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.