him throw quality strikes regularly, and he has a feel for the strike zone with all four of his pitches. Minnesota didn't push him in his pro debut because he had a strained elbow in the spring, but he had just one walk in 29 pro innings. Dean commands his fastball, which tops out at 93 but sits at 87-91 mph when he's at his best. He's not afraid to pitch inside with his fastball, which sets up his solid changeup on the outer half. The Twins like his ability to spin a breaking ball, and he throws both a slider and a curveball. His curve has true 12-to-6 break, while his slider has some depth but acts more like a cutter. He carved up younger hitters in his debut, constantly getting ahead in counts, and has the polish to move quickly. He could push for a spot in high Class A to start his first full pro season.
The 20th overall pick in the 2004 draft and recipient of a $1.5 million bonus, Plouffe methodically has put himself into position to contribute in Minnesota and made his big league debut in 2010, getting two hits against the Brewers in his first game on May 21. He struggled for the most part, however, and spent most of his time in Minnesota as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement. Plouffe remains much the same player he's been since he was drafted. His best tool remains his strong arm, and he has become more consistent defensively as he has learned to take fewer chances with it. He doesn't have more than average range, but his arm allows him to make plays in the hole. Plouffe's hands are steady in the field and give him surprising power at the plate. He has earned comparisons over the years to Greg Gagne, Khalil Greene and J.J. Hardy for his average power and overly aggressive approach at the plate. He's a solid athlete and fringe-average runner. He could fit on Minnesota's bench for 2011, but the Twins' bid for Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka shows they aren't comfortable with Plouffe as Hardy's replacement. If he doesn't stick in Minnesota in 2011, Plouffe likely is out of the organization's future plans.
The Twins planned on having Hermsen spending 2010 in Elizabethon, but injuries at Beloit gave him the opportunity to make 12 starts in low Class A. He flirted with a no-hitter June 17, getting four outs away before settling for a one-hit shutout at Cedar Rapids. That game was only an hour from Hermsen's home, and he had plenty of friends and family in attendance. Perhaps he was amped up, because he had his best fastball of the year, sitting at 90-92 mph. The near no-no improved Hermsen's record to 4-1, 3.43, but he lost his last five starts at Beloit and was bumped back down to Elizabethton. He doesn't really have no-hit stuff, as he pitches to contact and presently doesn't have a plus pitch. Instead, he throws strikes with a four-pitch mix, highlighted by a two-seam fastball that sits at 86-89 mph. With his loose arm and easy delivery, he should develop more fastball velocity down the line. He has a big, durable body and profiles as a durable innings-eater, working off his sinking fastball and slider, which can reach the low 80s but lacks depth. Hermsen's curveball shows more promise but lacks power in the low 70s, and he also has some feel for his changeup. If he adds velocity to his fastball and curve, he'll fit perfectly into Minnesota's pitching mold with his projected durability and feel for the strike zone. Hermsen is ready to return to low Class A for a full season in 2011.
Pugh wasn't a highly-touted amateur. He went to high school in the Baltimore area, then attended Louisburg (N.C.) JC before transferring to higher-profile Hillsborough (Fla.) CC as a sophomore. The Twins spotted him at Hillsborough in 2008 and selected him in the 19th round, signing him for $150,000. He since has emerged as one of their liveliest arms. Pugh has unorthodox mechanics that make his pitches hard to pick up. He throws across his body and from a low three-quarters slot, delivering fastballs that sit at 91-95 mph. At times, his slider can be a swing-and-miss pitch with some depth. His changeup is just fair but plays up because of his deception and the fact that hitters have to cheat to catch up to his fastball. While Pugh's mechanics make him tough on hitters, they're tough to repeat, and his low-elbow delivery causes his fastball and slider to flatten out on occasion. He walked 4.6 batters per nine innings in 2010, too many to stay in the rotation long-term. He has yet to fill out his wiry frame and could use some more strength and stamina. He has enough athleticism to improve his control a bit, and he fields his position well. Pugh's lack of fastball command probably relegates him to a future bullpen role, but he'll continue to start in Double-A this year.
Stuifbergen is trying to beat Max Kepler to the majors to become the first big league product of the Twins' European scouting efforts. A Netherlands native, Stuifbergen has become his homeland's go-to pitcher in international baseball, tossing four scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in a memorable 2009 World Baseball Classic victory and matching up with Cuba in October's Intercontinental Cup. Stuifbergen thrived when healthy as he jumped to full-season ball for the first time in 2010, but he missed six weeks at midseason with an elbow strain and didn't pitch as well in the second half after his return. At his best, he has a feel for pitching that belies the stereotypes of European players. He adds and subtracts from his fastball, touching 93 at times after lulling hitters to sleep with a mid-80s sinker. Stuifbergen learned his curveball from the patron saint of Dutch baseball, Bert Blyleven, and at times it's a plus pitch. So is his changeup, a solid-average offering. Stuifbergen needs to show he can stay healthy, and his 260-pound frame could use firming up. Despite his size, he repeats his easy delivery and pounds the strike zone. He projects to have average big league command, if not a tick above. The Twins would like to see better maturity in terms of his fitness as well as mound demeanor, but a healthy Stuifbergen could jump on the fast track in 2011, starting with a stint in high Class A.
Slama had a big year in 2010, becoming the lowest-drafted pitcher (39th round) ever to appear in the Futures Game, which was played in Anaheim, virtually down the street from his family's Orange County home. Then he earned his first major league callup, making his debut with two strikeouts in a scoreless inning against the Indians. He stuck around the majors for about two weeks before going back to Triple-A, and he wasn't as effective after his return. The Twins already have gotten a fine return on their $4,000 investment in Slama, whom they signed as a fifth-year senior draft-and-follow in June 2007. He has some deception, especially with his front arm and fairly easy delivery, that helps his average stuff play up. He relies mostly on an 88-92 mph fastball that can touch 94 and a high-70s slurve, with a changeup mixed in from time to time. He works on missing down when he does miss and generally does that, having allowed just 10 homers in 249 minor league innings. Slama tries to study hitters and their swings so he can pitch to their weaknesses. He has dominated with that approach in the minors, with a 1.95 career ERA, but scouts remain skeptical that he'll succeed in the majors. He may need better command to make his average pitches work against big league hitters. Minnesota has opportunities available in its 2011 bullpen, and Slama will get his chance to earn a middle-relief spot.
The Braves are so deep in pitching that they club couldn't find room to protect Diamond on their 40-man roster after he went from a nondrafted free agent to Triple-A in three pro seasons. As was the case with another Atlanta NDFA success, Brandon Beachy, Diamond signed with the Braves after starring in a summer college league. He earned a $50,000 bonus after going 6-2, 2.55 in the Coastal Plain League in 2007. The Twins had scouted Diamond as an amateur, and also saw him pitch for Canada during the 2009 World Baseball Classic and 2010 Pan Am Qualifier. Those reports convinced Minnesota to take him in the major league Rule 5 draft at the 2010 Winter Meetings. Diamond throws four pitches, using a high arm slot to work up and down in the strike zone. He throws downhill and has a curveball that's a plus pitch at its best. Diamond drives his 86-91 mph fastball down through the strike zone and allowed just six homers in 159 innings last year. His slider and changeup have their moments, helping him keep righthanders off balance. While Diamond throws strikes, he lacks premium command, and his ceiling is as a fourth or fifth starter. He's more likely to fill a long-relief or lefty-specialist role if he makes Minnesota's 25-man roster in 2011. If he fails, the Twins have to put him through waivers and offer him back to the Braves before they could send him to the minors.
Dozier had one of the best careers in Southern Mississippi history, batting .355 as a four-year starter. He missed the Golden Eagles' Cinderella run to the 2009 College World Series with a broken collarbone, though he pinch-hit in Omaha. He pushed his way up to high Class A in 2010, his first full season, even after missing 2009 instructional league so he could return to Southern Miss and pick up his degree. Dozier doesn't have any above-average tools but he does a lot of things well and has plenty of polish. He controls the strike zone well and has a contact-oriented, all-fields approach at the plate. He handles the bat well enough to profile as a No. 2 hitter. His biggest weakness is his lack of power, as he doesn't project to hit more than 5-10 homers annually. He has average speed, runs the bases well and plays the game intelligently. Dozier's fundamental approach to the game carries over to the defensive side, where he's good enough to handle shortstop at the lower levels but fits better at second because of his fringy arm strength. He also saw time at third base last season and in center field during instructional league. Dozier figures to jump to Double-A this year.
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