Minnesota Twins: Top 10 Prospects

Minnesota Twins

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, 2009.

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1. Aaron Hicks, of

2. Ben Revere, of

3. Wilson Ramos, c

4. Jose Mijares, lhp

5. Danny Valencia, 3b

6. Anthony Swarzak, rhp

7. Shooter Hunt, rhp

8. Kevin Mulvey, rhp

9. Carlos Gutierrez, rhp

10. Angel Morales, of

Best Hitter for Average Ben Revere
Best Power Hitter Chris Parmelee
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Aaron Hicks
Fastest Baserunner Ben Revere
Best Athlete Aaron Hicks
Best Fastball Carlos Gutierrez
Best Curveball Shooter Hunt
Best Slider Bobby Lanigan
Best Changeup Deolis Guerra
Best Control Bradley Tippett
Best Defensive Catcher Wilson Ramos
Best Defensive Infielder Matt Tolbert
Best Infield Arm Yancarlos Ortiz
Best Defensive Outfielder Aaron Hicks
Best Outfield Arm Aaron Hicks
Catcher Joe Mauer
First Base Justin Morneau
Second Base Alexi Casilla
Third Base Danny Valencia
Shortstop Trevor Plouffe
Left Field Ben Revere
Center Field Aaron Hicks
Right Field Delmon Young
Designated Hitter Jason Kubel
No. 1 Starter Francisco Liriano
No. 2 Starter Scott Baker
No. 3 Starter Kevin Slowey
No. 4 Starter Nick Blackburn
No. 5 Starter Glen Perkins
Closer Joe Nathan
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 Michael Cuddyer, 3b
2000 Michael Cuddyer, 3b
2001 Adam Johnson, rhp
So. Maryland (Atlantic)
2002 Joe Mauer, c
2003 Joe Mauer, c
2004 Joe Mauer, c
2005 Joe Mauer, c
2006 Francisco Liriano, lhp
2007 Matt Garza, rhp
2008 Nick Blackburn, rhp
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 B.J. Garbe, of Out of baseball
2000 Adam Johnson, rhp
So. Maryland (Atlantic)
2001 Joe Mauer, c
2002 Denard Span, of
2003 Matt Moses, 3b
2004 Trevor Plouffe, ss
2005 Matt Garza, rhp
2006 Chris Parmelee, of/1b
2007 Ben Revere, of
2008 Aaron Hicks, of
Joe Mauer, 2001 $5,150,000
B.J. Garbe, 1999 $2,750,000
Adam Johnson, 2000 $2,500,000
Ryan Mills, 1998 $2,000,000
Michael Cuddyer, 1997 $1,850,000
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Minnesota Twins

To improve by nine victories from 2007 to 2008, the Twins followed a simple formula: They traded arguably baseball's best pitcher for little immediate return, and dealt a defensive whiz at shortstop and a developing ace for a league-average outfielder, reserve infielder and Triple-A outfielder. They lost their perennial Gold Glove center fielder, who's also a consistent power threat, and signed a raft of low-level free agents who didn't pan out.

Longtime general manager Terry Ryan stepped down in September 2007 and admitted last fall that he was leaving successor Bill Smith a mess. Impending free agent Johan Santana angled for a trade and Smith obliged, dealing him to the Mets for raw outfielder Carlos Gomez and three pitchers who didn't live up to expectations in 2008.

Smith was aggressive in his first season as GM, also pulling the trigger on the six-player deal that brought Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie from the Rays but cost Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza and minor league righthander Eduardo Morlan. Tampa Bay writers voted Bartlett the Rays' MVP while Garza was MVP of the American League Championship Series.

Yet somehow it worked. Once again, the Twins turned to their farm system and the system came through. Denard Span, a 2002 first-round pick who hit seven home runs in his minor league career entering 2008, hit six after his promotion to Minnesota and was the team's third-best offensive player, after MVP candidates Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

The system also allowed Minnesota to replace Santana, Garza and free agent Carlos Silva with rookies Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano, who returned from Tommy John surgery. Blackburn, No. 1 on this list last year, led the Twins in starts and innings while going 11-11, 4.05 and taking a tough 1-0 loss in the regular-season playoff with the White Sox. Perkins, No. 2 two years ago, tied Kevin Slowey (who was in his second year) for the team lead with 12 victories.

The success of the young, homegrown rotation—Scott Baker is the oldest member at 27—was a testament to the harmonious relationship between the Twins' scouting and player-development operations, and also to roving pitching coordinator Rick Knapp. After 13 years with Minnesota, Knapp left to become the Tigers' big league pitching coach, with 18-year organizational veteran Eric Rasmussen tabbed to replace him.

The Twins finished 88-75, falling a game short of winning the AL Central for the fifth time in seven years. Mauer, Morneau and Joe Nathan provide Minnesota a trio of superstars to build around, and the system keeps supplying cheap, complementary parts to fill out a competitive roster. The Twins keep finding talent despite rarely picking in the top half of the first round—their 14th overall pick in 2008 was their highest since they took Mauer No. 1 overall in 2001.

Mike Radcliff, Minnesota's scouting director for 14 years, ascended to player personnel director in 2008, and former crosschecker Deron Johnson ran the Twins' draft for the first time, with Radcliff's input. Johnson's initial effort started with toolsy outfielder Aaron Hicks—a first-round talent as both a hitter and a pitcher—and a pair of college righthanders, Carlos Gutierrez and Shooter Hunt. All three made this Top 10 list.

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