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A Look Back At The Top Twins Prospects From 2011 (AKA... Yikes)


Matt Braun

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Recently I was messing around on MLB.com for no particularly good or suspicious reason when I stumbled upon their top prospects list. Now, we all are familiar with prospects because as Twins fans, they sometimes bring us more hope than the major league team. But even cooler than the updated top prospects list was an archived top prospects list from 2011 that included their top 50 prospects of the year along with top 10 lists for each team. An oh boy does nothing brew my fair-trade espresso like looking back at old prospects lists and chuckling at how their careers actually turned out. Guys like Machado, Harper, and Trout were all in the top 10 and have been excellent so far while guys like Jacob Turner, Martin Perez, and Shelby Miller haven’t quite lived up to their hype. Baseball is a funny game and how good of a prospect a player oftentimes does not correlate to major league success. So buckle in and get ready for some weird nostalgia. http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/prospects/watch/y2011/

 

 

Aaron Hicks

 

I swear on my life that I didn’t plan this, but the news of Aaron Hicks’ new 7-year extension with the Yankees broke earlier this week and basically every part of that sentence just absolutely stings. Hicks was the OG toolsy centerfielder before Buxton was even in the picture and there was a lot to like about his game. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t end too well for us Twins fans; Hicks struggled in the majors for the Twins, was traded to the Yankees after the 2015 season for John Ryan Murphy, then struggled in 2016 for the Yankees before figuring it out in 2017 and is now coming off a fresh 4.9 fWAR season for the Yankees. There really isn’t any way that you can slice that trade that makes it look good for the Twins, but it does hurt a touch less considering how good the Twins OF is even without Hicks. And it makes me feel a little better if I think of it as a Hicks for Moya trade because good Lord, John Ryan Murphy was just awful for the Twins. Terry Ryan should have known not to trust a guy with 3 first names, but here we are. JRM was one of the worst Twins players I had ever seen and the only fond memory I have of him is when he got tossed in Houston after Jerry Layne’s ego got in the way of making a strike 3 call.

 

 

Kyle Gibson

 

What an interesting career Gibson has had so far. Gibby was originally taken as a 1st round college arm in 2009 because the Twins philosophy at the time was “take college pitchers in the 1st to get them here as quick as possible”. Gibby took a little longer than expected due to getting Tommy John surgery late in 2011, but he eventually debuted in 2013. After some solid yet unspectacular seasons in 2014 and 2015, the metaphorical feces hit the fan in 2016 and the first half of 2017 for Gibby as his standard groundball special became obsolete and hitters started to tee off on the poor guy. After being sent to AAA in 2017 and changing how he pitched (along with probably “finding himself” or something equally deep), Gibby started to strike people out and he pitched well in the 2nd half of 2017. All of this led to a full breakout 2018 campaign at the ripe age of 30 for the converted groundball man and he looks to stabilize the rotation again in 2019.

 

 

Miguel Sano

 

Here we have yet another unusual career path because God forbid a Twins prospect develops normally into a quality MLB player without a speed bump or 7 along the way. Sano was one of the few good moves made by Bill Smith as he was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 as a 16-year-old (allegedly, according to Joe Simpson). He mashed through the minors before losing an entire year in 2014 due to Tommy John surgery but skipped AAA the next year and made his MLB debut in 2015. And oh boy did he make a debut. He absolutely mashed to the tune of a 149 wRC+ and was seemingly crushing clutch homers every single night. 2016 was less kind to Sano as he struggled with injuries and dumbassery when the Twins attempted to move him to RF to keep elite third baseman Trevor Plouffe on the roster. 2017 was kinder as he made the All-Star game but still struggled with injuries later in the season. 2018 was just absolutely turrible in the full Charles Barkley sense of the word for him but let’s not dwell on the past. Sano is still around as a 25-year-old (allegedly also to the dude who cares about that kind of thing) with All-Star upside but needs to have a good 2019 year to show that he can stick in the Twins’ future plans.

 

 

Oswaldo Arcia

 

Oh man, Oswaldo Arcia, what a headache this guy was. All the talent in the world but couldn’t make contact, or hit the ball to left field, or field, or run… Really, it isn’t much of a surprise that this guy flamed out. Arcia is pretty much the cookie-cutter bust as he hung around for a few years with meh numbers and was finally DFA’d in 2016 when the team had enough finally. I mean seriously, when you can’t even make the 2016 Twins better, that isn’t a great sign for where you are skill-wise. Arcia bounced around to a number of teams that year and then chilled in Arizona’s minor league system in 2017 before going international to further his career. He was actually supposed to play in the AAA All-Star game in 2017 but didn’t end up going for some reason. I don’t know who would turn down a nice trip to Tacoma, Washington like that. Now we get to watch his brother, Orlando, do things for Milwaukee and then get the cold 1000-yard stare whenever the word “Arcia” is mentioned. Apparently, he signed a contract with a Mexican league team about 2 weeks ago, so that’s neat.

 

 

Joe Benson

 

Y’all remember Joe Benson? This absolute legend has all of 74 major league plate appearances and holds a career wRC+ of 67. Benson was in the minor league system for the Twins for what felt like forever but never really got a major shot until 2011. Ironically enough, Benson lost the starting centerfield job to Aaron Hicks in 2013 during spring training and was placed on waivers later that year to make room for P.J. Walters. Benson bounced around some other minor league teams afterward and was last recorded as signing with the Chicago Dogs in Indy ball. Also, as a fun fact to use whenever at the bar, Benson’s first career hit came off of Max Scherzer, so use that for a pickup line whenever you need.

 

That was not a fun trip down memory lane, but I do think it is necessary for us to check our hype on prospects occasionally. As fans, we always expect the perfect outcomes for them as we envision them as future All-Stars who lock down the team for years to come, but the truth is, they don’t always pan out, and that was a big reason for the Twins struggles in the early Target Field era, the Twins couldn’t develop an actual prospect to save their life. Under the new regime, however, a great number of excellent coaches and modern technologies have been implemented to make sure the next wave of top prospects in Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, and Brusdar Graterol, among others can succeed when they hit the majors.

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One of the biggest problems the Twins had starting in 2011 was that Ron Gardenhire was the manager.   I get that they were not going to fire him after the 2010 94 win season.  That was probably a very good managerial job.

 

The problem was after the 2011 63-99 season it was so obvious that the team needed a manager that could rebuild the squad and Gardenhire wasn't it.  Keeping him on the job for 4 consecutive 90+ loss seasons was a huge mistake that set this franchise back.

 

Where is Aaron Hicks career if he doesn't start with a manager that had absolutely zero patience for young players and their mistakes? 

 

I would also argue that even though Molitor pulled 80+ win seasons in 15 and 17, almost miracles, he also wasn't the right guy for the job for a rebuilding team either.  

 

So, the fact is, the Twins for the past 8 seasons have not hired correctly at the top.  I think they finally have this season, but that remains to be seen. 

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