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  • Twins Upper Level Talent

    How many times this offseason have you heard the phrase, ďThe Twins have some really good prospects but they donít have any in the upper levels of their farm system?Ē I hear it all the time, and frankly, it kind of hits a nerve with me.

    In 2011, the Twins had a season in which pretty much everyone got hurt and missed significant time. That meant more playing time for Luke Hughes and Trevor Plouffe and Ben Revere which may prove valuable as early as 2012. Those guys were rushed. Ben Revere and Rene Tosoni had hardly any AAA at bats. Those four no longer are technically prospects, but they will still be young, inexperienced players on the 2012 Twins roster.

    Thereís no question that the Twins top prospect is Miguel Sano, and yet, he will likely spend the 2012 season playing in Class Low-A Beloit. He will be joined there by another top prospect Eddie Rosario. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are top 5 prospects who ended the 2011 season in Ft. Myers and could very well start there again in 2012.

    Those four prospects are all high ceiling prospects that are at least three promotions from the big leagues. But that does not mean that the Twins do not have prospects in the upper levels. The Twins have several prospects at the upper levels waiting for an opportunity to contribute to the big league club.

    The Twins outfield appears to be pretty set with Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Denard Span and Josh Willingham. At AAA, the Twins will have Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni. Both can use that AAA time, but both will also be able to contribute should the Twins have a need. Benson profiles to be a starter and an impact player. He probably is already the best defensive outfielder in the organization. Tosoni could probably be an everyday player although his splits indicate he will likely best be served as a platoon candidate and a left-handed bench bat with good power. Darin Mastroianni is also big league ready but probably profiles as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

    With Joe Mauer behind the plate and Ryan Doumit as his backup, the Twins top two catchers are quite solid. Drew Butera, JR Towles and (to a lesser degree) Rene Rivera are competing for a possible third catcher job. Frankly, Danny Lehmann is as good as any of them offensively and defensively. But, by seasonís end, Chris Herrmann could be in the picture as a call-up at catcher. Although he would be a backup catcher to Mauer this year, he can also play in the outfield and hit and walk.

    Chris Parmelee put up solid numbers in 2011 in AA New Britain. It wasnít as strong as teammates Benson, Brian Dozier or even Yangervis Solarte, but he was consistent and showed a good approach at the plate. His swing is sound and he has a good approach at the plate. If there was an injury to Justin Morneau or even Ryan Doumit, Parmelee could be brought up and be a starter and he could be a starter for years.

    In the middle infield, the Twins will start the season with Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla. Most likely Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be the teamís utility infielder. Brian Dozier is a guy who has a chance to be with the Twins at some point in the 2012 season. No, he doesnít profile as an All-Star, but he is another guy who can be a solid starter for five or six years. Pedro Florimon has the best range and arm among middle infielders, although he may not have enough bat. Ray Chang isnít a prospect due to his age, but he likely is a much better utility infielder option than Nishioka.

    The Twins have their starting five pretty well set. If there is an injury early in the season, the team may go to Terry Doyle to make some starts and see how he does. If it is a few months into the season, Liam Hendriks will likely be ready. Although he doesnít profile as a #1 or #2 starter, he does profile very similarly to Scott Baker when he came up to the Twins. Kyle Gibson does profile as a #2 type of starter, but he will likely not pitch with the Twins in 2012. Maybe in September? Scott Diamond is a spot starter and a long reliever most likely.

    Then comes the question mark that is the bullpen where there are more than a dozen pitchers trying to win three open spots. Kyle Waldrop is a groundball machine, capable and ready for an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. Carlos Gutierrez has the stuff to be a solid back of the bullpen reliever if he can be more aggressive, throw more strikes and stay healthy. Deolis Guerra has just one more year worth of options and, despite a very rough first outing of spring on Tuesday, his performance the second half of 2011 gives hope that he can be a good 7th inning guy. Tyler Robertson was terrific the second half of 2011 as the Rock Cats closer. Lester Oliveros is a hard-throwing reliever who needs a little more AAA time and is just 23 years old. He should get time in Rochester to continue to develop. Finally, Alex Burnett has been in the Twins bullpen for the past two seasons and yet he never had time to develop in Rochester. He could use that time, and heís just 24 years old, making him younger than half of the guys in this paragraph.

    As you can see, the Twins do have a lot of prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues that can contribute to some degree in the big leagues. Guys like Chris Parmelee, Joe Benson, Brian Dozier and Liam Hendriks can play very important roles as starters for the next several years. Others can fill roles as needed by the team due to injury or production. What would be great is if a couple of these guys (or others) played so well at New Britain and/or Rochester that the Twins simply had to make room for them on the roster and in the lineup.

    And then we wait for Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Tom Stuifbergen, Alex Wimmers and Adrian Salcedo.

    This article was originally published in blog: Twins Upper Level Talent started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 32 Comments
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -

      I don't disagree at all with your above statement. Our best prospects are at Beloit this year and we have five draft picks in the top 75 to replenish the farm system. Who do you think we will select with #2 overall pick now that Giolito is hurt? I was realy hoping for a #1 Ace pitcher but that seems highly unlikely now.
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      Seth--it seems you are going way out of your way to find a positive spin on the current state of the Twins minor league system.
      Why is it so hard to accept that the Twins have below average talent in the upper levels of their minor league system? You don't have to be a genius to figure that out. It's pretty obvious.
      Sure, a few will make it to the Bigs and make a contribution. Although, most will be utility, part timers, bullpen guys, or below average starters.
      This team looks like it's heading for steady decline in the next few years, and the current lack of impact type prospects is the main reason for that.

      I'm not a fan of the current rotation, but just think how bad it will be in the next year or two. Absolutely no impact starters anywhere on the horizon.....
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Quote Originally Posted by cr9617 View Post
      I'm not a fan of the current rotation, but just think how bad it will be in the next year or two. Absolutely no impact starters anywhere on the horizon.....
      Well, I think Gibson still can have impact in the next couple years, and I wouldn't be surprised if Wimmers becomes a nice option as well.

      Back to the main topic, my earlier point still remains. Teams that win divisions, and titles, don't do it with lineups consisting of the players like the Twins currently have in the upper level of the minors. There may be guys who are ML starters, but they are guys who are going to be starters on second division teams. You win with impact players and the Twins are sadly short on those guys in the upper levels of the minors. For a team that is supposed to be built from within, it's a sad statement, especially when you see that they also haven't graduated any impact players in the last couple years. It's far too long a drought for a team that is supposed to rely heavily on home grown players. Terry Ryan is primarily responsible for the lack of talent at these levels as he was in charge or "advising" over all the recent drafts. That's one reason I was never as excited about his return as most. I think he's an upgrade over Smith, but the recent results don't scream huge success as far as evaluating and elevating amateur talent.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I get what you're saying, but to be honest, I don't care if they would start for those other teams.
      I care. Shouldn't the goal be to have better players than other teams? Isn't that how you win? Don't we want the Twins to win?

      Collecting players not good enough to play for anyone else doesn't seem like a good strategy to me.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      The reality of the situation is you just don't know what is going to happen. The Twins drafted Hunter, Koskie, Jones, Mienkiewicz, Pierzynski, Span, Mauer, and Morneau and they all turned into impact players. The hope is they will catch lightening in the bottle again with Gibson, Wimmers, Benson, Parmelee, Hicks, Dozier, Michael, and Sano. I believe what hurt the farm system is missing on so many number one picks. The Twins have five draft picks this year in the top 75 so they have to get some impact players and not screw it up.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Fair enough... but I think we all know that there is a difference between an Impact player and a role player... individual definitions of each are dependent upon each person's opinion. I guess I would have to add another option in between those two. In my mind, a guy like Dozier may not be an Impact player if defined as a multi-time All-Star. But if a guy becomes a guy who plays 140 games a year for 3-6 years, that's certainly more than just a role player. I also don't believe that a #3 starter is a "role" player either. He may not be a Cy Young candidate and make that big of an impact, but to a 25 man roster, the number 3 starter is certainly more than just a role player. In my prospect rankings, I generally don't rank relievers very high, but if you Carlos Gutierrez becomes "a dominant force in the 7th or 8th inning", that's a very important role. If Rene Tosoni is a platoon starter or a bench bat, that's a role player, for sure.

      My point wasn't to say that the Twins have a lot of guys who will be Hall of Famers in the upper levels, but they have 5-6 guys who could contribute in a big way (as a starter in the lineup, as a starting in the rotation, or a key component in the bullpen) and several others who can fill roles. The cupboard is far from bare.
      ITA with this. Look at how hard it's been for the Twins to fill the SS position. If Dozier becomes an average MLB starting SS for 4-6 seasons with the club, he won't be considered an "impact" player by some, but it'd be a huge win for the franchise not having to search for a SS every season and enduring the many failures we've had over the years.

      And a #3 or #4 starter is an impact player too. Teams are always looking for starting pitching, and continuing to develop quality MLB starters is also very good. Filling that #3/4 hole and not overpaying on a replacement-level free agent? Also a big win.

      I think I look at "impact" players differently than a lot of the so-called experts; my thoughts are much more like Seth's. Impact players in the upper-levels to me are guys who can come up and fill in when someone gets an injury and not drag the club down. They're guys who have the potential to be starters in MLB for several years. They don't have to just be all-stars in the making to be serious impact players for me. And the twins have a number of guys in AA & AAA that meet that definition.

      People always want to have the Next Big Star one promotion away. But that doesn't happen too often. Hopefully the guy the Twins get with the #2 pick in the draft will be one of those players, but even if it doesn't happen I don't think the cupboard is bare and I think the twins can continue to look to their minor league system first when trying to fill holes in the starting lineup.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Lots of straw man arguments here made against those of us saying that the talent isn't there (and wasn't last year or hte year before, either....that's the problem). No one in this thread is insisting that the Twins have ROY of the year candidates just waiting to be called up. No on is saying a lot of what defenders of they system is claimin we are saying. I am saying that if you won't sign or trade for FAs or other players making a lot of money, then you need to be better at drafting and developing players than other teams. The Twins have not had a real, legit starting player come up in three years. Valencia might or might not be one, but that's it. In three years. Not asking for ROY, not asking for allstars. Asking for legit starting MLB players more often than maybe 1 every three years is not unreasonable, imo.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Mike wants wins,

      I totally agree with you!! This is where GM Terry Ryan being in charge again will really help out. The upcoming draft is a very important one for the Twins in June.
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fanatic Jack View Post

      This is where GM Terry Ryan being in charge again will really help out.
      I don't see how you can make that claim, Ryan has been heavily involved in the Twins draft and player development for the last several years. Unless you think Ryan is an improvement on Ryan, this just doesn't make sense to me.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Actually, Mike you are right to a degree. The Twins had a whole group of prospects who could be helping right now,but did not work out. Kelly and Thompson were high draft choice middle infielders who could never stay healthy. Sanchez was a potential power hitter draft choice who plainly didn't do a thing. A whole bunch of highly drafted pitchers either haven't worked out or are delayed by injuries or just aren't as good as hoped.

      Nevertheless, Seth is largely right, there is now talent in the upper minors and some will likely help soon. I think Henricks will be better than many think and there are perhaps 3 other starters who could help inside 2 years.

      Comparing the Twins talent to teams that have spent 10 or more consective years drafting in the top 5 of every draft is a fool's game. When those same teams turn around and trade their major league impact players for more minor leaguers, well they should have a strong minor league system. If Tampa and KC continue to have strong minor league systems AND a contending major league team im 5 years, I will be more impressed.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Ideally each team would have two 'impact' players come up each year and contribute to their team's already stacked, impact player roster... right? That seems to be the expectation of many. And that's fine. But they couldn't have known that Thompson and Kelly would be hurt forever or Sanchez was going to turn into what he turned into.

      This isn't meant as degrading, but does anyone think that Twins fans might have been a little spoiled when, between 2003 and 2006, the Twins had Morneau, Mauer, Crain, Baker, Garza, Slowey, Neshek and Liriano all come up and do very well right away? That is certainly not the normal for any team.

      That's not excusing not having impact guys come up for a few years, although Valencia was certainly an impact player in 2010, right?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fanatic Jack View Post
      Mike wants wins,

      I totally agree with you!! This is where GM Terry Ryan being in charge again will really help out. The upcoming draft is a very important one for the Twins in June.
      Except Ryan was the GM when the guys drafted that should have come up the last two years and this year were drafted....Had those drafts gone better, they'd not be in this position.
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