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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, 2006.
Their three-year run atop the American League Central came to an end in 2005, but the Twins continued to position themselves as modest-budget contenders for years to come.
The ever-thriving farm system pushed several contributors to the big league team, including Joe Mauer, Jesse Crain, Francisco Liriano, Jason Bartlett and Scott Baker—half of last year's Top 10 Prospects list. Minnesota also replenished the system at the back end with another strong draft under scouting director Mike Radcliff.
Thanks to the free-agent defections of Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman and Henry Blanco, the Twins owned seven picks in the first three rounds. They spent a total of $4.615 million to sign those picks, which began with hard-throwing Fresno State righthander Matt Garza. They also added high school slugger Henry Sanchez, toolsy prep infielders Paul Kelly and Drew Thompson, polished righthander Kevin Slowey and college lefties Brian Duensing and Ryan Mullins.
Garza was the only 2005 draftee to make the top 10 list this time, but that was a testament to the depth of the organization as well its 2004 draft, which featured five picks before the second round.
Stability remains a Twins hallmark. General manager Terry Ryan signed with the Twins as a high school pitcher, has been in the front office since 1986 and enters his 12th season running the baseball operation. Farm director Jim Rantz has been with the franchise since signing with the then-Washington Senators after winning the final game of the 1960 College World Series. He moved into the front office in 1965 and has been in charge of the farm system since 1986. Radcliff joined the Twins as an area scout in 1987 and became scouting director in 1994.
Assistant GMs Bill Smith and Wayne Krivsky and director of baseball operations Rob Antony all have been with Minnesota for more than a decade. Minnesota's continuity extends to field operations as well, as minor league hitting coordinator and Jim Dwyer and pitching coordinator Rich Knapp enter their 10th year in their jobs.
Having such continuity makes it easier to implement a unified philosophy. The Twins place a strong emphasis on developing young pitching, and no fewer than 30 of their pitching prospects averaged 90 mph of better with their fastballs in 2005. Baker won the ERA title in the Triple-A International League, Kyle Aselton did the same in the low Class A Midwest League, and Adam Hawes (Appalachian) and Kyle Edlich (Gulf Coast) captured ERA crowns while making their pro debuts in Rookie ball. The farm system has posted only one losing season (1999) in the past 13 years and just two losing seasons since 1987.
Besides developing their own talent, the Twins have an eye for grabbing it from other organizations. Most famously, they got ace Johan Santana by orchestrating a 1999 Rule 5 draft trade with the Marlins. Top prospect Francisco Liriano was considered the third-best player in the November 2003 A.J. Pierzynski deal with the Giants, in which Minnesota also stole closer Joe Nathan.
Regulars Bartlett (from the Padres for Brian Buchanan) and Lew Ford
(from the Red Sox for Hector Carrasco) arrived in transactions that
received little attention at the time. Matt Guerrier, who played a key
bullpen role last year, was claimed off waivers from the Pirates.
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