Top Ten Prospects: Minnesota Twins
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Mike Berardino
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.
Losing top relievers Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins to free agency after 2003 wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to Minnesota. While Guardado broke down with the Mariners and Hawkins was inconsistent with the Cubs, the Twins replaced them with trade acquisition Joe Nathan and, later in the year, homegrown set-up man Jesse Crain. What’s more, the four draft picks received as compensation enabled scouting director Mike Radcliff to piece together the best draft in the game in June. With five picks in the top 39 slots and seven in the top 91, Radcliff stocked up on young pitching. High school shortstop Trevor Plouffe got things started at No. 20, but the Twins filled in behind him with a pair of college arms (Glen Perkins, Matt Fox) and four impressive prep pitchers (Kyle Waldrop, Jay Rainville, Anthony Swarzak, Eduardo Morlan). The combined outlay for the seven picks was $6.745 million, with Plouffe earning the highest bonus at $1.5 million.
The Twins managed to break in several key rookies in 2004, although budding superstar Joe Mauer missed the bulk of the year following early-season knee surgery. Mauer, rated Minnesota’s top prospect for the fourth straight winter, is expected to reclaim the starting catching job in 2005. Other products of the farm system who contributed to a franchise-best third consecutive postseason appearance included first baseman Justin Morneau, outfielders Lew Ford and Jason Kubel, third baseman Terry Tiffie, and relievers Grant Balfour and Crain.
While the budget-conscious Twins experience roster turnover every year, front-office stability is a hallmark of the organization. General manager Terry Ryan is entering his 11th season running the baseball side of things and has been in the organization since 1986. Farm director Jim Rantz has been with the franchise since it moved to Minnesota in 1961 and has overseen the farm system since 1986. Radcliff is entering his 18th year with the Twins and his 12th as scouting director.
The system’s greatest strength is its pitching depth, which dovetails with the big league club’s greatest need. In August, 29 Twins farmhands averaged 90 mph or better with their fastballs. At a time when their competitors were wearing down or landing on the shelf, most of Minnesota’s pitchers were getting stronger. Not that velocity is emphasized, however. Twins scouts are more interested in finding well-rounded pitchers who can command multiple offerings.
Minnesota affiliates had a combined .502 winning percentage in 2004. The system has endured just one losing season (1999) in the past 13 years and just two losing campaigns since 1987.
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