Back in February, I listed out my Top 10 Twins prospects, and my plan was to provide monthly updates on their progress throughout the season, as I did last year.
Unfortunately, I sort of fell off the wagon after posting my report for the month of April. However, since all minor-league affiliates have seen their seasons come to an end, we have an opportunity to review these prospects' years a whole and ponder their outlook moving forward into the 2011 season.
The team listed next to a player's name represents the level at which he finished the 2010 minor-league season, though the "Season Stats" include numbers accumulated over the course of the year at all minor-league levels.
10. Joe Benson, OF | Class-AA New Britain
Season Stats: .259/.343/.538, 27 HR, 62 RBI, 81 R, 19/29 SB
Earlier this week, Benson was named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year, a wonderful honor for a prospect who has significantly raised his stock as a 22-year-old. After slugging just .399 with a total of five home runs a year ago, Benson finally discovered his power stroke, going deep almost 30 times while remaining a defensive asset in center field and a threat on the base paths. Plate discipline remains a preeminent concern (139 K, 47 BB in 459 AB) but Benson will surely rise several spots on this list next year.
9. Carlos Gutierrez, SP | Class-AAA Rochester
Season Stats: 126 IP, 5-8, 4.50 ERA, 87/52 K/BB, 1.53 WHIP
The vast majority of the numbers listed above were recorded in Double-A, as Gutierrez's experience in Triple-A this year amounted to two relief appearances in September. Overall, it was an underwhelming season for the 24-year-old right-hander, who bounced between the bullpen and rotation while battling frequent command issues. On the bright side, his sinker remained a strength, as he induced grounders on nearly 60 percent of balls in play while allowing only seven home runs.
8. David Bromberg, SP | Class-AA New Britain
Season Stats: 151.1 IP, 6-9, 3.75 ERA, 112/48 K/BB, 1.32 WHIP
After continuing his successful run through the Twins' minor-league ranks by posting a 3.62 ERA over 17 starts in New Britain, Bromberg was bumped up to Rochester, where he finished the season. In nine Triple-A starts, Bromberg went 1-4 with a 3.98 ERA and nine home runs allowed. That might seem discouraging, except nearly all of his peripherals improved during those final 52 innings in Rochester; his WHIP dropped from 1.41 to 1.15, his BB/9 rate dropped from 3.2 to 2.2, his strikeout rate rose from 5.9 to 8.1 and his BAA dropped from .273 to .234. The strong performance during his short stint at Triple-A sparks hope that Bromberg could be a contributor to the big-league club next season, perhaps in the same way Jeff Manship contributed this year.
7. Danny Valencia, 3B | Minnesota Twins
Season Stats: .292/.347/.373, 0 HR, 24 RBI, 22 R, 2/2 SB
Remarkably, Valencia's major-league numbers dwarf those minor-league numbers, accumulated in Rochester over the first two months of the season. He hit .324/.364/.471 with seven homers and 40 RBI after his early-June promotion to the Twins, helping key a division championship run while supplying much-needed offense from the hot corner. Valencia will enter the 2011 season as an entrenched big-league starter, making his placement at seventh on this list look modest.
6. Angel Morales, OF | Class-A Ft. Myers
Season Stats: .280/.362/.405, 5 HR, 55 RBI, 69 R, 29/41 SB
Morales put together a strong first half in Beloit, hitting .289/.381/.474 with four homers, 36 RBI and 18 steals in 60 games. He was bumped up to High-A Ft. Myers for the second half, where he posted a solid .272 average but came up short in the slugging department, managing only one home run and 15 total extra-base hits over 73 games. Of course, Morales is still only 20 years old, so the slow-developing power is not a major concern. If he can cut down on his strikeout rate (he continues to whiff in about one quarter of his plate appearances), the athletic young outfielder has plenty of offensive upside.
5. Miguel Angel Sano, 3B | GCL Twins (Rk)
Season Stats: .307/.379/.491, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 34 R, 4/7 SB
Splitting his time between the Dominican Summer League and rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Sano competed against plenty of other teenagers this season. Yet, presuming his birth certificate is legit, few were as young as the Twins' highly touted 17-year-old infielder. Regardless of age, Sano achieved impressive results in his first professional season. His defense was erratic and he struck out a lot (60 times in 212 AB), but Sano showed us all why scouts have been so enamored with his offensive potential.
4. Ben Revere, OF | Class-AA New Britain
Season Stats: .305/.371/.363, 1 HR, 23 RBI, 44 R, 36/49 SB
Revere had quite the season. After turning in solid production through four months in his first exposure to Double-A, the 22-year-old took a pitch to the face in early August, resulting in a fractured eye socket that was initially believed to be a season-ending injury. Instead, Revere returned less than a month later, hit .382 in his final eight games with New Britain, and received a September call-up to the Twins, where he's drawn sporadic starts. Revere seems likely to open next season in Rochester, but he's almost certain to see big-league time at some point next season.
3. Kyle Gibson, SP | Class-AAA Rochester
Season Stats: 152 IP, 11-6, 2.96 ERA, 126/39 K/BB, 1.15 WHIP
The Twins' first-round draft pick in 2009, Gibson's first pro season was a resounding success. After thoroughly dominating Single-A competition over his first seven starts, Gibson was bumped up to Double-A, where he experienced further success before finishing the year with three starts at Triple-A. With his ability to miss bats, limit walks and induce grounders, Gibson has all the makings of a successful big-league starter and he'll likely be called upon by the Twins at some point next season.
2. Wilson Ramos, C | Class-AAA Syracuse (Nationals affiliate)
Season Stats: .258/.293/.378, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 39 R, 1/3 SB
After hitting just .241 in his first 71 games with Rochester, Ramos was traded to the Nationals for closer Matt Capps just before the non-waiver deadline in July. The move was widely criticized by Twins fans, given Ramos' standing as one of the organization's most promising prospects. That the catcher played much better after the deal (.316/.341/.494 in 20 Triple-A games after the trade) would only help fuel the fire. Nevertheless, it was another ultimately unspectacular season for the ballyhooed backstop, who finished with a career-low .671 OPS.
1. Aaron Hicks, OF | Class-A Beloit
Season Stats: .279/.401/.429, 8 HR, 49 RBI, 86 R, 21/32 SB
At the age of 20, Hicks showed plenty of promising signs while playing for Beloit this season. He increased his batting average by almost 30 points over where it was a year ago. He flashed power, collecting 40 extra-base hits in 115 games. He reached base at an outstanding pace, drawing a whopping 88 walks in 518 plate appearances. He continued to impressive with his defense in center field. However, he made all those strides while repeating the Low-A level for a second year, never earning the promotion to Ft. Myers that many had hoped to see. He also struck out 115 times, increasing his rate from last year at the same level. Will the performance be enough for Hicks to retain his No. 1 status heading into next season? We'll just have to wait and see...