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.