Now that the regular seasons of every minor-league affiliate have come to a close, it seems fitting to look back the this year's Top 10 and see how they all fared. Last year, this was a depressing exercise, as the vast majority of the organization's brightest prospects were plagued by injuries, performance issues, developmental setbacks, or all of the above.
This year, you'll find these season recaps (beyond the guys at the back end of the list) to be much, much more positive, which is a big reason that I'm feeling far better about the team's outlook than I was a year ago.
10. Brian Dozier, SS
AAA: 48 G, .232/.286/.337, 2 HR, 15 R 17 RBI, 3/5 SB
MLB: 84 G, .234/.271/.332, 6 HR, 33 R, 33 RBI, 9/11 SB
I was reluctant to include Dozier in my Top 10, as I wasn't blown away by his skills or by his solid numbers as a 24-year-old in Single-A and Double-A last year, but I plugged him at No. 10 largely because the Twins seemed so dang high on him. It looks like that was a mistake. After an ordinary start at Triple-A, the shortstop was surprisingly called up to the majors, where he played horribly for three months before being demoted back to Rochester and limping through the final weeks.
It's too soon to pass judgment after just half a season in the big leagues, but at the end of the day, Dozier is an unheralded 25-year-old who has posted a 138-to-58 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 210 games above Single-A despite the fact that plate discipline was supposedly one of his principal strengths. It was a disastrous season, and at this point he shouldn't be considered a realistic part of the club's future plans.
9. Alex Wimmers, SP
AA: 4.1 IP, 4.15 ERA, 4.15 ERA, 3/2 K/BB, 1.85 WHIP
Like Dozier, Wimmers had a rough season, although in this case health was the entire story. After shaking off extreme control issues and showing some promise late in the 2011 campaign, the former first-round pick made only one start in New Britain, rehabbed for a couple months, came back and tried to make one start in rookie ball (he lasted only six batters) and that was it. He underwent Tommy John surgery in August and won't be back in the picture until 2014. Yet another unfortunate break for the Twins' minor-league pitching corps.
8. Adrian Salcedo, SP
A+: 25.1 IP, 6.39 ERA, 14/15 K/BB, 1.90 WHIP
Salcedo also had his season ruined by injuries. He suffered a broken nose when he was hit by a comebacker in May, and went on to battle arm problems for the remainder of the season, limiting him to just 30 innings between Ft. Myers and the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Ultimately, it goes down as a lost season of development for the right-hander, who didn't throw a competitive pitch after July 11. On the bright side, he's still only 21 so there's plenty of time to bounce back.
7. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
A+: 55 G, .309/.376/.517, 7 HR, 22 R, 31 RBI, 4/9 SB
AA: 69 G, .328/.398/.557, 10 HR, 54 R, 67 RBI, 3/5 SB
Here's your first bright spot on the list, and it's almost blinding. I wasn't totally sold on Arcia as a top prospect at this time last year but his monstrous 2012 performance has left no doubt. This kid is one of the most promising hitters in all of the minors.
He moved up to Double-A after raking in Ft. Myers, and his performance at New Britain was simply transcendent. Although he didn't collect enough at-bats after his promotion to officially qualify for the Eastern League leaderboard, Arcia ranked third in OPS among players with 250-plus plate appearances. That's particularly impressive when you consider that he's 21 and everyone else in the top seven on that list is 24 or above.
Arcia hasn't shown spectacular power or plate discipline, but he's a pure hitter. His sweet left-handed swing and his ability to hit for gaudy averages at such a young age are reminiscent of Jason Kubel when he was a prospect.
6. Liam Hendriks, SP
AAA: 106.1 IP, 2.20 ERA, 82/28 K/BB, 0.98 WHIP
MLB: 56 IP, 6.11 ERA, 36/16 K/BB, 1.64 WHIP
If these rankings were made based on statistics alone, Hendriks surely would have been a top five prospect and possibly in the top three. Despite his stellar numbers throughout the minors (a trend that certainly carried over to Triple-A this year), Hendriks lacks dominant stuff and that's been on display during his time in the majors. He's been pummeled for 76 hits – including 11 homers – in 56 innings, and outside of a few quality outings he's given few indications that he belongs in a big-league rotation at this point.
Hendriks will turn 24 this offseason, so he's still younger than a lot of rookies. His tumultuous time in the majors will give him some things to focus on during the offseason, and hopefully he'll be able to make the improvements necessary to become a solid mid-rotation option, which the Twins could sorely use.
5. Joe Benson, OF
AA: 37 G, .184/.268/.305/, 3 HR, 13 R, 20 RBI, 3/7 SB
AAA: 28 G, .179/.269/.316, 2 HR, 30 R, 36 RBI, 4/4 SB
Benson may have had the most disappointing season of anyone on this list, and that's saying something after we've looked at Dozier, Wimmers and Salcedo. A supremely athletic center fielder who played well enough last year in New Britain to earn a September call-up and later rank 99th on Baseball America's listing of the game's Top 100 prospects, Benson took massive strides backward in 2012. He started out horribly in Rochester, was demoted to New Britain, broke his wrist and spent the rest of the season rehabbing and struggling.
The good news is that the Twins have enough outfield prospects that Benson's development isn't crucial, but of course having a guy drop so far in one year is very unfortunate. His outstanding tools and his youth (still only 24) keep his prospect status intact, but he'll probably drop out of most Top 10s for next year. His lack of strike zone control is a huge red flag.
4. Kyle Gibson, SP
A: 7 IP, 2.57 ERA, 7/1 K/BB, 1.00 WHIP
AAA: 6.2 IP, 9.45 ERA, 10/1 K/BB. 1.80 WHIP
In my eyes, Gibson was the organization's top pitching prospect before succumbing to Tommy John surgery last summer and after. The kid just oozes talent and he showed it this year in limited action upon returning to the field. Between his initial rehab stint in rookie ball and his brief appearances in Single-A and Triple-A, Gibson amassed an impressive 33-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28 1/3 innings. He'll pitch in the Arizona Fall League and hopefully be on track next spring, ready to contend for a spot in Minnesota's rotation.
3. Eddie Rosario, 2B
A-: .296/.345/.490, 12 HR, 60 R, 70 RBI, 11/22 SB
Rosario wasn't able to put up the same ridiculous numbers in Beloit this year as he did last year in Elizabethton (21 HR, 1.068 OPS in 67 games) but nobody really expected that. Unlike his teammate on that E-Town club, Miguel Sano, Rosario doesn't profile as a high-end slugger, but he showed plenty of offensive ability in his first season as a second baseman, hitting close to .300 while ripping 32 doubles and 12 homers despite missing significant time after taking a baseball to the face.
Defense is going to be the biggest question for Rosario moving forward. If he can stick in the middle infield – or better yet, become an asset there – he's going to have a lot of value, especially to a Twins organization that has really struggled to produce quality infielders.
2. Aaron Hicks, OF
AA: 129 G, .286/.384/.460, 13 HR, 100 R, 61 RBI, 32/43 SB
After he turned in an underwhelming campaign as a 21-year-old in Ft. Myers last year, many started to lose faith in Hicks. He dropped out of Baseball America's Top 100 (after appearing at No. 19 in 2010 and No. 45 in 2011). Some Twins prospect gurus began to sour on him.
Still in love with his outstanding tools, I kept him in the No. 2 spot but noted that if he couldn't turn a corner in 2012, his athletic prowess wouldn't save him from sliding down my rankings.
Fortunately, Hicks responded this year in a big way, putting together the kind of season we'd all been hoping for. As a 22-year-old in Double-A (where the average player is about three years older), Hicks set career highs in home runs, RBI, runs scored, stolen bases and pretty much any other statistic you can think of. He ranked fourth among qualifying Eastern League hitters in OPS and crossed the plate 100 times in 129 games.
For a player his age to be drawing 80 walks in three straight seasons is pretty amazing. Throw in his exceptional speed and his elite defensive skills, and you've got yourself a hell of a prospect. The great thing about Hicks is that even if a few of his skills don't pan out, he can still be a solid big-league regular. If they all pan out, he's a superstar.
1. Miguel Sano, 3B
A-: 129 G, .258/.373/.521, 28 HR, 75 R, 100 RBI, 8/11 SB
Sano struck out 144 times in 553 plate appearances and his defense remains extremely suspect as he committed 42 errors in 125 games. The negatives pretty much stop there. His prodigious power produced 28 homers this year (not including last night's three-run moonshot in the playoffs), which is nine more than the next highest finisher in the Midwest League. Did I mention that he is only 19? No other teenager in the league hit more than 12 homers.
Assuming his age is legit, Sano is so young that it's difficult to even pay attention to his flaws. All you can do is look at the power numbers posted against much more experienced pitchers and daydream about the way he'll terrorize the league when he's a few years older and playing in the majors.