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Whether Sano is actually 19 or not almost seems immaterial at this point. The Twins signed him to a $3.15 million bonus (their largest ever for an international player) after a lengthy Major League Baseball investigation process, which confirmed his identity but not necessarily his age. Sano has been under the microscope for years. Already part of one documentary, the Bobby Valentine-produced "Pelotero" that began filming him at age 15, Sano now is involved in the follow-up. He has thrived in pro ball, ranking as the No. 2 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, No. 1 in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and No. 2 in the low Class A Midwest League the last three seasons. He led the MWL in homers (28), RBIs (100), total bases (238) and extra-base hits (60) while ranking second in walks (80) and third in slugging (.521). Sano has enough juice to earn comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton, the only righthanded hitter in the game who matches his 80 raw power on the 20-80 scouting scale. He's strong enough to hit the ball out to any part of any park and he uses his lower half well. Minnesota envisions him as a future cleanup hitter thanks to his present power, improved patience and pitch recognition. Sano is learning to lay off breaking balls out of the strike zone and pound pitches in his hitting zone. When he slows the game down, he keeps his fast hands back and waits on pitches. He made adjustments as 2012 went on, pulling out of a June swoon to hit .291/.398/.564 in his final 51 games. His bat attracts attention, but his glove does as well, usually for the wrong reasons. His defensive ability and where he'll play are the biggest questions facing Sano, who is large but moves well for his size. He has easy arm strength for third base, earning some 80 grades, and his errors come more frequently from lack of focus than ability. He made 42 miscues in 2012, the fourth-highest total in the minors. He did improve defensively as the year progressed, developing better instincts as he got more reps at third base after primarily playing shortstop in the past. Sano's hands remain hard, though, and he'll have to improve his footwork to get better hops and make more accurate throws. He's a below-average runner out of the box who's closer to average once he's underway. In addition to his playing ability, he also excites the Twins by showing leadership skills, even throwing in a dugout speech or two in his second language. With continued maturity and repetitions at third, Sano should be able to stay on the dirt. He is headed for high Class A Fort Myers in 2013, and the Twins believe their step-by-step approach will serve him well as he learns to become more consistent. He should reach Minnesota by 2015.
Baseball America's 2012 High School Player of the Year, Buxton led Appling County High to the Georgia state 2-A championship, tossing a complete game with 18 strikeouts in the clincher. He was still throwing 91 mph in the seventh and final inning. BA's top-rated prospect and the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, he signed for a franchise-record $6 million and helped Rookie-level Elizabethton win the Appalachian League championship. If his blazing bat speed translates into power down the line, Buxton will be a true five-tool player. He'll need repetitions at the plate against better pitching, but his swing path keeps the bat in the hitting zone a long time. He'll have to learn to backspin balls a bit more down the line to have plus power, but many scouts think he'll get there. He's a top-of-the-scale runner who gets from the right side of the plate to first base in 3.9 seconds, with easy plus range and well above-average arm strength in center field. Buxton plays with confidence and has a chance to be a superstar along the lines of Andrew McCutchen. The Twins preach patience but know he's ready for full-season ball in 2013 with an assignment to their new low Class A Cedar Rapids affiliate.
The Appalachian League MVP in 2012, Arcia has a younger brother, Orlando, in the Brewers system. Oswaldo missed two months of 2011 with a right elbow injury, but was healthy last season. Arcia's supreme confidence in his hitting ability rankles opponents at times, probably because they find it hard to get him out. He walks the line between patience and aggressiveness well, pounding mistakes and showing plenty of bat speed to turn on good fastballs. He has improved his ability to lay off pitches out of the strike zone, and he stays back and balanced against lefthanders and offspeed stuff in general. He has lost some speed but runs well enough to stay in right field, where his strong, accurate arm is an asset. Arcia fits the right-field profile well, as he's shown the ability to hit for average and power. He will start 2013 season back in Double-A New Britain but could push for a spot in Triple-A Rochester, and Minnesota's outfield shakeup could speed his timetable.
In his first professional season, Meyer showed the talent that had prompted the Red Sox to offer him $2 million out of high school and the Nationals to sign him for the same amount three years later after drafting him 23rd overall in 2011. He made his pro debut in 2012, ranking second among Washington farmhands in ERA (2.86) and strikeouts (139) while pitching at two Class A stops and earning a trip to the Futures Game. The Nationals had been looking for a center fielder and the Twins desperately needed pitching, so they swapped Meyer for Denard Span in November. Like many tall pitchers, Meyer struggled to repeat his mechanics consistently in college, but he did a good job staying tall and creating more downward angle last season, improving his fastball command. He also learned to trust his electric stuff and to avoid overthrowing. Meyer's best pitch is a 95-97 mph four-seam fastball that bumps 99 mph, and he mixes in a 92-95 mph two-seamer with good armside run and sink at times. He throws a power slider with a knuckle-curve grip at 84-87 mph, getting good depth and late, hard finish. His slider has a chance to be a plus-plus pitch, though it still flattens out occasionally. His straight changeup needs more consistency, but it has good sinking action and a chance to become an above-average offering. Meyer has solid control, but it remains to be seen if he'll develop the command to be a frontline starter. His size, stuff and improvement make him a key piece for the pitching-poor Twins, who will send him to Double-A.
Gibson turned down the Phillies in the 36th round as an Indiana high schooler and became a first-rounder out of Missouri in 2009, signing for $1.85 million. His stock fell late that spring due to forearm tightness, and though he remained healthy in 2010, he needed Tommy John surgery in September 2011. He returned in 2012 with 13 appearances of no more than four innings before a stint in the Arizona Fall League. Gibson's stuff has returned after his elbow reconstruction. He threw his four-seam fastball at 92-94 mph in the regular season and the AFL, where he started in the Rising Stars Game and ranked third in strikeouts. He also threw strikes with his two-seamer and his plus changeup with sink that he long has used as an out pitch. While the velocity (80-84 mph) and good bite on his slider are back, he was still searching for his feel for the pitch in the AFL. The Twins are desperate for starting pitching, and Gibson is the closest candidate their system has to offer. Minnesota's offseason moves will determine whether he gets the chance to open 2013 in the big leagues or gets more time in the minors. He's already 25 but can become a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Hicks may still have the best fastball in the Twins system, though he hasn't pitched since signing for $1.78 million in 2008. The Athletics wanted to draft him 12th overall as a pitcher, but he wanted to hit and the Twins were the first team to agree, picking him 14th overall. A tremendous amateur golfer, he put a poor 2011 season behind him by setting career bests for homers (13), steals (32) and full-season OPS (.844) in 2012. Hicks remains an above-average athlete whose skills are starting to catch up to his tools. He listened to Minnesota coaches and stopped swinging big for power from the left side, shortening up and improving his ability to make contact. He improved from a .228/.357/.348 performance against righthanders in 2011 to .287/.394/.434 in 2012. He's still more natural and rhythmic as a righty, batting .283/.359/.522 last season. A gliding runner, he has improved his basestealing reads and possesses plenty of range in center field. Once capable of throwing 97-mph fastballs on the mound, he retains a well above-average arm. Scouts who like Hicks believe he's developing into a top-of-the-order tablesetter, while others consider him more of a solid regular who'll hit sixth or seventh on a good team while providing premium defense in center. After playing winter ball in Venezuela, he'll head to Triple-A.
Berrios boosted his draft stock with an April no-hitter against a Puerto Rican all-star team featuring No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa, helping him become the 32nd overall pick and the highest-drafted pitcher ever out of Puerto Rico. After signing for $1.55 million, he helped Elizabethton to the Appy League title with 36 strikeouts in 24 innings (counting the postseason). Berrios has the best fastball of any Twins farmhand who profiles as a starter. He can sit at 92-95 mph while throwing strikes to both sides of the plate, and his strong frame helps him maintain his velocity. He commands a changeup with fade that's already solid and should become a plus pitch in time. His slider has its moments as well, showing power and sharpness at 78-81 mph. At times his slider flattens out, and Berrios will have to be diligent about staying tall in his delivery to create plane and angle with his pitches. He needs to mix his pitches better, too. He has the arm action and delivery to project average or better command down the line. Confident to the point of being cocky, Berrios will be on Minnesota's idea of a fast track. He'll open his first full season in low Class A and has the upside of a No. 2 starter.
Rosario led the Appalachian League with 21 homers in 2011 and won co-MVP honors as an outfielder. The Twins tried him at second base that fall in instructional league, and he played 67 of his 86 games in the field there in 2012. He missed nearly seven weeks after a batting-practice line drive hit him in the face in mid-June, requiring the insertion of a plate above his lip, but he played well after his return. Rosario uses his hands well in his swing and has excellent plate coverage. His hands are low in his set-up but quick through the hitting zone. Though he has slugged .538 in the lower minors, scouts and club officials expect him to settle in around 10-15 homers at higher levels because he has a line-drive swing and gap-to-gap approach. Rosario's average speed and range are less than ideal for center field, and scouts question whether his hands and throwing are good enough for second base. Minnesota has had him focus on making the routine play and turning the double play, but he'll need more work to be an average defender. Rosario will stay in the infield as he moves up to high Class A. He's a bit of a tweener if he has to go back to the outfield, so the Twins will give him every chance to remain at second base.
May's development path has been anything but linear since he signed for $375,000 as a fourth-round pick in 2008, when he ranked as the top prep prospect in Washington. He repeated both the low Class A and high Class A levels before ranking as the Phillies' No. 1 prospect after the 2011 season, then struggled with his consistency in Double-A last year. In need of a center fielder, Philadelphia packaged him and Vance Worley to get Ben Revere from the Twins in December. May has swing-and-miss stuff but runs into trouble because he doesn't work down in the strike zone with his fastball or throw his secondary stuff for quality strikes. He works with a 90-94 mph fastball that features two-seam run at its lower velocities. His 76-78 mph downer curveball had been his best secondary pitch, but last year it blended together with his 82-85 mph slider. He also throws an 81-84 mph changeup that can become an average offering. May won't reach his upside of a No. 2 or 3 starter if he can't improve his below-average control and command. More advanced hitters won't chase his high fastballs as much as lower-level batters did. His inconsistency leads his detractors to suggest he'll be no more than a late-inning reliever. May will repeat Double-A to start 2013, with Minnesota hoping he can provide some rotation help in the near future.
The son of American and Polish ballet dancers, Kepler is the best prospect ever born and raised in Germany. He signed for $800,000 in 2009, the largest bonus ever for a European position player, then finished high school in Fort Myers, Fla., while participating in instructional league. Repeating the Appalachian League in 2012, he led the circuit in slugging (.539) and total bases (125) before going 2-for-14 for Germany in a World Baseball Classic qualifier. The Twins long have believed in Kepler's athleticism, and he added maturity and strength to his game in 2012. He has put on 17 pounds since signing and now has the physicality to drive the ball to all fields. He has a sound, balanced swing, doesn't mind going deep in counts and has a decent two-strike approach for his experience level. He's getting better as he sees more quality pitching, and his next step will be hitting for more power against lefthanders. A plus runner when he signed, Kepler is more of an average runner now and moved from center to left field when Byron Buxton arrived in Elizabethton. Kepler's fringy arm fits better in left than in right, and he also has gotten work at first base. Kepler is ready for full-season ball at age 20. He'll join Buxton and 2012 draftee Adam Brett Walker in a power-packed Cedar Rapids outfield in 2013.
With his bat slow to develop, Santana fell into a utility role in 2011, spending time in center field as well as the middle infield. In his fifth season as a pro, he broke through in 2012. He alternated series between second base and shortstop for most of the season with 2011 first-round pick Levi Michael, but Santana outperformed him and finished the season as Fort Myers' regular shortstop. Santana's best tools are his speed and his throwing arm. He needs to polish his baserunning skills, but he's a plus runner down the line and has well above-average speed once under way. His throws have plenty of carry and he has become a more consistent defender as he has matured, though he still tends to botch more routine plays than he should. A switch-hitter, Santana has good swings from both sides of the plate that are geared for contact. He has little home run power as a lefty but more pop as a natural righty. He put together more consistent at-bats in 2012, tempering his aggressiveness somewhat. His lack of plate discipline could limit him to the bottom of a big league batting order. Santana reminds some scouts of Pedro Florimon, the light-hitting minor league veteran who finished the year as Minnesota's regular shortstop. The Twins believe Santana, who was added to the 40-man roster in November, has more offensive upside. They will send him to Double-A in 2013.
Like his big league brother Daniel, Bard struggled with a shift from relieving to starting in 2012. While Daniel couldn't find the strike zone, Luke tore a lat muscle on March 31, ending his junior season at Georgia Tech. After signing for $1,227,000 as the 42nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, he pitched seven pro innings before reaggravating the injury in instructional league. While he doesn't have his brother's easy gas, Bard pitches off his fastball and has above-average velocity. He sat as high as 93-95 mph as a starter in college and touched 97 as a reliever. His slider made significant progress in 2012, showing more consistency, depth and late bite. It's a well above-average pitch when at its best. He flashes an average changeup that needs more consistency. Bard has the clean arm action and sound delivery to become a full-time starter. He'll need to learn to sequence his pitches better and prove he can hold up in that role. If healthy, Bard will open his first full pro season in the rotation of one of the Twins' Class A affiliates. At best, he'll be a No. 3 starter. At worst, he should be one of the best relievers from the entire 2012 draft class.
Melotakis is trying to join the likes of Lee Smith and Brian Lawrence as big league alumni from Northwestern State. Melotakis made just nine starts in college and had more success as a reliever, notching 12 saves in two seasons and dominating at times, such as a 10-strikeout effort in 4 1/3 innings against Louisiana State as a sophomore. He shined after signing for $750,000 in the second round last June, averaging 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings in his debut. Melotakis has impressive stuff for a lefthander, beginning with a fastball that sits at 94-96 mph and touches 97. He gets tremendous spin on his 81-84 mph slider, which has power and depth. He doesn't always command it, however, and he has to have a catcher who can block balls in the dirt, because his slider ends up there a lot. Melotakis has an unconventional short arm stroke that makes most scouts consider him a reliever, and he struggled to maintain his stuff when he started as an amateur. He has the physicality to work out of a rotation and wants to give it a try as a pro. The Twins have put out a casting call for starters among the system's pitchers and intend to take him up on his offer, with relieving a strong fallback position. He'll return to low Class A to begin 2013.
Polanco finally may be ready to make his full-season debut in his fourth pro season. Despite his slow path, he made major strides in 2012 and added much-needed strength. He made the jump to Elizabethton and had his best season after sliding to second base, in part so the Twins could evaluate Niko Goodrum at shortstop. He's a more reliable defender than Goodrum, with good actions and hands, sound footwork and impressive consistency for a teenager. Polanco has put on 20 pounds since signing, giving him the strength to drive the ball and break out offensively. He finished sixth in the Appalachian League in batting (.318), fifth in on-base percentage (.388) and even fourth in slugging (.514). He has a solid swing from both sides of the plate and makes solid contact. With his physical maturation, Polanco got too tight and lost a step. He's now a fringy runner and his range is just adequate at shortstop--where he made four errors in 14 starts--leaving him better suited for second base. Minnesota likes his grinder attitude and makeup. After batting ninth most of the year for Elizabethton, Polanco has raised expectations. With a good spring, he should earn the everyday second-base job at Cedar Rapids for 2013.
A two-way player at Rice, the switch-hitting Chargois hit .308 for the Owls but lacked the power at the plate that he provides on the mound. He blossomed as a closer in the Cape Cod League in 2011 after throwing just seven innings as a sophomore that spring. He's still fairly new to pitching and has a fresh arm after working just 72 innings in three seasons at Rice. Signed for $712,600 as a second-round pick in June, Chargois can run his fastball as high as 97 mph with explosive sink at times. At others, his velocity will back up into the low 90s. His arm got a little tender during Elizabethton's run to the Appalachian League title, though he returned for five scoreless playoff innings while sitting at 94-95 mph with his heater. Chargois' hard breaking ball, alternately described as a curveball and a slider, is similarly inconsistent but earns plus-plus grades from some Twins scouts. It's a low-80s hybrid with depth and power. His arm action and high-effort delivery, as well as his overall inexperience as a pitcher, make it unlikely that Minnesota will try to shift him to starting. Instead, he could jump to high Class A as a reliever and get on the fast track if he stays healthy.
Minnesota expected more from its 2011 first-round pick than 20 extra-base hits, and it hopes for more return on its $1.175 million investment in Michael in the future. Assigning him to high Class A for his pro debut last year was a surprise on multiple levels: Michael enrolled at North Carolina a semester early and was just 20 when drafted, and injuries to his lower half prompted him to struggle as a North Carolina junior and fall to the 30th overall selection. His injuries to his groin and, according to the Twins, virtually every joint below his waist kept him from playing even in instructional league in 2011, making it even more curious that the traditionally patient organization pushed him. Michael's polished plate approach and defensive ability prompted the decision, and his .339 on-base percentage exceeded the Florida State League average. However, he lacked the burst he'd shown when healthy in college--in his swing, on the bases and on his throws. Scouts consistently commented that Michael didn't stand out physically, and the Twins agree. In the past, Michael was a plus runner with the arm and range for shortstop and pop from both sides of the plate. He looked better after taking a couple of weeks off and getting back in action in instructional league, where club officials say he ran and threw better than he had since signing. If Michael doesn't hit, though, he'll be relegated to a ceiling as a utilityman. He figures to return to Fort Myers in 2013.
The 50th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Harrison signed late for $1.05 million and made his pro debut last summer at Elizabethton. Taken for his bat, he finished eighth in the Appalachian League in hitting (.301) and settled in as a consistent complement to college-drafted sluggers Adam Brett Walker and D.J. Hicks. Harrison has a strong upper body to go with natural rhythm and hitting. His swing is more line-drive oriented now, but he should tap into his plus raw power as he learns his strike zone. He has started using the whole field more after being too pull-conscious as an amateur. Harrison improved greatly at third base last season, shortening his arm stroke to have a consistently average, accurate arm. He isn't the most graceful athlete and lacks ideal first-step or lateral quickness, so his footwork never will be a plus. Some scouts think he'll hit enough for his defense at third to be playable. He's a fringy runner who could wind up in left field or first base. Harrison has to produce at the plate to make an impact. He'll head to Cedar Rapids in 2013.
The system's lone true prospect behind the plate, Herrmann had a career-best season at Double-A in 2012, ranking third in the Eastern League in runs (91) and reaching double figures in homers for the first time. He got his first big league promotion in September and recorded his first big league hit off Cody Eppley. Herrmann has become the system's best defensive catcher through hard work. He's a good athlete for a catcher and has a loose arm with solid arm strength. He has quickened his release and led the EL by throwing out 44 percent of basestealers. He's agile and does a good job of staying low behind the plate. Herrmann's power has improved as he continues to learn when to take advantage of pitches in his hitting zone, rather than just trying to work walks. When he's not ahead in the count, he generally employs a contact-oriented swing that serves him well against lefthanders, whom he hit at a .325/.396/.415 clip in Double-A. He's an average runner who can fill in on the infield and outfield corners. That's useful considering Joe Mauer's presence in Minnesota. Herrmann figures to be the regular catcher at Rochester this season, and he could settle in as Mauer's backup/caddy as the Twins try to keep their star's legs fresh.
Benson has been on this list every year since being drafted in the second round in 2006, twice ranking No. 2 overall. He seemed to put it all together in 2011, posting an .883 OPS in Double-A and earning his first big league promotion. His 2012 was a disaster, however, beginning with a .179 start in Triple-A. After a demotion, he missed six weeks with broken hamate bone in his left hand, and he was in a 1-for-35 slump when he was shut down with a left knee injury in mid-August. He not only needed bone chips removed but also had cartilage damage, and knee surgery scrubbed him from the Arizona Fall League. Benson had injury issues in the past (fractured vertebra in 2008, broken right hand in 2009), but had stayed healthy the previous two seasons. A former Purdue football recruit, he remains one of the system's best athletes. He has plus speed and raw power, a cannon arm and the defensive chops to play center field. The problem is that he's not a pure hitter despite his fast hands. He never got into a rhythm in 2012, striking out in 29 percent of his at-bats--up from 22 percent the year before. Minnesota no longer is counting on Benson, and the system's outfield depth is catching up to him. With both Denard Span and Ben Revere traded in the offseason, Benson has his chance. His strong defense and a hot spring training could push him past the likes of Darin Mastroianni for the big league center-field job. Otherwise, he'll head back to Rochester to try to get back on track.
Hermsen's timing might get him to the big leagues, as the Twins are desperate for starters in the majors and he's coming off his best season. Signed for $650,000 as a 2008 sixth-rounder, he won the organization's minor league pitcher of the year award in 2012 after leading the system in innings (163) and ERA (2.88) with an Eastern League-best 1.6 walks per nine innings. His big frame makes him a durable workhorse, but despite his size he's no power pitcher. Instead, Hermsen works off his sinker and slider to get groundballs. His fastball velocity improved over the course of last season, from 85-89 mph early on to 88-90 mph with a high of 92. While the pitch has sink, it succeeds more because Hermsen locates it well and throws it with good downhill plane. His slider lacks depth and is more of a cutter at 83-85 mph. His sinking changeup has the potential to be an average pitch, though he tends to tip it off by slowing his arm speed. A high school quarterback, Hermsen nevertheless is a below-average athlete with a deliberate delivery that makes it tough to control the running game. Armed with good fastball command, he should start 2013 in the Triple-A rotation and could earn innings in Minnesota. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he has a ceiling of a fifth starter.
Mata lacked the pitch efficiency to last more than five innings in any of his starts at Elizabethton last summer, but he worked five scoreless innings on four occasions. He also turned in five strong innings in a playoff start and held Appalachian League hitters to a .171 average. Mata shows flashes of two average to plus pitches. He fastball usually sits at 88-92 mph and touches 94. His slurvy curveball, thrown with power in the upper 70s and reaching 80 mph at times, remains inconsistent. When he throws strikes with his fastball and curve, he dominates. He throws a changeup that also has its moments, though it's clearly a third pitch at this stage. Mata has good size and will need to work hard to maintain his fitness and master a consistent between-starts routine. He doesn't repeat his delivery enough and lacks maturity when calls don't go his way, helping lead to 5.7 walks per nine innings last year. He has the size and stuff to start but still is figuring out the command. Mata continued to get swings and misses pitching out of the bullpen in the Venezuelan League. He'll have to build off his strong winter to earn a rotation spot in low Class A this spring.
Among the legion of Twins relievers-turned-starters, Boer had the roughest 2012 season, giving up 173 hits and posting a 5.84 ERA. Minnesota challenged the former Oregon closer with a promotion to high Class A in May of his first full pro season. He promptly went 0-6, 11.22 in his first six starts at Fort Myers. He did finish with seven quality starts in his last 11 outings as he gradually adjusted to the better competition, the new role and the reduced quality of stuff that came with it. A Minnesota native, Boer has the size and arm action to start, as well as a four-pitch mix. His fastball tends to straighten out, which became a problem when he averaged 90-92 mph as a starter. He hit 95-96 regularly in relief, so he got away with less movement. Now he's working to add cut action and armside run to his fastball, which has tailing action. He has an average slider that touches 86 mph, and he throws a fringy changeup and get-me-over curveball. Boer's arm tended to drag last year as he rushed through his delivery, making his pitches flatter, but he did make late-season adjustments. His lack of a putaway pitch was evident in his 2012, though he did handle a starter's workload well and always can fall back on relieving. Despite his ugly numbers, he'll move up to Double-A in 2013.
Jones led his Madison (Wis.) JC team to the Division II Junior College World Series and was drafted in the 21st round by the White Sox in 2010 but headed to Louisiana State rather than turning pro. He missed a season-opening series as punishment for a misdemeanor shoplifting charge and never earned consistent rotation time, going 4-0, 5.21. The Twins still drafted him in the 11th round and paid him $105,000 because he had flashed a 95-96 mph fastball as a reliever. Jones continues to throw hard, working at 90-94 mph and touching 95 with his fastball, which has average life with cut and sink. It helped him lead Minnesota's minor league starters with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full pro season. His slider gives him another swing-and-miss pitch with depth at times; at others it's more of a hard cutter in the upper 80s. His curveball and changeup are just show-me pitches. His arm action has a stab in it that makes it hard for Jones to repeat his release point, and his lack of command leads to too many hitter's counts. He's headed for the Fort Myers rotation in 2013 but could move to the bullpen sooner rather than later.
Jorge entered 2010 as one of the top pitchers in the Dominican amateur market, and the Twins stuck with him even after his velocity dipped close to the July 2 signing date. They signed him the following February for $250,000. In his U.S. debut last year, he was the best pitching prospect on a Gulf Coast League Twins staff that led the league with a 2.75 ERA. That group also includes slender lefty Yorman Landa, strike-throwing Taiwan import Kuo Hua Lo and hard-throwing lefty Randy Rosario. Jorge showed off his advanced pitchability by going 23 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. His fastball currently ranges from 89-92 mph and touches 94. His curveball shows signs of becoming an average pitch, with some snap and downer action. His arm works well with an easy delivery. Jorge has room to add 30 or more pounds to his projectable frame, so he's far from a finished product. He'll advance to Elizabethon this year and make his full-season debut in 2014.
Wheeler's older brother Ryan was his teammate at Loyola Marymount and made his big league debut in 2012 with the Diamondbacks before being traded in November to the Rockies. Jason is quite different from his brother, as he's lefthanded and huge. After signing for $132,500 as a 2011 eighth-rounder, he led the Midwest League with 14 wins and the Twins system with 115 strikeouts in his pro debut last year. Wheeler pitches at 88-90 mph with his fastball, and uses his height and high three-quarters arm slot to pitch downhill and get early-count outs. He's hittable but gets his share of groundballs and generally keeps the ball in the park. He holds his velocity well and is exceptional at stopping the running game, with 16 of 28 basestealers caught on his watch in 2012. Wheeler's secondary stuff is nothing special. His changeup has sink and his cutter-type slider helps him give lefthanders a different look. He'll also drop in an early-count curveball that has its moments. Wheeler's durability and feel for pitching make him one of Minnesota' better starting pitching prospects, though he may not be more than a No. 5 starter. He could skip a level to Double-A this year.
Goodrum repeated the Appalachian League and saw his batting average drop 33 points in 2012, not what an organization wants to see from a prospect. However, every indicator other than batting average was positive for Goodrum, who moved from a second base/utility role in 2011 to an everyday shortstop job. While he has added 15 pounds since signing, Goodrum is still built like a young colt, long-legged and high-waisted. The added strength helped him drive the ball with more consistency last season. He doubled his home run total from 2011 and led the Appalachian League with eight triples and 38 walks. He has fast hands that work on both sides of the plate as well as in the field. Goodrum is an above-average runner whose first-step quickness gives him range in the middle infield. He also has plus arm strength and an energetic style of play. He remains unpolished defensively, though, thanks to inconsistent footwork and focus, and some scouts think he's headed for the outfield as his body fills out. Goodrum profiles as a utility infielder unless he develops more physically and adds power. He's slated to finally break through to full-season ball in 2013, his fourth pro season.
Salcedo remains one of the Twins' hardest workers, a slender righthander who keeps himself in excellent physical shape. He had a strong spring training and seemed ready to move back up this list. An avid runner, he finally added weight to his slender 6-foot-4 frame while also better incorporating his lower half into his delivery. His velocity spiked as a result, as his fastball touched 96 in the spring. However, Salcedo's arm apparently wasn't ready for the extra velocity and he had an injury-plagued season. He went on the disabled list in May with an elbow strain, and working his way back to the mound for only four more outings before tightness in his shoulder capsule ended his season. He didn't have surgery, but he still had trouble getting loose and remained in rehab mode throughout instructional league. When healthy, Salcedo pounds the strike zone with a fastball that usually sits at 90-93 mph and two inconsistent breaking balls, a slider and a curveball he struggles to separate. His fastball and solid changeup both feature sink. A healthy Salcedo would be a boon to Minnesota's thin pitching ranks, though the team opted not to protect him on its 40-man roster this offseason.
Tonkin's sister is married to former Twins outfielder Jason Kubel, now with the Diamondbacks. Signed for $230,000 as a 30th-round pick in 2008, Tonkin seemed like a longshot to ever join Kubel in the majors until he finally found his footing in a full-time relief role last year. He led the system's relievers in strikeout rate (12.6 per nine innings), picking up 12 saves while finally getting out of low Class A, where he spent parts of three seasons. His development landed him a spot on Minnesota's 40-man roster. Tonkin uses a three-quarters arm slot and generates one of the system's hardest fastballs, working at 91-94 mph, hitting 96 regularly and touching 97 in the Midwest League all-star game. He has a strong body with some effort in his delivery, though some scouts said improved direction to the plate was what helped him take off. His solid slider has power in the low 80s and made significant improvement as well in 2012. For Tonkin to become a big league closer or set-up man, he'll have to make his slider more of a swing-and-miss pitch in the strike zone, not just a chase pitch. He continued to throw well in the Arizona Fall League as well and could move quickly now that he's found confidence. He'll start 2013 in Double-A.
Led by area scout Hector Otero, the Twins have been one of the most active organizations in Puerto Rico in recent years. The club didn't retain Otero after the season, though several of his signees (Eddie Rosario, Chris Herrman and Vargas) made real progress in 2012. Vargas was a 215-pound third baseman when Otero worked him out and the Twins signed him in February 2009 as a nondrafted free agent. Vargas has grown significantly since then--and not in a positive way. He tipped the scales at a massive 272 pounds in instructional league. His calling card is power and he clubbed 11 homers in just 41 games in low Class A last year, including a monster shot over the batter's eye in Cedar Rapids. He has a surprising feel for the barrel as well. Besides his weight, pitch recognition stemming from his lack of experience is his biggest obstacle to overcome as a hitter. Vargas was suspended for 50 games late in 2011 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, which may have been related to a weight-loss product. Because he was busted in the Appalachian League, he had to wait for Appy League season to start before his suspension clock restarted in 2012. He has arm strength, but he's a well below-average runner and defender at first base. He played a game at third base to give Miguel Sano a breather last summer, and Vargas may return there if he drops some pounds. If he can trim up and stay on the field, he could have a breakout season in high Class A.
Like many of the Twins' pitching prospects, Summers was a college closer, helping UC Irvine get within an out of the 2010 College World Series. He moved to the rotation as a junior in 2011, returned to the bullpen after signing for $171,900 as a fourth-round pick that summer, then started again in his first full pro season. In the system, only 2012 draftee Mason Melotakis rivals Summers' unconventionally short arm action. He worked with a 92-95 mph fastball that touched 98 as a college closer, but he pitched with an average 90 mph fastball as a pro. It still gets outs because he has a knack for throwing strikes low and away to righthanders. He also throws a slider, curveball and changeup. His low-80s slider has the best chance to give him a plus secondary pitch, though his changeup has its moments as well. When Summers is on, he generates a lot of weak contact. He grinded his way to high Class A by the end of 2012 despite not having a consistent above-average offering. His arm action and high-effort delivery have most scouts convinced he'll wind up back in the bullpen, but he'll begin 2013 back in the Fort Myers rotation.
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