10. Max Kepler, OF
9. Trevor May, RHP
8. J.O. Berrios, RHP
7. Eddie Rosario, 2B
6. Kyle Gibson, RHP
5. Alex Meyer, RHP
4. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
3. Aaron Hicks, OF
2. Byron Buxton, OF
1. Miguel Sano, 3B
It's a truly impressive group, and the Twins deserve immense credit for bringing all this talent together. It says something about the quality of their system that Trevor May, who was ranked by Baseball America a year ago as the No. 1 prospect in the Phillies organization, is all the way down at No. 9 despite a non-disastrous 2012. He and pretty much anyone else on this list would've had a shot at the top ranking if this were 4-5 years ago, when the farm was going through a bit of a drought.
Those lean years took their toll and amplified the big-league club's challenges, with almost nothing in the way of legitimate MLB-ready talent available during the past two seasons. But this current group, which was named recently by ESPN.com's prospect wonk Keith Law as the second-best in baseball, offers promise that the Twins could be approaching another run like the one beginning in 2001, where the system churns out impact players in consistent waves.
At a glance, there is balance between pitchers and position players on this top ten list (four vs. six) but there's clearly more security on the position player side. Many of these guys are human toolboxes who have demonstrated enough skill that it would be surprising if they fizzled out completely. There's certainly a noticeable concentration of outfielders – in fact it's possible all six could end up there – but as long as they stay on track that's not the worst problem to have because the Twins can flip them to fill other areas of need.
And of course, Miguel Sano is universally viewed as the organization's best prospect since Joe Mauer was in the minors.
On the pitching side, the risk/upside dynamic is in play to a much greater extent. Alex Meyer stakes a claim as the organization's best prospective arm after being acquired in the Denard Span trade, but he hasn't pitched above Single-A and his mechanics raise questions about durability. Kyle Gibson is coming off Tommy John, J.O. Berrios is 18 and May has been an erratic mess at times.
The Twins are counting on this group to fill at least a couple rotation spots long-term, but a few bad outcomes (Meyer ends up in the bullpen, Berrios hits a wall against tougher competition, May never cuts down his walk rate, etc.) could have them perpetually scrambling to supplement their burgeoning offense with a competent rotation. The Twins have never paid for high-end free agent pitching and, as Terry Ryan has pointed out many times, it's extremely tough to pry good arms from other organizations unless they're in the low minors.
Fortunately, the upside with the pitchers on the list is strong enough to outweigh concerns at this point. These are all very legitimate prospects, and if just a couple of them reach their potential the Twins will have found anchors who can front the rotation at a low cost for years.
The 2013 season is likely to be a tough one on the field for the major-league club, as the organization has clearly set its sights on the future and didn't show much interest in building a stable bridge to get there.
But the great thing about baseball is that fans will have plenty of opportunities to follow these prospects and watch the future come into focus. Minor-league box scores readily available, Cedar Rapids (where Buxton, Berrios and Kepler are likely to play) is just a four-hour drive from the Twin Cities, and of course we'll be regularly updating you on on all of these players and more throughout the season here at Twins Daily.
By the way, you can read about these 10 – and about 150 others – in Seth's 2013 Prospect Handbook. It's an indispensable resource for anyone who digs this kind of stuff.