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  • Twins Upper Level Talent

    How many times this offseason have you heard the phrase, “The Twins have some really good prospects but they don’t have any in the upper levels of their farm system?” 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.

    There’s 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 season’s 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 wasn’t 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 team’s 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 doesn’t 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 isn’t 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 doesn’t 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 he’s 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. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Yeah, I agree that it is a terrible assessment to claim that there is no talent at the upper levels. It's as though people are thinking of the organization at the beginning of 2011 or something, when that was clearly true.

      By the way, if for some reason the Twins keep Dozier down at New Britain at the beginning of the year, and Hicks and Morales are promoted, doesn't a lineup of Hicks, Herrmann, Dozier, Morales, and Bigley look pretty good for the first part of the year?
    1. TwinsGuy55422's Avatar
      TwinsGuy55422 -
      I agree. Just because most of our top prospects are in the lower levels of the minors, doesn't we don't have talent at the upper levels. Plus, you never know when a prospect that is projected to have a lower ceiling may step up and surprise us. That is part of the beauty of this game.
    1. Apostle43's Avatar
      Apostle43 -
      Here's hoping the Twins stay healthy this year so that we, in Rochester, can enjoy watching these prospects develop. Rushing these youngsters to the Big Leagues does no one any good.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      There is talent in the Twins' organization, but my major objection on the way that the Twins are dealing with AAA (to please Rochester among other things is that they sign a whole bunch of never-had beens and throw them there that keeps Twins' prospect talent in New Britain and Fort Myers.) I do get the point to target 3-4 good veterans in their 20s (from the 2010 season heap pile Aaron Bates and Ray Chang fit the bill.) But getting the likes of 30yo+ players in Rochester while repressing Twins' prospect talent development does not make much sense. Given they did better this season.

      Hughes will enter his age 27 season, Plouffe his age 26. I think that they were not "rushed" by any means. It is just that the Twins have this way of developing talent slower than most teams. The heap-pile signings I refered to previously contribute big time to that because there is the domino effect.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I generally agree, Thrylos, but I can't say I have disagreed with some of the minor league signings. Last year, it made a ton of sense to sign Jeff Bailey because Parmelee wasn't ready for AAA yet. Chase Lambin made sense. those two were veterans with a ton of experience who filled a need in Rochester. Adding the likes of Chuck James and Phil Dumatrait don't hurt because they didn't hold any prospects back. They needed someone like Andy Baldwin to eat some of the starts and innings because they didnt have prospect starters pushign their way to AAA. The exception was Liam Hendriks, but having the veterans in Rochester didn't keep them from promoting a real prospect like that. I like a lot of this year's minor league free agents. With Parmelee now at 1B, I think adding Bates was fine based on last year, but adding Steve Pearce was a bit much. I really like Ray Chang as a utility infielder. Burroughs was a nice signing. There are a ton of bullpen arms that they added and some starters, but based on what I've seen in the past, if guys are ready for AAA, they go to AAA. Not all of those minor league pitchers will be in the organization in a month.
    1. 2wins87's Avatar
      2wins87 -
      I like the Twins farm system, I think it is deep, there are a lot of players that could develop into something good, I wish we had one or two guys that legitimately profiled as #1 starters (let's not kid ourselves, having guys we hope could be #1s isn't the same thing as having guys we believe will be #1s), but overall it's a strong enough system to suit most of the Twins needs.

      Still, I understand the claim. Sano could be an All-star, I certainly think Rosario could be. But most people aren't holding their breath for Benson, Arcia, Hendriks and Gibson. Benson and Arcia are both great prospects that are close to the majors but both have the same big hole in their game: strikeouts. Gibson and Hendriks are both proven pitchers but lack the stuff to truly be great. So the Twins don't have anyone in the upper levels right now that looks ready to step up and become a star right now. There's no one that will force the Twins to make room for them. I think that's ok. Those kind of guys don't come around all that often, and it's hard to find guys that have everything together and will move through the system quickly when you are drafting 20th or later every year. So I don't think the Twins do have that star in the upper levels of their system, but neither do a lot of other teams, and I like our depth and the prospects that we do have.

      Maybe when you hear it you think people are dissing all of the prospects in the upper levels. I don't really see it that way. The Twins have a bunch of guys that are ready to fill holes soon, and could develop into starters, but not that guy who everyone thinks will be an all star. If the Twins had that guy their farm system would probably be ranked in the top 5 or so. As it is, most people rank the system above average, and cite the lack of a future all star waiting in the wings as really the one area that's missing.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I agree with the general comments here about the Twins and how they have seemed to treat Rochester. There was a study by someone at Baseball Prospectus last year about this (and Gleeman wrote about it). The Twins give something like 200 more plate appearances for their position players than the second team on the list. That seems a bit excessive. And for pitchers, I think they were right near the top in innings pitched. I think this can often hamper players some. Span was foundering in the minors. Steve Singleton and Steve Tolleson are two other examples, at a problematic position. Garrett Jones maybe as well. Dustin Martin? Not that those guys were going to be stars otherwise, but I do think that getting stuck behind the Toby Gardenhires of the world can be a problem. Last year's signings made sense, but some of them this year seem excessive. Is Dozier actually going to start at New Britain? How are *both* Drew Butera and Rene Rivera in this organization when Danny Lehmann and esp. Chris Herrmann might actually be productive catchers? Is Steve Pearce there just in case a total disaster happens and both Parmelee and Bates have to be up with the Twins? Mastroianni *and* Wilkin Ramirez? Joe Benson isn't going to New Britain as well, right?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Seth, last season I'd rather seen Steve Hirschfeld, Bobby Lanigan, Tyler Robertson (all repeat performers at AA last season, btw) than Eric Hacker, Thomas (not Scott) Diamond, Yorman Bazardo and Andrew Baldwin, for example. Position players are a different story, but as soon as they signed Bates, Baily should have been cut. Toby was around way too much and if his last name were anything but Gardenhire, he wouldn't had been around...
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      The problem is the Twins philosphy. They never sign power hitters or pitchers because these players dont fit Gardy's way of thinking. Without power pitchers you will never win a playoff series which the Twins have proved correct. I hope they change their thinking soon. The only reason we were able to sign the power bat Sano is because other teams know he is 4 years older than he claims and the Twins failed to do their homework. A player of Sano's age should be in AAA not ETown.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Seems to me the reason the twins get poked as not having "upper-level talent" is because the standard they're being judged against is having a no-doubt impact hitter or pitcher that's effectively one promotion away from being a ROY candidate. Which is an absurd standard. How many teams are really there? And how many of those "sure-fire" guys end up busting out anyways?

      The Twins have a number of guys that are close to competing for MLB jobs. There are several that project as starters, others as bench guys. None of them project as all-stars, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of them emerged that way. (Parmelee's fall stint with the club is probably a result of small sample sizes, expanded rosters, and meaningless fall games...but it might not be! He might be an impact bat and big-time hitter. I look forward to finding out, just hope it's not because Morneau's career comes to a end)
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinswon1991 View Post
      The problem is the Twins philosphy. They never sign power hitters or pitchers because these players dont fit Gardy's way of thinking.
      I do have problems with the Twins' philosophy is general, but to tell the honest true, twice they drafted the highest power rated prospect in the draft (Parmelee, Travis Harrison) and after Bill Smith took over, they have been drafting power arms as well... Just they are not many power arms and bats in the prospect pool before the draft and those guys usually go on the top 10-15 picks... Even is Sano is 25, he is still the best power prospect in the minors. Age does not make his bat less powerful.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Thrylos - Robertson was bad as a starter in 2010 in New Britain and was moved to the bullpen after that season. His second half last year was terrific and a direct result of staying at the level. Look at Lanigan's 2011 numbers. Are you sure he should have been in AAA? I'm not saying those AAA starters were good, but there are times when you can't push the prospects and have to get a minior league free agent instead.

      shanewahl - Span was floundering in the minors... how does that indicate he needed to move up? I agree with you on Tolleson and especially Singleton. Garrett Jones plays RF, 1B and DH... at the time, the Twins had Cuddyer, Morneau and Kubel at those positions. I like Wilkin Ramirez. Two years ago, he was a top 5-6 Tigers prospect. he's got talent. he's a good guy to take a chance with. I don't get the Mastroianni thing either. I like Herrmann as much as anyone, but I definitely think another half-season of AA would be best for him. 200 at bats is like 2 months or a little less.

      jmlease - that's my point... lots of sure-thing guys bust, and if the Twins, in fact, have 4-5 guys who should be big league starters who will start the season in AAA, that's not a bad thing at all... that was really my point.
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      I think Seth points out the Twins have some players in the upper levels of the minors that are potential Major Leaguers, and I agree with that. However, I think it's also safe to say that it doesn't look like there are any true impact players in the bunch listed. Most, if not all of these guys appear to be role players, instead of first division starters. I think if you compare the Twins at this level, you will find they are in the lower half of the league. However, the good news is that the White Sox and Indians upper levels are even more barren, so at least as far as the Central goes the Twins are probably middle of the road. The years of high draft picks for the Royals is finally producing, and it looks like the Tigers may have a couple of pretty decent pitchers about ready. It was good to see the Twins breaking from the recent past in the 2011 draft, by taking some guys with different skills than they traditionally have early. Now it's all about whether those players reach potential and if the Twins staff can build on their strengths instead of trying to make every guy hit or pitch, exactly the same way.
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      jmlease - that's my point... lots of sure-thing guys bust, and if the Twins, in fact, have 4-5 guys who should be big league starters who will start the season in AAA, that's not a bad thing at all... that was really my point.
      I think this is a really good point. But we all have to realize that just being a big league starter doesn't mean the player is a top talent, or even impact player. How many of these guys would be considered potential starters for the Phillies, Tigers, Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Reds, Brewers, etc, or any of the other first division teams? Maybe Benson, based upon his athletic ability, but that's probably it, and he wouldn't be considered a potential starter until 2013 at the earliest.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I get what you're saying, but to be honest, I don't care if they would start for those other teams. The Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies are the only teams that may be able to afford getting stars at all positions. Any team with a payroll south of $140 million is going to have a few players making league minimum. Playoff and winning teams will need some stars too, and that gets back to the discussion about how the Twins really need to get health and performance from Mauer, Morneau, Span, Liriano and Baker... those are the impact players. I guess my other point is that sometimes these guys that are considered 2nd or 3rd tier prospects by the experts come in and perform very well, above expectations, for 3-5 years when they are most valuable to their teams.
    1. twinkiesfan11's Avatar
      twinkiesfan11 -
      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. The Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies are the only teams that may be able to afford getting stars at all positions. Any team with a payroll south of $140 million is going to have a few players making league minimum. Playoff and winning teams will need some stars too, and that gets back to the discussion about how the Twins really need to get health and performance from Mauer, Morneau, Span, Liriano and Baker... those are the impact players. I guess my other point is that sometimes these guys that are considered 2nd or 3rd tier prospects by the experts come in and perform very well, above expectations, for 3-5 years when they are most valuable to their teams.
      Sure, the 2nd or 3rd tier prospects come in and perform as you would expect a 2nd or 3rd tier player to perform...league average. How many more role players and middle relievers does this team need? I for one don't feel the problem is a lack of talent in the upper minors, it's the lack of impact/first division regular type talent. Right now Sano is the only consensus impact talent in the entire system, the next closest group (Benson, Arcia, Rosario) are more popular with some scouts/publications than others and are probably overvalued by Twins fans and bloggers.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Seth,

      There is huge difference between Impact players and Role players on a roster. The Twins have a lot of talent in New Britain and Rochester but only a few of them are impact players. Let’s look at the following players;

      1. Chris Parmelee- He will be a future impact player if he continues to develop in Rochester.

      2. Brian Dozier- It’s uncertain what role Dozier will play with the Twins in the future. Some view him as a utility player and others view him as the starting SS. Time will tell but he could be an impact player.

      3. Joe Benson- He has all the tools to be a superstar player. However, he has taken a little longer to develop and at times looks overmatched. He strikesout way too much and does not make enough contact. I’m leaning towards Benson being a role player.

      4. Kyle Gibson- Nobody knows how he will recover from T.J. surgery. He won’t be ready until 2013 and might be a #3 pitcher in the starting rotation. Clearly he is role player.

      5. Liam Hendriks- He appears to be a pretty solid middle of the rotation starter (#3 or #4). Might improve some more at Rochester and surprise some people. He is a role player.

      6. Rene Tosoni- He has good opposite field power but clearly is not a starting outfielder. There also is no room for him unless somebody is traded. A 4th outfielder at best for Twins and another role player.

      7. Aaron Hicks- He is still young and talented enough to put it all together and become the next Torii Hunter. However, he has been very inconsistent over the last two years and his stock has fallen. I believe he will produce if he can make it to the majors. Right now that is a big IF.

      8. Luke Hughes- He has good power and plays decent defense at 2B (His best position). Does not appear to be a everyday player because he gets injured too often. He will make the team as a bench/role player.

      9. Alex Wimmers- Struggled with control problems but came back strong towards the end of last year. Not sure if he will become stagnant or continue to move through the system. Projects to be a #3 or #4 pitcher and that’sbeing optimistic. A role player.

      10. Carlos Gutierrez- He has all the talent to be a real good big league reliever. He struggles with his control sometimes on the mound and it snowballs into big innings. Could be a dominant force in the 7thor 8th inning if he can make adjustments. A role player.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      The Twins have a decent minor league system but let's be honest, it's not the Tampa Bay Rays.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      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.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fanatic Jack View Post
      The Twins have a decent minor league system but let's be honest, it's not the Tampa Bay Rays.

      I'm pretty sure no one is claiming that it is... although, once Matt Moore loses his "prospect eligibility," I don't know that there is much difference.
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