Each year, I try to do a Minnesota Twins Top 52 Prospect list right before the draft. That way, we're looking at players who have (generally) been in the organization for at least a year. It can also give you a sense of which positions have some strength. Through nearly two months of the season, there have been several very impressive performances throughout the organization. Many of the top prospects are in the lower levels, but when you put together this list, you see that there are a few players mentioned in the upper levels too.
I'll count down from 52 with brief comments on each, right up to the Top 2 prospects, and I have to say, it's still a very difficult decision. Who will I put at Number One?
Aaron Hicks has 'graduated' from the "Prospect" lists as he is now over the 130 at bats mark. For pitchers, the limit is 50 innings.
Let's get to the list:
#52 - Caleb Thielbar - LH RP - Rochester/Minnesota - The Randolph native has been impressive in his debut. He throws hard and has three good pitches. He can be a solid big league reliever.
#51 - Tyler Jones - RH RP - Cedar Rapids Kernels - Jones was a starter a year ago, but he's got the fastball and breaking pitch to be a very good reliever as well. He missed a few weeks with an injury.
#50 - Madison Boer - RH RP - Ft. Myers Miracle - Yes, I am listing him as a reliever because I would be done with the starting experience for him. He's can reach into the upper-90s with his fastball out of the bullpen, so they need to go with that. That is, when he returns from his broken hand.
#49 - Mike Kvasnicka - OF/C - Ft. Myers Miracle - The former Gopher came to the Twins from the Astros late in spring training and pretty much immediately broke his hamate bone. He'll be out a few more weeks. He didn't put up the numbers you would hope from a 1st round pick with the Astros, but he does have power.
#48 - Jason Wheeler - LHP - Ft. Myers Miracle - Since signing with the Twins as an 8th round pick in 2011, he has gone 19-6 with a 3.62 ERA. The 6-8 lefty doesn't throw over 89 mph, but he has good control of multiple pitches.
#47 - Kuo-hua Lo - RHP - Extended Spring Training - Lo signed from Taiwan and he has very good stuff. He can throw hard, has multiple pitches, good control and a knowledge of how to pitch. He should start for the Elizabethton Twins.
#46 - Austin Malinowski - LHP - Extended Spring Training - The Minnesota native gave up a scholarship to the University of Arizona to sign with the Twins. He pitched well in the GCL last year and should be in the Elizabethton rotation.
#45 - James Beresford - 2B/SS - New Britain Rock Cats - I have no idea why he is still in New Britain. Despite missing a couple of weeks with an injury, he is hitting over .330, and he is an elite defensive player around the infield.
#44 - Felix Jorge - RHP - Extended Spring Training - Hard-throwing youngster has terrific stuff and should be in the rotation for the E-Twins.
#43 - Angel Morales - OF - Ft. Myers Miracle - He seems to have figured things out with the Miracle, and though he can be a six-year minor league free agent after the season, he is still just 23 years old. He should move up to New Britain soon.
#42 - Dan Rohlfing - C/OF - New Britain/Rochester - Last night, he homered in his first AAA game. Always seen as more of an organizational player, Rohlfing has worked hard and made himself into a future big leaguer because of his athleticism and versatility.
#41 - Dalton Hicks - 1B - Cedar Rapids Kernels - Hicks is a large man with great power. Drafted in the 17th round last year, he has come up with some big hits in his two pro seasons.
#40 - Tom Stuifbergen - RHP - Ft. Myers Miracle - "Stuif" is finally healthy and pitching well again this season. He has incredible control and works fast. It'd be nice to see more strikeouts, but has the pitches.
#39 - BJ Hermsen - RHP - New Britain Rock Cats - The Twins minor league pitcher of the year a year ago, Hermsen has put up very good numbers at every level, despite low strikeout totals. He went to big league camp and unfortunately got hurt. He has struggled in his return and has moved now to the bullpen. He'll start again, and he'll be fine.
#38 - Angel Mata - RHP - Extended Spring Training - Last year in Elizabethton, he made 13 starts. He threw 53.1 innings, gave up just 31 hits and struck out 55. Why is he not in Cedar Rapids? Well, he also walked 34.
#37 - Randy Rosario - LHP - Extended Spring Training - Call me intrigued by left-handed pitchers who have been clocked at 95 mph. Rosario struck out 42 in 38.1 innings last year (And walked 19).
#36 - Matt Summers - RHP - Ft. Myers Miracle - Still hasn't put up big numbers despite having very good stuff. Maybe he'll be a reliever down the line, where he might see those strikeout numbers increase.
#35 - Aderlin Mejia - IF - Ft. Myers Miracle - He's been a story the last three weeks in Ft. Myers, hitting .400 and playing all over the field. He was just supposed to be with the team for a short period, but he's earned his way into the daily lineup.
#34 - Nate Roberts - OF - Ft. Myers Miracle - He's an on-base machine and showed in the AFL just how good he can be at the top of an order. He just has to find a way to stay on the field and another offseason knee surgery has limited him to just one game this year.
#33 - JT Chargois - RH RP - Extended Spring Training - Chargois throws incredibly hard and can be a late-inning reliever. He just has to get healthy.
#32 - JD Williams - OF - Cedar Rapids Kernels - A tremendous athlete, the charismatic outfielder has done a great job of getting on base and even showing power to go with his great speed.
#31 - Hudson Boyd - RHP - Cedar Rapids Kernels - The numbers don't show it yet, but Boyd does have a chance to be good. He has the pitches, a fastball up to 93, a very good curveball and a terrific changeup. He just needs to find consistency with each of those pitches.
#30 - Levi Michael - IF - Ft. Myers Miracle - His season was delayed several weeks with another injury, and he hasn't hit much since his return. The positive is that a big percentage of his hits have gone for extra bases.
#29 - Chris Herrmann - C/OF - Rochester/Minnesota - He struggled in his AAA debut the first month of the season, but he had been much better before his promotion. His value is that he is a solid offensive contributor with defensive versatility that includes improved abilities behind that plate.
#28 - Logan Darnell - LHP - New Britain Rock Cats - Darnell seems to have taken that next step and is pitching very well. He's left-handed and knows how to pitch.
#27 - Corey Williams - LH RP - Ft. Myers Miracle - The power lefty is off to a great start with the Miracle after a disappointing 2012 in Beloit (despite 17 saves). He's still not getting the strikeouts you'd like to see from someone with his stuff.
#26 - Adrian Salcedo - RHP - Ft. Myers Miracle - He was a top ten Twins prospect until an injury-plagued 2012 season (elbow and shoulder). He struggled at the start of this season, but in the last month, he has reclaimed his stuff and, in my opinion, should return to starting soon.
#25 - Luke Bard - RHP - Extended Spring Training - His season is yet to start due to some arm problems, but he can pitch. Whenever he does get on a mound, he has the stuff to be very good.
#24 - Danny Ortiz - OF - New Britain Rock Cats - Arguably the most under-appreciated prospect in the organization. Maybe it's because there are so many outfielders, but Ortiz has put up the numbers, in AA and in Puerto Rico, to warrant a higher ranking.
#23 - Mason Melotakis - LHP - Cedar Rapids Kernels - He has been OK so far as a starter for the Kernels. The numbers have been 'good.' Of course there is a lot more value if he can be a starter, but if he does move to the bullpen again, he can be a dominant reliever.
#22 - Tyler Duffey - RHP - Cedar Rapids Kernels - Another college reliever turned starter, Duffey has pitched quite well to this point for the Kernels. He threw 7 perfect innings in his first start and has been good the rest of the way.
#21 - DJ Baxendale - RHP - Ft. Myers/New Britain - The Twins 10th round pick a year ago had a rude awakening in his AA debut last night, but before that had thrown 31 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. He can be a mid-rotation starter but it won't be overnight.
#20 - Taylor Rogers - LHP - Cedar Rapids/Ft. Myers - 11th round pick a year ago, the lefty throws 91-92 mph with a very good slider. He just looks like a future starter and has the make up to be very good.
#19 - Zack Jones - RH RP - Ft. Myers Miracle - 100. That says it all. OK, his fastball generally sits 96 to 98 mph, but when you can touch 100, that's impressive. He's working on the consistency of his slider, but when that comes, he could dominate.
#18 - Michael Tonkin - RH RP - New Britain - After spending time as a starter, and maybe too much time in Beloit, he has skyrocketed the last 12 months because he has put it all together. A mid-90s fastball with good secondary pitches makes for an exciting late-inning option. (Jeremy Nygaard tweets this morning that Michael Tonkin has been promoted to AAA Rochester.)
#17 - Danny Santana - SS - New Britain Rock Cats - April was not a good month for the talented shortstop. He didn't hit, and he committed a ton of errors. He now has 18 errors on the season, but most came in the first month. He has also hit very well in May. Now, he just needs to be consistent.
#16 - Alex Wimmers - RHP - New Britain Rock Cats - the right-handed former first round pick is now throwing off of a mound in his return from Tommy John. He is about on the same schedule as Kyle Gibson was a year ago. If he can end the season making starts in New Britain, that would be great. He'll be added to the 40 man roster after the season.
#15 - Niko Goodrum - SS - Cedar Rapids Kernels - Niko has amazing tools, but watching him play makes you really appreciate just how solid he is. He makes the routine plays. He hits well from both sides of the plate. He has range. He has a great arm. He needs time, but he has great upside.
#14 - Max Kepler - OF - Extended Spring Training - There was a lot of excitement about Kepler coming into the season. Unfortunately, an arm injury has meant that he is yet to debut with the Kernels this year. He's got size and power and very good speed. He just needs to get on the field.
#13 - Josmil Pinto - C - New Britain Rock Cats - OK, I give in. I have ranked him far too low for far too long. The guy can flat-out hit. He is OK behind the plate, but when you have a catcher that you also like to hit #3 and DH, you have something special.
#12 - Adam Walker - OF - Cedar Rapids Kernels - Walker has shown a flair for the dramatic, with big, long home runs and some important grand slams. He needs to find more consistency, but he has so much talent and incredible power. He should move up to Ft. Myers.
#11 - Trevor May - RHP - New Britain Rock Cats - May is back in the Eastern League and he's showing the talent he has. He's also continued to be inconsistent from start to start and his control has not been great. But he's still young,he puts in the work and I believe he'll be all right.
#10 - Travis Harrison - 3B - Cedar Rapids Kernels - The supplemental first round pick in 2011 showed last year in E-Town that he can hit. This year, he has flashed some of the incredible power potential that he has. He has made improvements with the glove, but it is his power potential and youth makes him very exciting.
#9 - Jorge Polanco - 2B/SS - Cedar Rapids Kernels - The slick-fielding, little middle infielder has grown up. He now has the size to put up some numbers with his bat too. He has a smooth swing from both sides of the plate with extra base pop. And, his glove is still terrific.
#8 - Kennys Vargas - 1B - Ft. Myers Miracle - Baby Papi just keeps hitting for power. He's got 15 doubles and 10 home runs in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He's made improvements in his footwork at 1B as well.
#7 - Kyle Gibson - RHP - Rochester Red Wings - Three out of four starts have been tremendous. If he can put up another good start tonight, we could see him in Minnesota as early as next week. Still just 25, Gibson has very good stuff, throws strikes, gets ground balls and has great makeup. He's going to be a good one.
#6 - Eddie Rosario - 2B - Ft. Myers Miracle - No one questions his bat. He is going to hit. What people are most impressed by so far this year from Rosario is how well he has made the adjustment to second base. He has been very good defensively which shows that he's willing to do work. Still some maturity issues to work through, but he will.
#5 - Jose (JO) Berrios - RHP - Cedar Rapids Kernels - A supplemental pick just a year ago, Berrios is very young. He now has 6 walks and 40 strikeouts in 33.1 innings with the Kernels. That's after he walked four and struck out 49 last year in the rookie leagues. He's got good stuff and a fastball that hits 94-95 mph.
#4 - Alex Meyer - RHP - New Britain Rock Cats - The 23-year-old has been good in his adjustment to AA after just nine games in High-A a year ago. In 54.2 innings, he has struck out 54, but he has also walked 25. He hasn't walked hitters in the past, so hopefully that's just a mirage. But his four-pitch mix is special. He just needs some time.
#3 - Oswaldo Arcia - OF - Rochester Red Wings - We all knew he could hit. We all know he's going to be a special hitter in the big leagues. Now we have seen a little glimpse of what he can be. He needed to go back down to Rochester as he has some adjusting to do, but he'll make those adjustments and be back in no time.
#2 - Miguel Sano - Ft. Myers Miracle - It's really ridiculous to have Miguel Sano as the #2 prospect. In how many organizations would that be the case? Maybe three or four? In reality, I'm not even comfortable having him at #2. He is a Top 10 prospect in baseball and has put up incredible numbers, including power numbers, in Ft. Myers. All while improving his defense and stealing bases. He's so good.
#1 - Byron Buxton - OF - Cedar Rapids Kernels - He has slumped in May and yet I still rank him (slightly) ahead of Miguel Sano. He's just such a great all-around talent. He does have power. His speed is elite. His defense is incredible, and he has a strong and accurate arm. He has great plate discipline and isn't afraid to hit with two strikes. He hits the ball to all fields. I don't know if there's anything he can't do. He just needs time and patience, but it'll be hard not to move him up the ladder pretty quickly.
So there you have it. I hope you've enjoyed reading about 52 names in the Twins system. I did not include Amaurys (German) Minier, though he should start appearing in my lists following this season, especially if he spends time with the GCL Twins.
What do you think? Who is too high? Who is too low? Who do you have questions about? Feel free to ask and I'll try to answer as many as I can throughout the day.