At the beginning of each month last year, I took the opportunity to break down the performance of each member of my Top Ten Prospects list over the previous month. I plan to do that again this year. I've had this post in queue for several days, so I'm sorry it's late, but here's a look at how each of my Top Ten prospects performed during the month of April and how their outlook is shaping up as we move forward.
10. Joe Benson, OF | Class-AA New Britain
April Stats: .169/.296/.271, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 11 R, 4/5 SB
After spending nearly the entire 2009 season in Ft. Myers, Benson moved up a level to open the 2010 season and has struggled initially with the Rock Cats. Strikeouts continue to be a problem for the athletic outfielder, as he whiffed 16 times in 59 at-bats. There’s no cause for alarm yet, as Benson is only 22 and still adjusting to the higher level of competition, but it would be nice to see him pick up the pace in May.
9. Carlos Gutierrez, SP | Class-AA New Britain
April Stats: 19 IP, 0-1, 6.63 ERA, 16/6 K/BB, 1.68 WHIP
After dominating Single-A hitters for the first half of the ’09 season, Gutierrez was moved up to New Britain at the end of the year and he struggled there, posting a 6.19 ERA over 22 appearances there while working mostly as a reliever. This year, Gutierrez was moved back into a starting role but he’s continued to struggle, as evidenced by the higher ERA and his .333 opponents’ batting average. Nonetheless, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is solid and Gutierrez is getting twice as many outs on the ground as in the air. Those are promising peripherals, so look for him to improve rapidly as the season progresses.
8. David Bromberg, SP | Class-AA New Britain
April Stats: 24 IP, 1-0, 1.13 ERA, 19/6 K/BB, 1.00 WHIP
Bromberg is one guy on this list who has definitely not disappointed thus far. After spending all of the ’09 season in Ft. Myers, Bromberg moved up to Double-A this year and hasn’t skipped a beat, continuing to dominate with just nine hits and four walks allowed over his first three starts. That he is continuing to miss bats at a solid rate against Double-A hitters is quite encouraging. If he can keep this up, he could become an option for the Twins at some point this year.
7. Danny Valencia, 3B | Class-AAA Rochester
April Stats: .256/.306/.346, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 8 R, 1/1 SB
Valencia was viewed by some as a candidate to win the Twins’ starting third base job out of spring training, but instead he was sent to Rochester to keep ironing out his game, knowing that his time could come any time this year. Valencia got off to a very slow start with the Red Wings but came on late in the month and has hit .372 over his past 10 games. It’d be nice to see him start to display a bit more power, as he hasn’t homered yet, but he does have eight doubles.
6. Angel Morales, OF | Class-A Beloit
April Stats: .281/.356/.500, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 9 R, 8/10 SB
Morales continues to struggle with his plate discipline, having fanned 25 times while drawing only six walks over his first 89 at-bats, but his outstanding athleticism continues to win out and there’s just no complaining about these overall numbers. Already he’s ripped three homers and six doubles to go along with nine stolen bases. Eventually he’s going to run into trouble if he doesn’t improve his plate approach, but for now he’s more than getting the job done.
5. Miguel Angel Sano, SS | Extended Spring Training
April Stats: N/A
There’s nothing to report at this point on the Twins’ prized Dominican prospect, who was signed last with a $3.15 million bonus. Sano spent the first month of the season working under the supervision of coaches in Extended Spring Training. He may be sent to the Dominican Summer League to get some real competitive action at some point.
4. Ben Revere, OF | Class-AA New Britain
April Stats: .274/.361/.306, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 6 R, 6/7 SB
After opening some eyes on the major-league staff down in spring training, Revere headed to Double-A to open the season, where he has continued to do what he does best: making contact and getting on base. His nearly even 12-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in April was impressive and helped him post a strong .361 OBP over the first month while swiping six bags in seven tries. He’s shown almost no power, with two doubles and no homers in 86 at-bats, and he drove in only a single run during the month, but those are secondary concerns for a leadoff man. Revere is doing just fine.
3. Kyle Gibson, SP | Class-A Ft. Myers
April Stats: 30.2 IP, 2-1, 1.76 ERA, 28/7 K/BB, 0.91 WHIP
A highly touted college pitcher who would have likely been a top ten pick in last June’s draft if not for injury concerns, Gibson started his pro career this season at High-A ball, which is no surprise considering his advanced skills. After a rocky first start, the right-hander has been lights out, achieving a solid strikeout rate while remarkably inducing five times as many outs on the ground as in the air. In his final start of the month, Gibson pitched a one-hit shutout. He doesn’t seem destined to spend much time with the Miracle.
2. Wilson Ramos, C | Class-AAA Rochester
April Stats: .179/.214/.328, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 5 R, 0/0 SB
After losing much of his 2009 season to injury, Ramos came to spring training this year and impressed Ron Gardenhire so much that the Twins’ manager wanted to bring Ramos north to back up Joe Mauer, despite his not having any experience above Double-A. The Twins ultimately elected to send Ramos to Rochester, and the catching prospect responded by struggling out of the gates. While his strikeout rate isn’t out of control, Ramos walked just twice all month and supplemented his three homers with just one double. He was called up to the Twins in early May after Mauer got hurt, but seems likely to head back to Rochester upon Mauer's return, where hopefully he can get his bat going.
1. Aaron Hicks, OF | Class-A Beloit
April Stats: .299/.427/.463, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 16 R, 5/9 SB
Speaking of poor starts, they don’t get much worse than the one Hicks got off to in Beloit. Perhaps disappointed by having to repeat the same level he finished at least year, Hicks sputtered out of the gates, collecting just one hit in his first 30 at-bats while striking out at an astonishing rate. Fortunately, Hicks has lived up to his No. 1 prospect billing with a dramatic rebound, batting .459 over his final 10 games of the month to raise his numbers back up to a more-than-respectable level. One thing that has been amiss in the athletic outfielder’s game over the past few years has been power, so it’s very encouraging to see some balls starting to leave the yard.