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The Twins built their success in the last decade mostly on the draft and astute acquisitions, with few homegrown contributors from Latin America. Minnesota has struggled to land talent from the Dominican Republic but went all-in in 2009 when Sano came on the open market. Twins scout John Wilson was so overwhelmed while watching him take batting practice, he filmed the session on his phone's camera. Wilson played it for club officials back in Minneapolis and said, "I don't care how old this guy is, we've got to get him." Sano was regarded as the top talent in a 2009 international class that also included Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez and Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar. It took a lengthy investigation process as well as a bidding war with the Pirates before the Twins snared Sano with a $3.15 million bonus. He spent his first full year in the United States in 2011, ranking as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie level Appalachian League and finishing second to teammate Eddie Rosario with 20 homers. Scouts inside and outside the organization love Sano's easy power. Elizabethton manager Ray Smith, who has been in the Appy League for more than 20 years, says the only players who have come through the circuit and produced similar sound off their bat to Sano are Josh Hamilton and Joe Mauer. A physical specimen, Sano already has added 40 pounds since signing and may not be done growing. He drives balls to all fields effortlessly, incorporating his strong lower half into his swing. Sano regularly expanded his strike zone at the start of the summer, then adjusted. He improved his weight shift and began staying back and trusting his hands. He led the Appy League with 45 extra-base hits, with six of his final 10 homers coming to center field or right. Sano won't stay at shortstop. At 232 pounds, he has outgrown the position and will have to work to maintain his agility to remain at third base. He has a strong arm and sure hands, though sloppy footwork and inexperience at third base led to 15 errors in just 48 games. Minnesota doesn't intend to move him off third base any time soon, but an eventual shift to an outfield corner is possible. If he keeps getting bigger and loses his presently fringy speed, he might have to move to first base. Sano is ready for his fullseason closeup at low Class A Beloit. The Twins usually try to take it slow with their prospects, but he could be an exception if he improves his pitch recognition and cuts down on his strikeouts. He has the highest ceiling of any Minnesota prospect since Joe Mauer and could be in the Twin Cities by 2014, allowing him two full seasons in the minors. Sano profiles as at least a 30-homer threat at third base, a luxury the Twins haven't had since Gary Gaetti's heyday in the late 1980s.
Benson has ranked among the Twins' top 15 prospects every year since being drafted 64th overall in 2006, moving in virtual lockstep with '06 first-rounder Chris Parmelee. Signed away from a Purdue football scholarship for $575,000, Benson has battled injuries-- including a knee problem that required arthroscopic surgery in 2011--but played in a career-high 135 games and made his major league debut last season. Minnesota still considers Benson a five-tool player, and so do scouts outside the organization. The biggest question is how much contact he'll make. He's too aggressive at times, still struggles with spin and doesn't always handle breaking balls on the outer half well. He improved his walk rate in 2011 by learning to lay off such pitches, and he made more hard contact with a better two-strike approach and a greater willingness to use the entire field. Benson has plus raw power and speed, though his power plays more consistently. He has one of the system's strongest and most accurate arms and is an above-average defender at all three outfield spots. Benson could help the Twins replace free agents Mike Cuddyer and Jason Kubel if they depart. He hasn't played at Triple- A yet, though, so he's probably headed to Rochester.
Though he had a strong debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2010, Rosario wasn't assigned to a full-season roster to start 2011, instead languishing in extended spring training. He couldn't have been more ready for the Appalachian League, winning co-MVP honors while leading the circuit in runs (71), triples (nine), homers (21, three shy of the Appy record), total bases (181) and slugging (.670). The Twins love Rosario's swing and were less surprised by his batting average than by his power. He's balanced at the plate, has above-average bat speed and a short swing with surprising strength, helping him drive the ball from pole to pole. While he's not a slugger, he should have average to plus power down the line. Rosario has above-average speed as well, though his baserunning lacks polish. He shows average range and arm strength in center field, and he encouraged Minnesota with his play after moving to second base in instructional league. Rosario will need repetitions at second, but his arm, athleticism and quickness give him a chance to stay there. He'll report to spring training as a second baseman ticketed for Beloit this year. If it all works out, the Twins will have their best offensive second baseman since Chuck Knoblauch.
A natural athlete, Hicks doubled as a hard-throwing pitcher in high school and is a scratch golfer who jokes that he has had to start golfing lefthanded to get other Twins farmhands to play against him. Signed for $1.78 million as the 14th overall pick in 2008, he still hadn't solved high Class A three years later. Hicks' tools still stand out, starting with a plus-plus throwing arm that remains the best in the system. He's a good center fielder with above-average range. Offensive consistency is Hicks' biggest issue. His lefthanded swing remains too long and loopy, and he hit .234 against righthanders in 2011 (including the Arizona Fall League). He draws plenty of walks but hasn't tapped into his average raw power, and his basestealing skills aren't efficient enough for him to take advantage of his plus speed. Minnesota has discussed having Hicks bat solely righthanded, but enough of its instructors and scouts believe in his athleticism and aptitude for him to continue switch-hitting. Club officials believe he'll blossom late like Torii Hunter and Denard Span did and hope the breakout carries him to Double-A in 2012.
Though Arcia has yet to get past Class A, Minnesota protected him on its 40-man roster because he has one of the system's most potent bats. He won Appalachian League MVP honors in 2010 after hitting .375/.424/.672 to top the circuit in all three categories. He hurt his right elbow last year, limiting him to DH duty in April and requiring surgery that sidelined him for two months, but he held his own at Fort Myers once he returned. With a lefthanded stance that evokes Bob Abreu, he has the strength and bat speed to make hard contact to all fields. He has plus raw power and doesn't need to square balls up to drive them. Unlike Abreu, Arcia doesn't draw a lot of walks. He has slowed down as he has gotten bigger and stronger, necessitating a move from center field to right. He regained his plus arm strength after the surgery and remains raw defensively. Arcia is pushing his way into Minnesota's big league picture sooner than later. For 2012, Arcia will start back at Fort Myers and make his way to Double-A at some point.
Michael graduated high school a semester early, bypassing the 2009 draft and playing second base in an infield with future big leaguers Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager on North Carolina's College World Series team that spring. Michael shifted to third base as a sophomore and shortstop as a junior, He helped lead the Tar Heels back to Omaha in 2011 despite an ankle sprain and a more serious hip/groin soft-tissue injury that initially was misdiagnosed. His maladies helped drop him to the Twins' pick at No. 30, where he signed for $1.175 million. A polished switch-hitter, Michael has a disciplined approach that helped him walk more than he struck out in each of his final two college seasons. He has enough power to keep pitchers honest, projecting to hit plenty of doubles with 10-12 homers annually. Michael is both quick and fast when healthy, with the ability to steal bases and the footwork and agility to stay in the middle infield. He has smooth actions to go with solid arm strength and range. Some scouts consider him better suited for second base, but Minnesota likes him as a shortstop. Michael's injuries were significant enough to keep him from making his pro debut and playing in instructional league. Assuming he's healthy in the spring, he'll play shortstop in a talented Beloit infield that also will include Miguel Sano at third base and Eddie Rosario at second. Michael is the Twins' best long-term answer at shortstop.
One of the highlights of the Twins' extensive Australian efforts, Hendriks reached the majors in 2011 after overcoming a litany of obstacles. He has had two knee surgeries (one before he signed on his 18th birthday) and an emergency appendectomy that kept him from participating in the 2010 Futures Game. He bounced back to work a career-high 163 innings last season and appeared in the prospect showcase in July. Hendriks fits Minnesota's mold as a four-pitch/command starter. His fastball often sits at 86-92 mph and peaks at 94. He uses both two- and four-seamers, complementing his sinker with a solid slider. When he's in rhythm, Hendriks peppers the bottom of the zone and commands his fastball to his arm side, allowing him to induce weak contact with his slider and above-average changeup on the other side of the plate. He also mixes in a curveball as a fourth pitch. He's a strong competitor and good athlete, both owing in part to his family's Australian rules football background. Hendriks could use more Triple-A time, but he's ready for a back-of-the-rotation gig in Minnesota if the opportunity arises. He has an outside chance of becoming a No. 3 starter.
Gibson was primed to go high in the 2009 draft before a stress fracture in his forearm sidelined him in May. That allowed the Twins to get him with the No. 22 overall pick, and they signed him for $1.85 million. No. 1 on this list a year ago after reaching Triple- A in his first pro season, Gibson returned to Rochester and gradually wore down. After doctors diagnosed a muscle strain and a ligament tear in his elbow in July, he had Tommy John surgery. Before he got hurt, Gibson pitched with a 91-92 mph fastball with late sink and threw it for consistent strikes. He manipulates his fastball well, making it run, sink or cut at will and using it to set up his pair of above-average secondary pitches. Both his changeup and slider can generate swings and misses. As the season progressed, his fastball lost velocity and his slider lost sharpness, and it became obvious he was hurt. He may not pitch until the second half of 2012 at the earliest, and Minnesota likely won't get a great read on Gibson until 2013, when he'll be 25. If his stuff and above-average control return, he should be able to establish himself as a solid No. 2 or 3 starter.
Signed for $1.5 million as the 20th overall pick in 2006, Parmelee has been linked almost ever since with Joe Benson, Minnesota's second-rounder that June. They've become friends and have been teammates virtually throughout their pro careers. They made their big league debuts together Sept. 6, and Parmelee was the Twins' hottest hitter in the final month. Parmelee has made several adjustments to his swing throughout his career and found a groove working with Double-A hitting coach Tom Brunansky in 2011. Parmelee's stroke is less uphill now and he has become less homer-conscious, making him a solid hitter with pop to both gaps. He has home run power to his pull side. He continues to struggle against lefthanders, posting a .597 OPS against them in 146 Double-A at-bats last year. Parmelee also has improved his body, adding agility that has made him a better defender at first base, and has an above-average arm. If it weren't for his well below-average speed, the outfield would be more of a possibility, but he's limited to reserve duty out there. Club officials like how Parmelee has matured. With Justin Morneau's concussion issues, Parmelee gives Minnesota an in-house option for first base. He'll have to improve against lefties to be more than a second-division regular or platoon player.
A four-year starter at Southern Mississippi, Dozier overcame a broken collarbone as a senior to return to action in the 2009 College World Series and bat .349 in his pro debut after signing for $30,000. He was named the Twins' 2011 minor league player of the year after leading the system in nine offensive categories, including on-base percentage (.399), slugging (.491), extra-base hits (54) and steals (24). Skilled and savvy, Dozier gets the most out of his solid athleticism and endears himself to managers with his grinding style. He has gotten stronger as a pro and has natural hitting tempo and barrel-to-ball ability. His plate discipline, bat control and speed help him fit the profile of a No. 2 hitter. He's an outstanding bunter and fine baserunner with average speed. Dozier is a fundamentally sound middle infielder with an average arm and plus range. He's an instinctive player who gets good hops and makes all the routine plays. His tools profile him as a second baseman, but his intangibles should allow him to stick at shortstop. Dozier is similar to Jamey Carroll, whom the Twins signed for two years and $6.75 million this offseason. He could replace Carroll in Minnesota at the end of that contract, or learn under him as a utility player before that. Either way, Dozier figures to start 2012 in Triple-A.
Southern California's Tustin High has produced three big league all-stars in Heath Bell, Shawn Green and Mark Grace, and Harrison's career there ranks with any of theirs. He hit 33 homers at Tustin and several tape-measure shots on the showcase circuit, including a 504-foot shot at Tropicana Field in the 2010 Power Showcase. He spurned a Southern California scholarship when he signed for $1.05 million as the 50th overall pick in the 2011 draft. The Twins took Harrison for his bat. He's a baseball rat who eschews batting gloves and has a feel for the barrel. He doesn't have much of a stride and has enough strength to pull it off, leading to a balanced, line-drive swing. As he learns to loft the ball, he's expected to hit for above-average home run power. His swing and strength remind some club officials of Paul Goldschmidt. Harrison isn't a fluid athlete and is limited to a corner spot. He'll get time at third base but is expected to move to first eventually. He's a below-average runner but not a clogger. Harrison likely will start 2012 in extended spring training before debuting at Elizabethton.
Boer grew up in Eden Prairie, a Minneapolis suburb, and was lured out of state by Oregon's resuscitated baseball program. He made 26 starts and picked up eight saves in three seasons for the Ducks. The Twins grabbed him in the second round of the 2011 draft and signed him for $405,000. He dominated in his pro debut, working in relief after pitching 99 innings in the spring. Boer has the type of strong arm the organization sorely needs. As a college starter, he showed a 90-93 mph fastball. As a reliever, he works at 93- 94 and peaks at 96. His fastball has good sink, and he complements it with a mid-80s slider that is an out pitch at times. He worked with a splitter at Oregon but incorporated a straight changeup after his debut. Minnesota intends to use Boer as a starter in 2012, both to get him comfortable with the changeup and to see if he can stay in the role. He'll open the season at Beloit. Reaching the big leagues could function as a homecoming for Boer, whose parents still live about a half-hour from Target Field.
After redshirting as a freshman, Williams pitched 100 innings in college between two seasons at Vanderbilt and one summer in the Valley League. His sophomore year was cut short when a line drive broke his right kneecap, and he nevertheless threw the hitter out at first base in a highlight play that generated lots of attention on YouTube. Healthy in 2011, Williams forced his way to the front of the Commodores' deep bullpen, becoming the moment-of-truth reliever for a team that made its first-ever College World Series appearance. His fresh arm, excellent size and hard stuff from the left side make him particularly intriguing for the Twins, who may send him out as a starter in 2012 after signing him for an over-slot $575,000 as a third-rounder. Williams' fastball sits at 89-92 mph and regularly hits 93-94, and Minnesota believes he could add velocity as he gets more consistent work. His fastball has natural tailing action and some sink as well, and he has a feel for cutting it when he needs to. His changeup is in its early stages, and he throws both a curveball and a hard slider that has cutter shape and action. Williams' competitiveness suited him well for relieving, and the Twins hope they can channel his high-energy delivery into a starting role. Williams also could move quickly if he goes to the bullpen. How he handles longer stints in spring training will determine his 2012 role and assignment, but he's certain to make a Class A roster.
Herrmann attended a pair of Texas junior colleges and saw time at third base, outfield and catcher. The Orioles drafted him in the 10th round in 2008 out of Alvin CC, but instead of signing he went to Miami. The Hurricanes used him some at third base but mostly in the outfield and at DH. He led Miami in batting with a .341 average in 2009, and his offensive polish prompted the Twins to push him aggressively after drafting him in the sixth round that June. He jumped to high Class A for his full-season debut in 2010 and made catcher his main position for the first time. Predictably he struggled, but he bounced back nicely last year, hitting his way out of Fort Myers and earning a promotion to Double-A. The organization's best catching prospect, Herrman features good athletic ability for a backstop, average speed that allows him to man either outfield corner and a polished offensive approach. His biggest offensive drawbacks are his flat swing plane and below-average power potential. Defensively, he has a slightly above-average arm and good technique that he used to throw out 38 percent of basestealers last season. He blocks balls well. His inexperience shows up most in his game-calling and handling of a pitching staff. Joe Mauer's injury-plagued season and the offensive ineptitude of his replacements highlighted Minnesota's need for catching help, and Herrmann is the best answer. He's headed for his first taste of Triple-A and isn't far from getting a shot to be Mauer's backup.
The Bill Smith Era ended with Carlos Gomez having given the Twins the greatest return among the prospects acquired from the Mets in the Johan Santana trade in 2008. In Gomez's case, that meant one year of starting for Minnesota before getting dealt to the Brewers for one year of J.J. Hardy. The book isn't completely closed on the Santana deal, however, thanks to Guerra's second-half turnaround in 2011. Originally signed for $700,000 by the Mets, he has a 5.55 ERA as a Twin. His 2011 ERA sat at 9.00 on June 1, when he made his 10th and final start for New Britain. After moving to the bullpen, he posted a 2.77 ERA, .191 opponent average and 65-13 K-BB ratio in 52 innings. Guerra often pitched backward as a starter but attacks hitters as a reliever. He uses his fastball to set up his plus changeup instead of the other way around. Guerra's fastball bumped up from 90-92 to 92-94 mph once he moved to the bullpen. His sinking, fading changeup remains a weapon. His curveball, once a glaring weakness, now grades as fringy and gets some swings and misses. Guerra has starter's stuff but needed the move to the bullpen to give him the aggressiveness he lacked. He'll challenge for a spot in Minnesota's revamped bullpen in 2012.
Salcedo announced himself as a prospect when he walked just three batters in 62 innings during his 2009 U.S. debut. His polish prompted Minnesota to accelerate him to high Class A in 2010 when it needed a spot starter, and his first full Class A load came at Beloit last year. He posted a 2.93 ERA in a career-high 135 innings, though his stuff failed to take a step forward. Early in games, Salcedo works off a 90-93 mph fastball, which helps his fringy changeup play up. Both pitches have late sink and generate groundballs. Salcedo has some feel for spinning a breaking ball, which varies between a curve and a slider and features sharp break at times. As he gains strength, it should become an average pitch as well. While he doesn't have true command, he's an excellent athlete who throws a ton of strikes. Salcedo doesn't maintain his stuff deep into games, often falling into the upper 80s with his fastball after a couple of innings. He's a dedicated runner with tremendous work ethic, and the Twins hope he can add strength as he ages. He'll have a more permanent place in the Fort Myers rotation in 2012 and projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
So far, the Twins haven't gotten the returns they hoped for on their 2008 draft class. First-round outfielder Aaron Hicks is stumbling in Class A and sandwich-round righthander Shooter Hunt was lost in the Triple-A phase of the 2011 Rule 5 draft. Drafted in between them and signed for $1.29 million, Gutierrez hasn't raced to the majors like he was expected to as a college reliever. He spent much of his first two pro seasons as a starter because Minnesota wanted to give him innings to refine his slider and changeup. He appeared to take off when moved back to the bullpen in 2010, but his control wavered last year after he went on the disabled list with a sore shoulder in July. He gave up 11 runs and 18 hits in his last 14 innings. Gutierrez's fastball can be electric. At times it sits at 93-96 mph with late turbo sink, generating tons of groundballs. Its liveliness makes it difficult for him to command, and advanced hitters started laying off it. Instead of trusting his slider and changeup when that happens, Gutierrez keeps going back to the sinker. As a result, his slider has regressed. Both of his secondary pitches are below average, and his cross-body delivery and tailing action on his fastball make it tough for him to locate pitches to his arm side. A slow tempo and low-energy mound presence haven't helped Gutierrez, who nevertheless was added to the 40-man roster in November. He'll have a chance to win a big league job in March but more likely will return to Triple-A.
Boyd starred at two Fort Myers, Fla., area high schools during his prep career, first at South Fort Myers and then at Bishop Verot as a senior. He teamed with Cubs second-rounder Dan Vogelbach to lead Bishop Verot to the Florida 3-A state championship in 2011, with Boyd pitching a shutout in the semifinals and delivering the game-winning single with two out in the bottom of the seventh in the title game. The Twins, whose Florida operations are based in Fort Myers, had followed him for years. They drafted him 55th overall and bought him out of a Florida commitment with a $1 million bonus. Boyd's jumbo frame elicits comparisons to Bartolo Colon and Jonathan Broxton. After a summer layoff waiting to sign, he reported to instructional league at a whopping 278 pounds. He hired Kyle Gibson's wife, a nutritionist, to improve his diet, and he hoped to get back to 235-240 pounds by spring training. At his best, Boyd incorporates his lower half well into his delivery and maintains his velocity deep into games, usually working at 90-94 mph with his fastball. He topped out at 91 in instructional league. His power curveball features upper-70s velocity and tight, sharp action, giving him a second plus pitch. His arm action is fairly clean. Boyd didn't need a changeup much in high school, but Minnesota has a strong tradition of teaching the pitch and he'll strive to improve his arm speed and find a grip that works for him. If Boyd can keep his body in check, he could emerge as one of the system's best starting pitching prospects. He's likely to open 2012 in extended spring training before making his pro debut in Rookie ball in June.
Goodrum played alongside man-child Miguel Sano in the Appalachian League last year, and the two couldn't be more different. Lean and high-waisted, Goodrum is far from having filled out. His father has the physique of an NFL lineman, however, so the Twins don't think Niko still will look like a greyhound in five years. For now, he's a fast-twitch, raw athlete with the range and arm for shortstop. He has a cannon--edging Tyler Grimes as the system's best infield arm--and fast, soft hands. His size eventually may make his actions too long for short, however. He's an above-average runner under way, so some scouts see him as a center fielder in the Dexter Fowler mold. A switch-hitter, Goodrum has a sound swing from both sides and surprising strength considering his present build. It's easy to dream on his leverage and strength producing average to plus power down the line. At times his swing gets long, and he needs at-bats to improve his pitch recognition. He got better in that regard as the season progressed and finished strong, hitting .341 in August. His overall
The son of Polish and American ballet dancers, Kepler isn't German but was born and raised in Berlin and played for Germany in the World Cup in Panama last fall. While Germany went 0-7 at the tournament, he went 8-for-23 (.348) with a homer. Kepler signed for $800,000 in 2009, setting a record for a European amateur position player, and he graduated from high school in Florida in 2010 while also playing in the Gulf Coast League. He's a fluid athlete with solid swing mechanics, though he has to adjust to pro pitching and quality velocity, significant hurdles for a European amateur. He's still developing the natural hitting rhythm and timing that come with experience. He's starting to gain more power as he adds strength, and he'll need to show more of that down the line. Signed as a center fielder, Kepler has started to fill out and has slowed down to an average runner. He'll have to work to remain a center fielder and even mixed in some time at first base last summer. Still a teenager, he's raw defensively with a fringy arm that may limit him to left field if he can't play center. Kepler will have to show improvement in spring training to earn a full-season assignment, and he may be headed for a repeat of the Appalachian League in 2012.
Summers was a two-way prep standout in the Scottsdale, Ariz., area. He helped Cactus Shadows win the Arizona 4-A state championship as a sophomore in 2006, then starred at Chaparral. He wound up at UC Irvine and continued to play both ways as a freshman and sophomore, eventually emerging as more of a pitcher. His fastball reached 97 mph when he worked out of the bullpen in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2010. He became the Anteaters' ace in 2011, throwing a no-hitter against Long Beach State in May but losing twice to Virginia in super-regional action. After signing for a slot bonus of $171,900 as a fourth-rounder, Summers dominated the Appy League as a reliever. The Twins were just holding down his workload, though, and have incorporated a windup into his delivery with plans to start him in 2012. He has an unusually short arm action and may wind up back in the bullpen as a result. He lost some fastball velocity last summer, pitching at 90-92 mph with Elizabethton, but he was back around 94-96 in instructional league. His straight changeup emerged as a weapon in his debut, and he struck out 16 of the 25 lefthanders he faced without allowing a hit. He also throws an upper-80s cutter that gets in on the hands of lefties. His slurvy curveball has some power, reaching 77-78 mph at times. If the plans to start him stick, he'll head to low Class A to open his first full pro season.
A reliever for two seasons at Kentucky, Darnell got a chance to start in 2009 in the Alaska League, then posted a 5.50 ERA as a junior, falling out of the Wildcats' rotation. Minnesota signed him for $125,000 as a sixth-rounder. He reminds some scouts of Brian Duensing in terms of his stuff and pitch selection. Darnell isn't afraid to work inside, especially against righthanders, even if he lacks a dominant fastball. He isn't a soft-tosser, going after hitters with an 88-92 mph fastball that he controls well, though he's short of having true fastball command. He has improved his feel for using his fastball and setting up his changeup, which is a plus pitch at times and ranks as his best offering. Hitters can't just sit on the changeup because he has a pair of decent breaking balls in his curveball and slider. While neither is a consistent swing-and-miss pitch, he can throw both for strikes in fastball counts. He has more faith in the slider. Darnell got hit hard when promoted to Double-A last year and figures to start 2012 back in New Britain.
Soliman signed with Minnesota as a corner infielder, but after hitting .199 in two seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, he agreed to give pitching a try. In his 2010 U.S. debut, he finished second in the Appalachian League with 74 strikeouts. He led the Twins system with 120 whiffs last season. Soliman has a live arm and mostly works at 88-92 mph with his fastball, touching 94. His fastball straightens out when he elevates it, making him prone to homers. His hand speed allows him to spin the ball well, giving him a curveball that's solid at its best and also the potential to add a bit more velocity. His changeup is below-average but has potential. Soliman's inexperience shows on many levels, from repeating his delivery to fielding his position to setting up hitters. He didn't earn a spot on Minnesota's 40-man roster after the season, but he proved too raw to be lost in the Rule 5 draft. The Twins will promote him to high Class A for 2012.
If international baseball can be called the "bright lights"--and compared to Class A it certainly can be--then it's evident Stuifbergen is at his best in the spotlight. He tossed 17 scoreless innings for the Netherlands at the World Cup in Panama last fall, helping his nation win its first-ever gold medal in international play. Working in relief, he touched 94 mph with his fastball and flashed a plus curveball that he picked up from another Dutch righty, Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. Stuifbergen also threw four shutout innings in the Netherlands' upset victory against the Dominican Republic in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In the minors, however, Stuifbergen has been plenty hittable. He usually pitches with an 86-91 mph sinker and a solid curveball, along with an average changeup. He has a feel for changing speeds and pounds the strike zone, but the quality of his stuff is too inconsistent. He'll have to tone up his big frame, and maturity and consistency in his work habits and approach to the game would help as well. Stuifbergen ended his regular season with five solid innings in a spot start in Triple-A, but he was left off the 40-man roster in November. He'll have to earn a spot in Double-A during spring training.
Wimmers was supposed to be a prime example of what the Twins seek in pitchers when they signed him for $1.332 million as the 21st overall pick in the 2010 draft. He dominated in four high Class A starts in his pro debut, but Wimmers came to spring training last year unprepared physically, had a setback with a hamstring pull and, in the words of one club official, "All hell broke loose." Back at Fort Myers, he couldn't find the plate. In his first start, he walked six straight hitters and added three wild pitches while throwing just four of 28 pitches for strikes. Minnesota put him on the disabled list and went to work rebuilding his confidence to try to cure his case of Rick Ankiel disease. Wimmers went through extended spring training and returned to game action in July. His season ended on a triumphant note when he tossed a seven-inning no-hitter at Jupiter, walking two and striking out five. Wimmers' fastball sat in the upper 80s in that appearance, and the Twins attribute the lower velocity to his inability to build arm strength during his bouts of wildness. He had pitched at 88-92 mph in the past. He still showed good arm speed on his above-average straight changeup, his best pitch, and threw strikes with his curveball. He showed mental toughness by coming through his difficulties to end the season on a high note. Wimmers was able to find the plate in instructional league and should return to high Class A in 2012 to make the next step in his comeback.
Former general manager Bill Smith took a lot of criticism for the Johan Santana trade with the Mets, but the Matt Garza-Jason Bartlett deal with the Rays was arguably worse. The key player the Twins got in that move was Delmon Young, who had a fine 2010 season but otherwise never lived up to his billing. Last August, Minnesota shipped Young to the Tigers for Oliveros and lefthander Cole Nelson. Oliveros reached the majors with Detroit in July and got back with Minnesota in August and September. He has the system's best fastball, an indictment of the system's lack of power arms but also a testament to Oliveros' 93-96 mph heater. He's stocky and strong-bodied, with a full-effort delivery that hinders his control. His future role will depend on his secondary stuff. For now, he has a fringy changeup and a below-average slider that breaks early. The Twins believe his slider can improve and were encouraged by Oliveros' strong winter ball performance in Venezuela. He has a chance to earn innings in the big league bullpen in 2012.
Hermsen was a multisport athlete at West Delaware High (Manchester, Iowa), earning all-star honors in football (as a quarterback), basketball and as both a pitcher and shortstop in baseball. He signed for a $650,000 bonus as a sixth-round pick in 2008. He had his best year as a pro in 2011, finishing the year in high Class A and leading the system with 11 wins. Hermsen doesn't have a plus pitch and profiles as a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater if his fastball velocity improves. His best trait is his fastball command, which is average and still can improve. He smoothed out some rough edges in his delivery and got more aggressive last year with the aid of pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen. Those changes helped Hermsen touch 90 mph at Fort Myers after his promotion, though he often works at 82-88 mph. He throws a fringy curveball and an improving changeup, but neither consistently puts away hitters. Twins officials are united in agreement that he has excellent makeup and competitiveness, but they're split on his future, with some wondering if he'll ever throw with the power befitting his big body. Hermsen is headed back to high Class A to open 2012.
When Minnesota signed Dominicans Polanco and Miguel Sano as part of the same international class in 2009, it probably hoped to keep them moving in tandem. They broke into pro ball together in the Dominican Summer League, and arrived in the United States together on July 4, 2010. But Polanco, who's significantly less physical than Sano, hasn't hit enough to keep pace. He has baseball skills and flashes the tools to be a potential everyday shortstop, with good hands, infield actions and instincts. He also has an average arm that could get better as he gets stronger. He played six positions in 2011: shortstop, third base, second base and all three outfield spots. Polanco lacks the strength to repeat his swing or defensive actions over the grind of everyday play. His swing mechanics are good enough for him to make consistent contact, but he doesn't project to hit for much power. He's an above-average runner once he gets going, but his lack of blazing speed further limits his offensive upside. The Twins think they'll have a player if Polanco gains strength. He's headed back to Rookie ball in 2012.
The Twins signed Mata in January 2010, and he led their Dominican Summer League club with 54 strikeouts in 59 innings in 2010. He came to the United States last year and would have ranked second in the Gulf Coast League with a 1.46 ERA if he hadn't fallen nine innings short of qualifying. Mata has yet to give up a home run as a pro, thanks to a heavy 88-92 mph fastball that peaks at 94. His arm works well and he throws with ease. Mata's fastball has so much life that he doesn't have great command of it yet, nor does he have great body control, both understandable flaws given his age and size. His changeup and curveball are present below-average pitches and neither projects to become a plus offering. His success will hinge on improving his fastball command so that his secondary stuff plays up. He's headed to Elizabethton in 2012.
Doyle earned a math degree at Boston College and would be teaching that subject if he hadn't signed with the White Sox for $1,000 as a 37th-round pick in 2008. Left unprotected by Chicago, Doyle landed with Minnesota in December as the second pick in the major league Rule 5 draft. The Twins saw Doyle throw well in the Arizona Fall League, where he went 4-0, 1.98 in eight starts and held batters to a .135 average in 27 innings. They also saw that the more he pitched last season, the harder he threw, reaching the mid- 90s during the AFL's Rising Stars Game. Counting his AFL stint, he worked 200 innings in 2011. Doyle often pitches backward and uses breaking pitches to set up his fastball, which usually sits in the high 80s. He throws four pitches for strikes, including a biting slider and an upper-70s changeup. He works fast, making it difficult for batters to adjust. Doyle has a chance to stick as a long reliever or fifth starter for a club that lost 99 games in 2011 and for an organization that values pitchers with command. If he doesn't, Rule 5 guidelines mandate that Minnesota has to expose him to waivers and offer him back to Chicago for half his $50,000 draft price.
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