Thursday, May 19, 2011

Prospect Rundown

This year's miserable big-league product has many Twins fans looking to the future, wondering which prospects might be able to help the franchise begin retooling as soon as this summer. Today, I'll take a spin through the NTB Top 10 Prospects and see how each of the organization's most promising minor-leaguers has fared early on this season. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of performances worthy of excitement.

10. Carlos Gutierrez | Class-AAA Rochester
25.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 18/12 K/BB, 1.21 WHIP

Assuming the Twins' bullpen struggles continue, it probably won't be long before we see Gutierrez in the majors. Playing with the Red Wings this year, he's kept on doing the same things he's done throughout his minor-league career: inducing lots of ground balls (good) and issuing too many walks (bad). His sinking stuff could play well out of the MLB bullpen (it's helped him hold opposing hitters to a .202 average in Triple-A) but he'll have to cut down on the free passes. It'd be nice to see his high-velocity stuff induce a few more strikeouts as well.

9. Liam Hendriks | Class-AA New Britain
32 IP, 3.66 ERA, 30/9 K/BB, 1.06 WHIP

Coming off a spectacular 2010 campaign split between Low-A and High-A, Hendriks has continued to impress in Double-A this year, going 3-1 with a 3.66 ERA over his first seven appearances (six starts). His 3.33 K/BB ratio certainly pales in comparison to last year's 8.75 mark, but no one expected that to sustain and the right-hander will be in good shape as long as he's fanning close to a batter per inning and keeping the walks and hits in check. Hendriks has been as impressive as anyone on this list thus far, but his MLB arrival date is probably 2012 at the earliest.

8. Angel Morales | Class-A+ Ft. Myers
Has not played

As one of the organization's more intriguing young outfield prospects, I was looking forward to seeing how Morales would progress this season. Unfortunately, he hasn't played, as he reported to camp this year with a ligament injury in his elbow. Last I heard, he was trying to rehab and avoid Tommy John surgery, but it appears there's a good chance that the 21-year-old could be out of action for quite a while.

7. Alex Wimmers | Class-A+ Ft. Myers
0 IP, inf ERA, 0/6 K/BB, inf WHIP

Any time you see "inf" (short for infinite) in a pitcher's statistics, you know it's a bad sign. Wimmers made one start this year, walked all six hitters he faced (allowing four earned runs) and hasn't pitched since. He's now trying to find his control in extended spring training, and hopefully will be able to get himself back on track after an impressive pro debut last year. One can't help but notice the eery similarities between Wimmers and 2008 Twins draft pick Shooter Hunt -- both impressive college pitchers taken in the first round who made very strong short-season debuts and then completely lost their ability to throw the ball over the plate. Hopefully Wimmers can rebound much more quickly.

6. David Bromberg | Class-AA New Britain
22.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, 11/4 K/BB, 1.25 WHIP

The bad news doesn't stop here. Despite pitching relatively well over nine starts at Triple-A last year, Bromberg found himself back in Double-A to open this season, where he pitched well enough in four outings before landing on the disabled list with a broken right forearm after a line drive struck him in late April.

5. Joe Benson | Class-AA New Britain
.255/.342/.431, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 25 R, 5/7 SB

In 102 games at Double-A last year, Benson smashed 23 homers -- surpassing his previous career total in four seasons -- while posting an .862 OPS. This year he opened again in New Britain, with an objective of maintaining the power improvement and cutting down on strikeouts to improve his batting average. Unfortunately, Benson has mostly stagnated; his four home runs in 155 plate appearances represent a sizable drop-off from last year's pace, and while he is striking out slightly less (39 whiffs in 155 plate appearances, a 25 percent rate) he's still hitting just .255.

4. Ben Revere | Class-AAA Rochester
.293/.330/.315, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 10 R, 7/9 SB

Revere slumped horribly out of the gates in Rochester, but rebounded to bring his average back near .300 before being called up to help out an injury-depleted Twins outfield. He has batted .179 with no walks or extra-base hits in 28 plate appearances in the majors this year. Certainly he's done little to impress, but it's important to remember that he's only 23 and has a .371 career OBP in the minors. He'll be a useful player eventually.

3. Miguel Sano | Extended Spring Training

Sano, still (allegedly) just 18 years old, hasn't participated in an actual game yet this year, instead working to hone his skills down in Florida. While you can't help but love his upside, he's several years away from being relevant to the big-league club.

2. Aaron Hicks | Class-A+ Ft. Myers
.237/.344/.359, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 21 R, 3/6 SB

I, for one, am growing tired of Hicks' on-field results failing to mirror his considerable physical ability. Since a great rookie-league debut in 2008 that saw him post a .900 OPS over 45 games, Hicks has consistently posted underwhelming numbers that make it difficult to get excited about his chances of making an impact within the next few years. He's still only 21 and has plenty of time to grow, but a .237 average with 10 extra-base hits in 158 plate appearances in Single-A don't exactly scream dominance.

1. Kyle Gibson | Class-AAA Rochester
37 IP, 4.14 ERA, 37/7 K/BB, 1.11 WHIP

We'll close out this report on a high note. Gibson, who has now cemented himself as the organization's best prospect, is looking very sharp in Triple-A. While his 4.14 ERA might not wow you, his strikeout rate and walk rate are both better than he posted at any level last year during a stellar pro debut. He's allowed six homers in 37 innings, which is a little odd by his standards and helps explain the slightly inflated ERA, but overall Gibson has shined and appears ready to step into the Twins' rotation whenever they decide to give him the call.


Jay Hamilton said...

If Revere can start hitting, even just a bit, he can replace Span in center. Span is fast, but not quite fast enough to be an elite CF. Both Revere and Repko (and certainly Gomez) would have made catches that Span couldn't quite reach that lost us at least three games so far this year. Revere has a crap arm but Span's isn't much better. Can we get Carlos back somehow? Revere-Gomez-Span would be the fastest OF in baseball. Our prospect list is pretty sad. Time for a new GM with an IQ over 50.

Anonymous said...

The cupboard is almost bare. One of the fruits of having been a factor in the Central Division pennant race for so many years in a row.

This year it turns and we become sellers. Trade value is probably better mid-season anyways. Maybe you should do a post on other teams' prospects since that's where our players will come from once we start trading.

cy1time said...

Jay, Span is FIRST in the AL in defensive WAR, according to Baseball Reference. I'm not sure how you define elite, but first in the AL must be at least in the neighborhood. I doubt that even the great Jim Edmonds could have played CF well enough to save the three games that you say Span lost.

Revere is hitting .179/.179/.179 compared to Span's .280/.352/.341. Earlier this year Nick wrote about Span's walk rate being down, guess what, it's back up, 18BB in 182 plate appearances. While I think that Revere is eventually going to hit and he may be a fine center-fielder someday, he's nowhere near ready to take over for Span in CF.

Matt said...

This article and the stats enclosed give even more reasons to trade Morneau and Liriano right away. Maybe you also deal Young and/or Kubel?
As fans we can make it through this down year, knowing, at least, that Cuddy's outrageous contract is gone and we could/SHOULD have some exciting new prospects.
That still won't change the fact that the Twins continue to seem hell bent on drafting college contact pitchers and slap hitting outfielders, but as long as TK and BS are in charge, that's what the drafts will look like...
We all say Bill Smith needs to go? Ok. Tom Kelly needs to go, too.

Anonymous said...

Revere isn't replacing Span in Center. Span is pretty decent there. Our farm system as it currently stands is a top-10 system. The problem is that a lot of the best prospects are in A-AA ball so they can't help. It doesn't help that Aaron Hicks isn't playing well. It also doesn't help that this top-10 list isn't the top-10 Twins prospects.
David Bromberg and Angel Morales aren't top-10 prosepcts. No way. This wasn't even the case before the season started. Hendricks is close.
Try Oswaldo Arcia a DH/OF in low A being around the #5 or 6 best prospect the Twins have. Adrian Salcedo is another top prosepct. Again #6 or #7 in low A.
As it stands now - Sano, Gibson, Hicks, Benson, Arcia, Salcedo, Revere, Wimmers, Ortiz & Gutierrez would be a better top 10. Henricks & DeVries right at 11 and 12.


Ed Bast said...

All I can say is, gross. Our best prospect projects to be the same type of middle-of-the-rotation finesse pitcher that we have in spades - a group, incidentally, who have combined for 0 playoff wins going back to the days of Joe Mays.

Glad we held on to Hicks last year instead of getting Cliff Lee, though. He's going to be the toolsiest backup outfielder in the league in 2016.

This list is proof positive that the Twins Way isn't working.

Anonymous said...

Anybody knows anything about Hirschfield? He doesn't show in anybody's prospect list, but he has been the best starter in AA this year, as far as I could check.

Anonymous said...

Steven Hirschfeld? Yeah I don't think he is much of a prospect. He doesn't throw above 89MPH. I think he is working on a sinker. I don't think he is above average in anything regarding Control, Stuff etc.

Anonymous said...

As for changing the culture of the Twins "Twins Way". Yeah we haven't won a playoff game since 2004... We better do the Royals way. They have the best farm system around! Woo Hoo! Yeah they have power arms! Yeeeea! What a bunch of bangwagon cry babies I see on these blogs. The Twins are 14-27 and it looks to be bad season. Better move Joe Mauer to RF cause he is hurt. Let's totally overeact. Let's fire everybody because we are having one bad season out of the last 10. It might be good the Twins have a bad season. Maybe they get a top 5 1st rd pick. They can clear 55-60 million off the books for 2012 AND maybe get some prospects for Kubel, Liriano, Thome, Slowey, Young, Pavano, Nathan, Capps, etc. Guys like CJ Wilson, Jose Reyes we may be able to take a look at. Guys like Omar Infante, Jonny Gomes, Johnny Damon, Chris Synder, Jack Wilson, Heath Bell, Michael Wuertz might be guys we pick up. I think the Twins are in great shape for 2012.

Anonymous said...

Hicks has started to hit a little the last couple weeks, up to .244/.352./370. He started slowly last year as well. I'll try to avoid panicking with him for the moment.

Ed Bast said...

"We better do the Royals way. They have the best farm system around! Woo Hoo! Yeah they have power arms! Yeeeea!"

You'd rather have our crappy system? I don't understand. The Royals have a much better shot at a world series in the next 5 years than we do, I know that much. So you're saying you'd rather be worse off as an organization? That fans who think otherwise are "bandwagon"?

"Guys like Omar Infante, Jonny Gomes, Johnny Damon, Chris Synder, Jack Wilson, Heath Bell, Michael Wuertz might be guys we pick up."

Please, let's not pick up a single one of those players. You do realize we'd want to IMPROVE next year, correct?

Matt in SoDak said...

Regarding Hicks, isn't he a beast hitting right-handed, but the majority of his at-bats come as a lefty? I am terrible and finding stats, so I apologize for not having the numbers, but it seems to me that if he is mashing as a righty and below the mendoza line as a lefty, maybe the Twins should consider having him be a righty all the time? We always talk about our lack of right-handed power anyway, and Hicks obviously needs to change something. Better to have him make the change sooner than later.

Matt said...

Guys like Omar Infante, Jonny Gomes, Johnny Damon, Chris Synder, Jack Wilson, Heath Bell, Michael Wuertz might be guys we pick up.

The last thing this organization needs is a spattering of old guys who cost lots of money.

I think that whatever "window" the organization had to push all in for a WS has slammed shut on BS's fingers. It's time to look toward the future - build the upper minors and sign relatively YOUNG free agents.

Johnny Damon? Please...

Nick N. said...

Regarding Hicks, isn't he a beast hitting right-handed, but the majority of his at-bats come as a lefty?

He's hitting .310 with an .850 OPS as a righty and .195 with a 629 OPS as a lefty this year. Last year he hit .374 with a 1.145 as a righty and .244/.714 as a lefty.

You may have a point.

Matt in SoDak said...

It would be great if Hicks became a star righty, but I think that I also read something about how his dad didn't want him to play baseball because he (the father) took a fastball to the face as a player and it ruined his career (instead Hicks was suppose to play golf), but he told his son he could play baseball if he was a switch-hitter.... The thinking being that you have more time to react from the opposite side.... but that seems a little strange to me. Anyway, that is what I remember, so there may be some outside pressures at work with his batting style....

Matt in SoDak said...

That was a really long sentence. My writing is getting pretty ugly!

noam chomsky said...

How didn't Oswaldo Arcia make this list? He may be worth mentioning since he had a vastly better 2010 season than every single player you mention in your piece.

USAFChief said...

I think the Twins are in great shape for 2012.

LOL. Not if they pick up "Guys like Omar Infante, Jonny Gomes, Johnny Damon, Chris Synder, Jack Wilson, Heath Bell...

Jack Wilson??

Anonymous said...

Who would you have the Twins pick up in 2012 for free agents then? Only the big names like CJ Wilson and Jose Reyes? Just throw huge contracts out to them? You may take a run but not get them. Guys like Infante you can get on the cheap and if you aren't in the race you can move them for prospects. Jonny Gomes or Jonny Damon would be a plus at DH/OF and are good at platoon splits. They would be 1 year 5-6 million dollar guys. It's not a risk and they would perform better than what has been occuring for WAY less money. Jack Wilson would be a backup IF. He plays the best short in the game or close to it. Again a 1 year deal to have a proven backup. CHRIS SYNDER is likely the BEST backup catcher the Twins are going to find! I forgot you guys want to get Buster Posey. You want a backup catcher then that would be the guy... Why is Heath Bell mocked? He is a top closer? Totally weird. Infante plays IF and OF and is average at every position and above at some. He is the rich man's Punto. Oh I forgot we need Reyes or nobody?
As for the Royals prospects are just that. The Royals are not going to win a World Series in the next 5 years. The Twins always have a chance. I'd take a look at history the Twins 6 division titles in the last 9 years. The Royals? 1 winning season... But no despite no track record and no success they have a better chance at the Series in the next 5 years. We need to fire Gardy because we are 15-27. The Royals have some top prospects. Yeah scary, in 5 years they won't be able to afford anybody that does make it from the minors. I dare you to give me names the Twins should get instead. The names above would be quick improvements while you also try and add a big name or two. I guess we will just sign Jose Reyes, CJ Wilson, Prince Fielder and Prince Albert. We will trade Morneau for all the Royals top prosepcts and put Mauer in RF while we trade Matt Tolbert for Buster Posey to play catcher. Genius!


Ed Bast said...

The last thing the Twins need next year is to get older. They need an infusion of young talent. What is the point of signing those old, crappy players to 1 year deals? Are they going to put us over the top? Absolutely not. Doing what you suggest would show that the Twins do not have a long-term plan for this team. By cobbling together an old, expensive, average team, it would demonstrate that the front office is committed to mediocrity, rather than reloading for something greater than mere competitiveness in a really crappy division. It truly is the worst thing the team could do.

Oh and as a reminder, over the last 9 years the Twins have won 1 postseason series to the Royals 0. So I'm not sure how the Twins have a "track record of success" when it comes to the playoffs.

Nick N. said...

How didn't Oswaldo Arcia make this list? He may be worth mentioning since he had a vastly better 2010 season than every single player you mention in your piece.

Still haven't been quite sold on Arcia, although his hot start in Beloit (prior to injury) helps me believe he's for real.

Anonymous said...

Twin record since 2002 - 817 Wins 683 Loses 6 divison titles
Royal record since 2002 - 618 Wins 883 losses.

Ed Bast said...

What does that have to do with each team's outlook in the next 5 years?

TT said...

1) The point of the minor leagues is to improve. Its not how good players are the first two months, its the last two months that count.

2) The cupboard is hardly bare at the top. In addition to Revere, there are several other prospects contributing at the major league level. Plouffe, Swarzak, Hughes and Burnett, although I am not sure Burnett is technically a prospect any more. Erick Hacker did alright when he was up as well.

3) In terms of being ready to help, Gutierrez looks closer than Gibson. Gibson has struggled recently with a 5.24 ERA in May. By contrast Gutierrez hasn't allowed an earned run and has given up only 6 hits in 11 innings in May.

Anonymous said...

Benson's OPS up to 830 after today's game. Numbers getting better after the bad May start. The announcer for the Rockcats said he was the best defensive outfielder in the organization.