Friday, September 09, 2011

Final 2011 Prospect Rundown

The seasons for all of the Twins' minor-league affiliates have drawn a close, so this seems an appropriate time to take a final look at how the players I ranked as my top ten prospects in the organization fared here in 2011.

Much like with the big-league club, you'll find that this list is riddled with setbacks and major injuries. It seems no one in the organization can escape the voodoo hex that has befallen the Twins.

10. Carlos Gutierrez, RP
2011 Stats (AAA): 62.1 IP, 4.62 ERA, 57/31 K/BB, 1.46 WHIP

One thing is clear: the Twins have settled on Gutierrez's role. After making almost half of his appearances last year as a starter, the righty pitched exclusively in relief for the Red Wings. His strikeout rate of 8.2 K/9 was by far the highest of his career -- a promising sign for the sinker baller -- but his results were truly ugly after returning from an arm injury that cost him all of July, as he allowed 11 runs on 18 hits and six walks over 13 2/3 innings between August and September.

Having seen Gutierrez pitch live a few times, I'm definitely a believer in his talent and expect him to be an impact arm in the Twins' bullpen in the coming years.

9. Liam Hendriks, SP
2011 Stats (AA/AAA): 139.1 IP, 3.36 ERA, 111/21 K/BB, 1.13 WHIP

Hendriks sneaked onto this list with a spectacular 2010 campaign and then backed it up here in 2011, assuring that he'll rise several slots next year. The Australian right-hander demolished Double-A, posting a 2.70 ERA and 81/18 K/BB ratio in 90 innings, before holding his own in Rochester and earning a September call-up to the big leagues.

Despite his dazzling numbers in Single-A and Double-A, the 22-year-old profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter in the majors, falling into the Twins' mold as a prolific strike-thrower with marginal stuff. With that being said, he's clearly established himself as the organization's top MLB-ready pitching prospect.

8. Angel Morales, OF
2011 Stats (A+): .264/.326/.388, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 17 R, 3/5 SB

Morales hurt his right elbow while playing ball in Puerto Rico last winter, and the injury kept him off the field for much of the 2011 campaign. At one point, it seemed likely that the outfielder would be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, but doctors elected instead for a minor surgery in June to remove bone chips.

He returned to the Miracle in late July and played in 33 games, posting the numbers you see above over 138 plate appearances. His strikeout rate rose to a career-high 26 percent, raising concern over what may be a crippling deficiency in his offensive game. All in all, this sadly looks like a lost year for Morales, who will probably open in Fort Myers once again in 2012.

The Twins need to add Morales to the 40-man roster this offseason in order to protect him from the Rule V draft. It will be interesting to see if they choose to take that step.

7. Alex Wimmers, SP
2011 Stats (A+): 40.2 IP, 4.20 ERA, 39/22 K/BB, 1.23 WHIP

The Twins' first-round draft pick a year ago, Wimmers started his season on a depressing low note, walking all six batters he faced in his first start for the Miracle after dominating in a short stint at the same level a year ago. Twins fans groaned as they recalled the case of Shooter Hunt, who burst onto the scene after being drafted before completely losing the ability to throw strikes.

However, to his credit, Wimmers went to extended spring training, worked with his coaches and got back on track, returning to the Miracle in July and posting much better numbers the rest of the way while splitting time between the bullpen and rotation. In July, August and September, the 22-year-old righty posted a 3.32 ERA and 39/16 K/BB ratio over 40 2/3 innings. He still struggled with walks from time to time so he's not out of the woods yet, but Wimmers is poised for a big season in 2012 if he can keep the control demons at bay.

6. David Bromberg, SP
2011 Stats (AA): 37 IP, 6.08 ERA, 23/15 K/BB, 1.75 WHIP

After a solid stint in Rochester to close out his 2010 campaign, Bromberg seemed ready to step up to the majors if the Twins needed help this season. Instead, he opened the season back in New Britain and was hit by a comebacker in early May that fractured his arm. He'd miss significant time and make only four more starts for the Rock Cats, turning in a 9.82 ERA and 12-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 14 2/3 innings while allowing a .406 batting average.

Bromberg, who turns 24 in a week, will enter next season with much to prove after a ruined 2011.

5. Joe Benson, OF
2011 Stats (AA): 285/.388/.495, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 69 R, 13/22 SB

Benson's season stands out as one of the true bright spots on this list. Although he spent most of his time at Double-A for a second consecutive year and continued to strike out at an alarming rate (109 times in 472 plate appearances), he raised his batting average by 30 points and his on-base percentage by 50. A year after blasting 27 homers between Fort Myers and New Britain, Benson went deep 16 times for the Rock Cats, including 11 in the second half.

He's very athletic and will almost certainly be a defensive asset, but Benson still has strides to make at the plate in order to become a true threat in the lineup.

4. Ben Revere, OF
2011 Stats (AAA): .303/.338/.364, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 15 R, 8/10 SB

After posting the pedestrian numbers shown above in 32 games for Rochester, Revere was called up to the Twins for good in mid-June and -- despite leaving much to be desired with his offensive performance -- he's been a mainstay in the lineup ever since. His game-changing speed and eye-popping defense seem to have ingratiated him with the coaching staff, putting him in position to claim a spot in next year's outfield.

He's been a drain this year with his .583 OPS, but if Revere can hit .300 he'll be a serviceable offensive player and a worthwhile starter. He hasn't shown that ability yet in Minnesota, but he's done it at every level of the minors. Plus. he has accumulated a lot of valuable major-league experience this year, and he's the same age as Benson and Chris Parmelee, who are just now getting their first taste.

3. Miguel Sano, 3B
2011 Stats (Adv Rk): .292/.352/.637, 20 HR, 59 RBI, 58 R, 5/9 SB

Sano posted those numbers in just 66 games. Projected to 162, that would work out to 49 home runs and 145 RBI. Granted, it's just rookie ball, but Sano is only 18 years old. He has his flaws, most notably in his plate discipline, but he appears to be the best power bat that has come through this organization in some time. Of course, he's still got a long way to go.

2. Aaron Hicks, OF
2011 Stats (A+): .242/.354/.368, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 79 R, 17/25 SB

He's a world class athlete, but so far on the field Hicks has only proven to be an enigma. While his ability to draw walks remains exciting (his 14.7 percent walk rate in Fort Myers this year would have led the Twins), his power still hasn't developed and he didn't exactly rake like you'd hope a 21-year-old top prospect in Single-A would. Hicks remains on track to reach Target Field in a few years, but his star is dimming with each unspectacular minor-league campaign.

1. Kyle Gibson, SP
2011 Stats (AAA): 95.1 IP, 4.81 ERA, 91/27 K/BB, 1.43 WHIP

After dazzling Twins coaches during spring training, Gibson picked up where he left off in 2010, performing well out of the gates for Rochester. As the season progressed, though, Gibson increasingly had difficulty lasting deep into games. He was shut down due to elbow soreness in late July, diagnosed with a torn ligament in early August, and placed under the knife for Tommy John surgery earlier this week.

Gibson, who at one point was almost certainly being figured into the Twins' 2012 rotation, will now miss the entire season. He'll hope to return in 2013 while facing fewer tribulations than recent local hurlers who have undergone the procedure.

Tough break for the kid. And for the Twins.


TheCaptain said...

The good news with all the call ups is that we have had the privilege to see Parmelee's girl every time he reaches base.

Ed Bast said...

So our top 4 starting pitching prospects are all RH finesse pitchers who "throw strikes". Wow, how exciting! Looks like we'll be able to continue our impressive streak of having the most #4 starters in one rotation for the next decade at least!

SethSpeaks said...

The Captain... she's actually his wife, not just girlfriend.

Great write-up, Nick! The injury bug was very frustrating this year all the way through the system. Fortunately, there are guys that were outside the top ten who performed very well. Guys like Eddie Rosario, Chris Parmelee, Trevor Plouffe, Yangervis Solarte, Brian Dozier, Deolis Guerra (in the bullpen), Michael Gonzales, Logan Darnell, and several others.

TheCaptain said...

Thanks Seth. I appreciate your takes and insight on Twins prospects.

NX said...

Eddie Rosario????? Hit .337 with 21 hr. 60 rbi with a 1.068 ops for Elizabethton this year. You'd think that would make this list somehow.

His last 10 games he hit .488 with with 6 homers and 16 rbi with only 7 strikeouts.

Ed Bast said...

Of all the problems this organization is faced with, they decide to fire the AAA coach. What a joke. The "Twins Way" is becoming embarrassing. Bill Smith needs to go right now - he's already run the franchise into the ground, one more offseason and he could bury it for a decade.

Totally classless move by a totally classless front office.

Nick N. said...

Eddie Rosario????? Hit .337 with 21 hr. 60 rbi with a 1.068 ops for Elizabethton this year. You'd think that would make this list somehow.

This list was put together in February, at which point Rosario had done very little to establish himself. There's a very good chance you'll find him on next year's preseason list.

Brent said...

Ed Bast

Should the Twins have kept Nieto?

I don't understand logic from some people. If we keep someone we are gutless, if we fire them we are classless. If this is the only move the Twins make all offseason than maybe you have a point, but calm down turnover happens all the time in the Minor leagues.

Ed Bast said...

On the list of people the Twins need to let go, Nieto is way, way, way down there. But you're right, if this merely the first domino, it's a different story. Because the organization, and particularly the minor league/developmental/scouting facets, needs a major overhaul.

Still, with the poor roster construction of the front office, poor drafting, miserable scouting, awful training staff, an MLB manager that will lose 90 games, etc. - it looks a lot to me like the front office is passing the blame.

alex said...

Ed Bast, I know it has been said before, but seriously, find a new team to follow. The Twins clearly just make you unhappy. I hear the Yankees and the Phillies are pretty good. Maybe there's less to complain about if you decide to follow them. Should save you some stress at least.

Matt said...

Still, with the poor roster construction of the front office, poor drafting, miserable scouting, awful training staff, an MLB manager that will lose 90 games, etc. - it looks a lot to me like the front office is passing the blame.

Even though I'd likely choose less severe adjectives to describe the various front office operational objectives, I agree that canning Nieto probably is passing the blame to some extent.
If several other moves are made, though, I'll be happy in that at the very very least, they're trying to shake things up. They're desperately in need of some shakes.

Anonymous said...

Ed your loyalty to Nieto seems a bit misplaced. After watching this parade of minor leaguers have issue after issue with baseball fundamentals you would think an eagerness to see change might be the appropriate attitude. Also, it does sound like an organizational shakeup is on the way...I would seriously doubt that letting Nieto and his hitting coach go are going to be the only changes this offseason. I wouldn't be surprised if we see Paul Molitor playing a much more significant role next year.

I also agree with Alex...get yourself a new team. If you really believe they are a gutless, classless organization it seems funny that you are not only following a Twins blog but are also posting messages.

It's quite convenient that your savagery of the 'Twins Way' comes in the worst and most injury-plagued season of the past decade. This is a franchise that has won the division 6 times in the last ten years, often with an inadequate payroll....I'm sure the likes of Kansas City, Seattle, Toronto, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Houston, Washington, San Diego, etc. would like to be that classless. Are there things the Twins need to change? Yes, that is obvious....and I'd bet obvious enough even for such a classless organization.

By the way...if the Twins are classless what teams are classy? The Yankees and Red Sox and the way they throw obscene amounts of money at players...or maybe it's the Dodgers who had trouble making payroll...or the annual chaos of both Chicago teams and the Mets...or the perpetually rebuilding Royals. Coaches and managers get fired all of the time...part of baseball, part of sports...get over it.

Anonymous said...

Ed Bast...

Tom Nieto? You are not sticking up for Tom Nieto? He compiled a record of 102-186...that is a winning percentage of .354, plus what AAA player was anywhere near MLB ready when they were called up?

'These changes in Rochester are just part of an overall directional change that is being implemented throughout the minor league system this off-season,' Jim Rantz, Minnesota Twins Director or Minor League Operations. Sounds more like more dominos are going to fall than just Nieto and Rayford.

Ed Bast said...

I'm not a Nieto bobo. Like I said before, if this is the first step in a shakeup, good. According to Twins shill Joe C in today's Strib, a shakeup is not forthcoming. We'll see. I just don't trust this front office to honestly evaluate the problems facing the organization.

To the anons, I've been criticizing the Twins Way for a couple years. It's part of the problem around here: complacency, arrogance, etc. The Twins aren't special. They aren't a small market team. It's an outdated philosophy, time to hang it up.

I'm not sure why criticizing my favorite club is taken of a sign that I need to find another team. I love this club, but as I've said going back to last year, with a new stadium, teams in second-tier markets have a small window of time when they can legitimately compete with the big boys before things return to the mean - look at Seattle, Cleveland, etc. So 2010-2012, I figured, was the best opportunity I'd have as a fan to see another World Series run. It's difficult to see that opportunity swirl down the toilet due largely to this front office.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Sorry, didn't read all the comments...

Any chance there is a catcher waiting to come up and play well so we can stop worrying about where to Mauer (ie. any other than catcher)?

Matt said...

It's part of the problem around here: complacency, arrogance, etc.
They weren't always like that; I remember a time when they could call up a guy and get good service from him. This year when they called someone up they generally stunk.
I don't recall Terry Ryan's office as arrogant, it's when they started making money (before Target Field when the team was good again, revenues were way up) and paying players like the M&M big bucks that the arrogance set in.
And you can forget about the Pohlads doing anything about that. They just write the checks.

Marshall Garvey (MarshalltheIrish) said...

First, I've gotta say, in the time I've followed this blog, Ed generally puts the nail in the head most, especially in regards to organizational problems. I too am downright pissed about the decisions and attitudes of the front office, especially having waited a long time for a new stadium and time we were promised would yield a World Series. Now it looks like we're headed straight back to the rebuild-only mode of the 90's. That, as far as I'm concerned, is unacceptable.

With that being said, I think these firings are a good sign in any case. Considering how dogmatic the Twins are about sticking with people from within and how bad the results have gotten, this can only be a step up. But more has to happen for the whole organization to change. In the very least, I'd love to see Molitor hired as hitting coach, perhaps even Rod Carew at bench coach, in addition to pitching and roster depth upgrades.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand how you could have a top-ten list, even if you did it back in February without mentioning Oswaldo Arcia. Given the chance to fix this oversight, where would you rank Arcia in the organization's top prospects pecking order?

Nick N. said...

I do not understand how you could have a top-ten list, even if you did it back in February without mentioning Oswaldo Arcia. Given the chance to fix this oversight, where would you rank Arcia in the organization's top prospects pecking order?

I'm a bit skeptical these days of relatively unheralded prospects who have the one big breakout in Elizabethton (see: Rene Tosoni, Deibinson Romero, etc) but Arcia's successes in Beloit and Fort Myers this year have definitely established his legitimacy. He'll be on next year's list.