Happy Minor League Opening Day to all of you!
In Rochester, the Red Wings will send veteran PJ Walters to the mound to face Mitch Atkins (and Bryce Harper) and the Syracuse Chiefs. New Britain will send Luke French to the mound against Richmond. Scott Baker makes the Opening Day start for the Ft. Myers Miracle. Eden Prairie native Madison Boer gets the starting nod for the Beloit Snappers.
I thought it would be fun to do some preseason minor league predictions and definitely encourage all of you to participate in the comments as well.
To do so, I enlisted some other Twins bloggers who talk about the Twins minor leagues. Each of us predicted a Breakout Hitter and Pitcher in the Upper Levels (Rochester and New Britain), Lower Levels (Ft. Myers and Beloit) and EST (Extended Spring Training). “Breakout” is one of those terms that can have a different definition for different people. Generally, however, it’s a player that either came out of nowhere or far exceeded expectations. For each of those levels, we each picked a ‘Best’ hitter and pitcher. It is possible that the “breakout” and “best” are the same player, but not necessarily.
Thank you to our other guest predictors: Andrew from Twins Fran from Afar, Roger Dehring from Twinkie Town, Paul Pleiss from Puckett’s Pond, Cody Christie (the Nodak Twins Fan), and Travis Aune, my co-host on Twins Minor League Weekly every Thursday night.
So, let’s get started, and again, please feel free to get your predictions in below!!
Breakout Hitter (Upper Levels):
Seth: Rene Tosoni – I realize he is no longer even rookie eligible, and he ended last season well, but I think Tosoni is still very underrated by most Twins fans.
Andrew: Aaron Hicks. This is a big year for him, and he has to show that he deserved the promotion to AA.
Roger: Aaron Hicks, This is going to be the year he becomes the player everyone knows he can be.
Paul: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, while many think that Nishi will find his way back to Japan by the season's end, the demotion to AAA will give Nishi a chance to learn the American flavor of the game and get the instruction he needs to use the skills he acquired in Japan to become a productive hitter in MLB.
Cody: Aaron Hicks: Please...Pretty please. The Twins are giving him every shot and it's time to take the opportunity and run with it.
Travis: Aaron Hicks- The Phenom is going to turn his upside into skills and take off.
Best Hitter (Upper Levels):
Seth: Aaron Bates – He was the Red Wings top hitter a year ago, not only hitting for average, but also gets on base regularly. He had a strong big league camp and should be playing with a lot of confidence.
Andrew: Joe Benson. Working with Tom Brunansky in Rochester, hopefully Benson can close those holes in his swing and show that he's MLB ready.
Roger: Joe Benson, is gonna strike out a bit less and launch a lot of balls out of Frontier Field in his last four months of minor league ball.
Paul: Brian Dozier was impressive last year splitting time between Ft Myers and New Britain. After an impressive spring I look to Dozier to continue to tear things up in Rochester. If there is any disarray with the Twins middle infield, Dozier will be the first guy up to fill the open slot.
Cody: Joe Benson: Seeing Parmelee in the majors should drive him on the field.
Travis: Joe Benson- Benson is so close to being MLB ready and will take that step forward.
Breakout Hitter (Lower Levels):
Seth: Tyler Grimes – Last year’s 5th round pick from powerhouse Wichita State signed quickly and held his own at Beloit last year. He’ll repeat there to start this season.
Andrew: Levi Michael. After being injured last year, it's time for him to show why he was the Twins' first round pick last year.
Roger: Angel Morales, He will be on a mission to prove that he is a top prospect after an injury filled 2011.
Paul: Levi Michael. Levi signed late and will be making his professional debut with the Miracle this season and as a fairly polished college player should perform well hitting for high average and working his way up through the Twins system, finishing the season in AA after a successful campaign with the Miracle.
Cody: Angel Morales: After missing a chunk of last year, it's time to prove he is one of the team's best prospects.
Travis: Tyler Grimes- The Shortstop will stay healthy and show how good he really is.
Best Hitter (Lower Levels):
Seth: Angel Morales – Morales is younger than Aaron Hicks. He has many of the same tools and after missing most of last year with an elbow injury, I expect his power/speed combination to finally thrive.
Andrew: Miguel Sano. Let's see what damage he can do in a full season.
Roger: Tie between Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano, how can you pick between those two. One or both will hit over thirty home runs with the other between 25-30 at Beloit, if they stay there all year.
Paul: Miguel Sano or Eddie Rosario. Both are moving up to Beloit this season and it's a coin flip as to which will be the best hitter for the Snappers this season as both are coming off of monster seasons in Elizabethon. I look for Sano to continue to develop his power tool although he may have a slow start playing in colder weather of the Midwest League.
Cody: Miguel Sano: Rosario got lots of accolades in '11 and now it will be Sano's turn.
Travis: Oswaldo Arcia- The best pure hitter in organization will explode this year.
Breakout Hitter (EST):
Seth: Travis Harrison – One of the Twins supplemental 1st round draft picks in 2011, Harrison will debut in 2012. He’s a solid power-hitting prospect, but will he play in Elizabethton or the GCL?
Andrew: Niko Goodrum. Looking to build off of a solid 2011 in Elizabethton.
Roger: Max Kepler, We all have been waiting for him to mature physically and gain experience. He won't be the player he will eventually become, but will take a big step forward this year.
Paul: Niko Goodrum. Nko will repeat EST for a second season, but if he can build off of late season success from 2011 Niko's a name that Twins fans will be talking about as the season progresses. Goodrum is also a twitter fanatic, @nikogoodrumTC, and like Ben Revere he just looks like he's having fun out on the field. He's still pretty raw, but look for Goodrum to make big strides at the plate this year.
Cody: Max Kepler: More consistency and less strikeouts will be key for him to succeed.
Travis: Max Kepler- The best prospect to ever come from Europe will explode this year.
Best Hitter (EST):
Seth: Josh Hendricks – The burly first baseman has been inconsistent the last two years in the GCL since coming over from Australia. But when he makes contact, he hits the ball with authority. I think he’ll take that next step and put up big numbers in E-Town in 2012.
Andrew: Max Kepler. Still young, filling out.
Roger: Niko Goodrum, He will be one of the most exciting players in the organization in 2012!
Paul: Max Kepler is back in EST for a second year after coming off a 2011 where he hit .262/.347/.366. Look for Kepler to settle in early and build off his season ending six game hit streak in 2011. Kepler should continue to get stronger and should develop power as he progresses through the Twins system.
Cody: Niko Goodrum: Ended last year by playing well and this will hopefully transfer to this year.
Travis: Travis Harrison- The power hitting 3rd baseman will dominate the GCL.
So there you have it, our picks for the 2012 season. Now it is your turn. Make your picks. We’ll be back later in the day to discuss the pitchers.