Thursday, February 10, 2011

NTB Top 10 Prospects: 2011

It's time for this year's preseason ranking of the top ten prospects in the Twins' system. Over the course of the season, I'll be checking in on the progress of this group, which represents the cream of the crop in the Twins organization and -- hopefully -- the bright future of the franchise.

Listed below are my 2011 Top 10 Prospects, with the level they finished last season and their ranking on last year's list. You can find the 2010 Top 10 list here and the 2009 list here.

10. Carlos Gutierrez, RP | Class-AAA Rochester (9)
The Twins are still apparently trying to figure out whether Gutierrez is a starter or a reliever. He spent the bulk of his season in New Britain last year, where he made 32 appearances -- exactly half of them starts. Late in the season, he moved up to Rochester and made a pair of relief appearances. A big right-hander with a heavy sinker, Gutierrez could work his way into the big-league bullpen mix this year but he needs to find a way to cut down on base runners; in 178 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, he's allowed 203 hits and 76 walks.

9. Liam Hendriks, SP | Class-A+ Ft. Myers (NR)
One of only two new names to appear on this list, Hendriks placed himself firmly on the prospect map with a stellar season between Low-A and High-A in 2010, going 8-4 with a 1.74 ERA and 105-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 108 2/3 innings spread across the two levels. The 21-year-old Australian native has allowed only seven home runs in 236 professional innings, but his true test will come when he faces Double-A and Triple-A batters.

8. Angel Morales, OF | Class-A+ Ft. Myers (5)
Morales slid three spots this year after a solid season split between Beloit and Ft. Myers, which is more a testament to the strength of the players above him on this list than an indictment of his own progression. The athletic outfielder posted an outstanding .362 OBP, but saw his power -- which had been one of his most intriguing strengths -- take a severe downturn, especially after moving up to Ft. Myers, where he managed just one home run and a .349 slugging percentage in 301 plate appearances.

7. Alex Wimmers, SP | Class-A+ Ft. Myers (NR)
The first-round pick from last June's draft has the looks of another success story for the Twins scouting department. Selected with the 21st pick out of (THE) Ohio State University, Wimmers signed in time to make four late-season starts and allowed just one earned run in 15 2/3 innings while notching 23 strikeouts. We'll need to see more of the 22-year-old right-hander before crowning him a top prospect, but he shows the early signs of a guy who could be on the fast track.

6. David Bromberg, SP | Class-AAA Rochester (8)

Bromberg rose through the low minors with surprisingly strong results despite his middling command and fastball velocity. Last year, he got his first shot at the upper levels and performed well, turning in a 3.75 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 112-to-48 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 151 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Most encouraging were his career-low walk rate (2.9 BB/9IP) and his improved peripherals after jumping from New Britain to Rochester. He lacks huge upside, but has a big curveball and profiles as a better version of Jeff Manship.

5. Joe Benson, OF | Class-AA New Britain (10)
Last year, when I ranked Benson as the organization's 10th-best prospect, I concluded my write-up by stating that he'd "need to ramp up his power in order to transform into a legitimate big-league prospect." In his age 22 season, Benson did just that, shattering previous career highs in home runs (27, previous best was five) and slugging percentage (.538, previous best was .428). As a result, he shoots up my list by five slots. Benson is a tremendous athlete and an asset in the outfield, so if he can improve his plate discipline and raise his batting average, he'll have a serious shot at an MLB job in 2012.

4. Ben Revere, OF | Class-AA New Britain (4)

If we were ranking the players on this list by how soon they're likely to make an impact for the Twins, Revere would sit right at the top. He already gotten his first taste of The Show as a September call-up last year, and he's clearly well liked by the coaching staff. Also, as one of the fastest players in all the minors, he fits with the organization's stated plan of adding speed to the roster. Revere's line in Double-A last year (.305/.371/.363) was remarkably similar to his line in Single-A the year before (.311/.372/.369) so it seems safe to say he'll settle in as that type of player in the majors. The power might never come, but if he can keep getting on base at a solid clip while covering lots of ground in the outfield, he'll be a valuable big-leaguer.

3. Miguel Sano, SS | Rookie-level GCL Twins (5)
He ranked fifth on this list last year despite not having a single professional game under his belt, and he showed why during the ensuing season while splitting time between two rookie leagues -- the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League. In 61 games, Sano hit .307/.379/.491 with seven homers and 29 RBI. He struck out in a quarter of his trips to the plate and was very raw in the field -- committing 22 errors -- but Sano is still (ostensibly) only 17 years old and his offensive upside is massive.

2. Aaron Hicks, OF | Class-A Beloit (1)
In each of the first two seasons that I published my own top 10 lists for Twins prospects, Hicks ranked No. 1. This year, he finally relinquishes his crown. It's not that I'm down on the 2008 first-round draft pick, but a .279/.401/.428 line in his second season against Low-A competition just isn't quite enough for him to maintain that status. Hicks still has all the tools to be a superstar, but he'll need to turn in the kind of production that reflects those tools in order to vault back to the top of this list.

1. Kyle Gibson, SP | Class-AAA (2)
Gibson didn't throw a single pitch after being drafted in '09, but still ranked second on this list a year ago. His spectacular debut in the Twins organization was enough to move him up to the top spot. After opening the 2010 season in Single-A, Gibson dominated his way through three levels, closing out the year in Rochester. Overall, the 22-year-old right-hander went 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA and 126-to-39 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first exposure against professional hitters, yielding only seven home runs in 152 innings. His outstanding ground ball rate should protect him even if his strikeouts don't immediately translate to the bigs. Gibson is MLB-ready and should be the first guy called upon this year if a starter goes down.


Anonymous said...

I think it's hard call to rank Kyle Gibson ahead of Aaron Hicks and Miguel Sano? The two have WAY more upside than Gibson and have shown no reason to think they won't be stars (especially Hicks.) They are very young while Gibson has been through the College ranks. Gibson projects as a #2 or #3 starter. His K rate is good but not great. I'm excited that the Twins have him as a prospect but he doesn't compare to Hicks or Sano. Those are guys teams would be taking a hard look at in any deal. I'm not sure how David Bromberg could even make the top 10 at all. The guy is putting up average numbers in the minors and a decent K rate. I doubt he projects anymore than a 5th starter at this point. Hardly the 6th rated prospect. I don't know about Carlos Gutierrez either but at least he is 10th on the list. Oswaldo Arcia is a top 10 prospect for the Twins and so is Billy Bullock and Adrian Salcedo. Bullock, Hendricks, Salcedo, Wimmers, Revere, Benson, Arcia, Gibson, Sano & Hicks. Morales probably isn't even in the conversation for outfielders for the Twins now with the glut of potential talent on the horizon.

Nick N. said...

Sean, when ranking prospects, people balance results and upside differently. It sounds to me like you weigh upside more heavily than I do, which doesn't mean you're wrong -- it just means you see things differently.

I love the potential of Hicks and Sano (that's why they're ranked 2 and 3, hardly a slight) but they'll need to transfer their tools into dominant on-field performance before I can truly get excited. Hicks' .830 OPS in Low-A was good, especially for someone his age, but it was his second year there and he's still not showing much power. Also not an efficient base-stealer. Sano struck out one out of every four trips to the plate and was very rough in the field.

These guys could both easily be stars. But it's important to remember that they're both still a long ways away, and a lot toolsy young prospects like that end up fizzling out (Carlos Gomez is a good recent example).

Gibson looks to me like a can't-miss prospect right now. You criticize his K-rate, but he's not necessarily a strikeout pitcher. I'd compare him more to Tim Hudson, who excels by producing ground balls.

Anonymous said...

Liriano for michael young. Then with young as our SS of the future we can trade sano for some relief pitching, preferably with closer experience. That move may hurt our farm system some but the team wont miss sano or liriano when they are getting fitted for world series rings. Its time to go all in.

Anonymous said...

Young as a future SS? He is 34 years old. He might produce the way he has for two maybe three years before he has a drastic drop off in production. Also trading Liriano while in a pennant race is a bad idea. He is the closest thing the Twins have to an ace. If the front office can't afford to keep him around AND the Twins are out of the race before the deadline I understand trading him. But not for a guy like Young. Like I already said he is 34 and a drop off in production can almost certainly be predicted. If you are going to trade a stud like Liriano you want to get some really good young talent in return. If the Twins are still in the hunt, and I hope they are they would be wise to keep him for the next two years and hope for type A compensation.

Seath Crandall said...

I agree with the top post saying that Oswaldo Arcia deserves at least a top 10 spot. He destroyed the rookie league with big power (16 HR in only 259 AB) and high avg (.375). One would argue that he probably cant keep the avg up while climbing up the ladder but at least the power should still be real. A true power prospect is a rare sight for the twins organization and should be ranked somewhere in the top 5

Anonymous said...

Gibson is MLB-ready and should be the first guy called upon this year if a starter goes down.

Well, right now there are 6 starters, so if someone is injured I'm guessing the spot would go to the 6th guy.

After that, Gibson isn't even on the 40 man roster - there are probably a few guys in line ahead of him. I suspect several things will have to go right (or wrong) for Gibson to spend significant time in the majors this year.