Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Roger’s 2007 Twins All-Prospect Team
Good morning! Well, as you read this, I will be on a plane up to Warroad, or already there. But thankfully our good friend Roger has taken some time and will be filling in for me today. As you know, Roger has a strong passion for following the Twins minor league system. He follows it daily throughout the season and thinks about it as much as I do in the offseason. Today, he is going to be giving us his 2007 Twins All-Prospect Team. So without further ado:
2007 Twins All-Prospect Team
The 2007 All-Prospect Team is a team of those players who had the best season of any player in the organization at their respective positions. This twenty-eight man team consists of a starting lineup, designated hitter, eight position reserves, six starting pitchers and a five man bullpen. Each player’s age as of the start of this past season is included, together with their comparative ranking in the system based on their performance in 2007 (indicated in red). Not eligible for this team were those players whom played a substantial part of the season with the Twins, such as Scott Baker and Matt Garza. The statistics listed for each player are from 2007.
THE STARTING LINEUP
This year’s starting lineup:
CF - Brandon Roberts/22 (#17 - New Britain Rock Cats)
2B - Matt Tolbert/24 (#3 - Rochester Red Wings)
LF - Garrett Guzman/24 (#1 - New Britain Rock Cats)
1B - Brock Peterson/23 (#5 - New Britain Rock Cats)
DH - Erik Lis/23 (#8 - Ft. Myers Miracle)
3B - Brian Buscher/25 (#2 - Rochester Red Wings-Minnesota Twins)
C - Jose Morales/24 (#11 - Rochester Red Wings-Minnesota Twins)
SS - Trevor Plouffe/20 (#10 - New Britain Rock Cats)
RF - Ozzie Lewis/21 (#19 - Elizabethton Twins)
Leading off is a player who the Twins acquired from the Reds for Juan Castro in 2006. Brandon Roberts began his first season at AA with a terrible April when he hit for only a .148 Average in 61 at bats. It would turn out to be the only full month in which he did not hit over .300, as Roberts finished his first AA season with a .293 Average. After stealing 50 bases in the Florida State League in 2006, Roberts grabbed only 14 bags in 21 attempts this season. Roberts displayed excellent discipline at the plate, striking out only 56 times n 369 at bats. If he is to be come an ideal leadoff hitter, however, he will need to improve on this past season’s 32 bases on balls. This speedy centerfielder’s performance beginning May 1st indicates that he must be included with the other leading candidates to patrol center field when the Twins move into their new ballpark in 2010.
New Britain 369ab 50runs 13-2B 4-3B 3-HR 39-RBI .293Ave/.355OBP
Batting second is a player who flirted with a .400 Average with the Red Wings early last year. Although Matt Tolbert played some third base and shortstop, his best position was second base. Like Roberts, Tolbert displayed good plate discipline with 56 strikeouts and 37 bases on balls. He also has good speed as evidenced by his 11 stolen bases in 14 attempts. Although much has been written about Alexi Casilla being the Twins future second baseman, some insiders believe that Tolbert may be the player to emerge from spring training as the Twins starting second baseman. If he doesn’t, the fact that he can play short, third and the outfield in a pinch means that he will also be considered for a utility spot as early as next spring.
Rochester 417ab 65runs 24-2B 7-3B 6-HR 53-RBI .293Ave/.353OBP
The top hitter in the organization this year was New Britain’s left fielder Garrett Guzman who won the organization’s batting title (.312 Average) by hitting safely in his last 10 at bats of the season. Much has been written about Guzman’s terrible auto accident that caused him to miss the entire 2005 season, thus, one can only speculate how excited Guzman must be following a year in which he was as good as anyone in the Twins system. As is the case with both Tolbert and Roberts, Guzman did not strike out a lot (51) to go with 31 bases on balls. He has reasonable speed for a corner outfielder with 6 steals in 12 attempts, however, does not have the speed required to be a regular center fielder.
New Britain 475ab 72runs 23-2B 1-3B 14-HR 88-RBI .312Ave/.359OBP
Batting cleanup for this year’s all-prospect team is a player who the Twins drafted in the 49th round of the 2002 draft. After hitting a franchise record 21 home runs for the Miracle in 2006, Brock Peterson was again one of the organization’s top power hitters with 14 home runs for the Rock Cats. Brock had the top slugging percentage (.476) of any full season player on this squad, however, like many young power hitters he needs to cut down on his strikeouts (90). He did receive 44 bases on balls in 433 plate appearances which helped generate an excellent .382OBP.
New Britain 389ab 67runs 21-2B 4-3B 15-HR 64-RBI .285Ave/.382OBP
The designated hitter is a first baseman/left fielder Erik Lis, whom had one of the biggest at bats of the year for any Twins minor leaguer when he hit a home run off Roger Clemens. With Justin Morneau a fixture at first base, the Twins moved Lis to left field as they begin preparing for the day when he will join the big league club. This season, Lis led the Florida State League with 97 rbi, while having the fifth most doubles (34), sixth most home runs (18) and tenth best slugging percentage (.470). Lis struck out to often (109) to go with 41 bases on balls, however, this season’s performance is an indication that the Twins believe that Lis has a bat that they must find a spot for in their lineup by 2010 at the latest.
Ft. Myers 492ab 58runs 34-2B 4-3B 18-HR 97-RBI .274Ave/.334OBP
Brian Buscher had the type of season he likely dreamt about since he was playing youth baseball. A player who wasn’t drafted out of high school, Brian kept working at the University of South Carolina and more recently in the Giant’s minor league system. At this time of year last fall, Brian learned that he had been selected by the Twins in the minor league Rule V draft. It is likely he didn’t know what this would mean for his future, but to begin the season as a reserve for the New Britain Rock Cats and finish playing for the Twins is a season Brian will cherish for the rest of his life.
New Britain 247ab 37runs 19-2B 1-3B 7-HR 37-RBI .308Ave/.391OBP
Rochester 132ab 21run 7-2B 0-3B 7-HR 22-RBI .311Ave/.374OBP
Minnesota 82ab 8runs 1-2B 0-3B 2-HR 2-RBI .244Ave/.323OBP
Jose Morales led the organization in hitting most of the year, finishing second with a .311 Average which also was the fourth best in the International League. After several Twins catchers were injured in September, Morales received a late call up going 3 for 3 in his only appearance before he also was injured. Morales has excellent plate discipline with 30 bases on balls and only 44 strikeouts in 376 at bats. A catcher that can hit for a .300Average and also play solid defense is the reason Morales is now one of only three catchers on the Twins 40-man roster. Morales will likely see more action with the Twins in 2008 and could be a regular backup beginning in 2009.
Rochester 376ab 42runs 25-2B 1-3B 2-HR 37-RBI .311Ave/.366OBP
When talking about Trevor Plouffe the last several years, one would always hear the comment that he was very young for the level he was playing at. This season was no different as he was only 20 and playing for AA New Britain. But following this season, no one has to make any excuses as Plouffe was one of the top players in the entire Twins organization. Unlike prior seasons when he started slowly, Trevor started this season on-fire and continued hitting well throughout the year…finishing with a .274 Average and a system high 37 doubles with 38 bases on balls and 89 strikeouts in 479 at bats. As a reward for his play this season, Plouffe earned a spot in the prestigious Arizona Fall League where his season recently ended with a minor injury after hitting a solid .280Average in 50 at bats with a .379OBP against many of baseball’s best minor league pitchers.
New Britain 497ab 75runs 37-2B 2-3B 9-HR 50-RBI .274Ave/.326OBP
The one position player from a short season league is this year’s Appalachian League Player of the Year, right fielder, Ozzie Lewis. Drafted by the Twins in the 21st round of this year’s draft, Lewis was more than a pleasant surprise for the championship Elizabethton Twins. A good way to look at the type of season Lewis had was where he finished in several hitting categories, including second in the league in hitting (.323Ave), third most hits (76), ninth in runs scored (46), tied for fifth most doubles (18), tied for third most home runs (9), fourth runs batted in (50), and the fourth best .523SLG. On a team that had several hitters who put up numbers as good as anyone in the organization, Lewis was better than anyone in the League. Because he was a college player and a bit older than the younger prospects in the league, Baseball America only ranked Lewis as the 16th best prospect in the league.
Elizabethton 235ab 46runs 18-2B 1-3B 9-HR 50-RBI .323Ave/.375OBP
C - Wilson Ramos/19 (#33 - Beloit Snappers)
1B/3B - Danny Valencia/22 (#13 - Ft. Myers Miracle)
IF - Luke Hughes/22 (#12 - New Britain Rock Cats)
IF - Alexi Casilla/22 (#7 - Rochester Red Wings-Minnesota Twins)
3B - Matt Macri/24 (#6 - Rochester Red Wings)
OF/1B - Garrett Jones/25 (#4 - Rochester Red Wings-Minnesota Twins)
OF - Denard Span/23 (#14 - Rochester Red Wings)
OF - Dustin Martin/23 (#20 - Ft. Myers Miracle)
Wilson Ramos began the 2007 season in extended spring training. When a catcher got injured at Beloit, Ramos joined the Snappers and arguably was their best hitter after mid-season promotions for Valencia, Dinkelman and Woodard. Several Twins Executives have commented on his excellent defensive play, yet it was Ramos’ bat that gained recognition for this young player from Venezuela who hit .286Average for the GCL Twins in 2006 when he also threw out 38% of runners attempting to steal.
Beloit 292ab 40runs 17-2B 1-3B 8-HR 42-RBI .291Ave/.345OBP
Many informed fans asked why he was still available when the Twins drafted Danny Valencia in the 19th round of the 2006 draft. After his first two seasons with the Twins, these same fans are still asking why? But not the Twins, they are thankful that 29 other teams failed to select this talented former Miami Hurricane. After being one of the Twins top young hitters while playing at Elizabethton in 2006, Danny continued his rapid rise up the ladder in 2007. He was Beloit’s top hitter prior to his mid-season promotion to Ft. Myers where he immediately gave their lineup a much needed shot in the arm.
Beloit 242ab 44runs 15-2B 0-3B 11-HR 35-RBI .302Ave/.374OBP
Ft. Myers 230ab 28runs 8-2B 2-3B 6-HR 31-RBI .291Ave/.332OBP
For some, the most surprising player on this all-star team is Luke Hughes. But don’t expect any fans from New Britain, his teammates or most Execs working with the Twins minor league system to be surprised. After hitting only .231Average for Ft. Myers in 2006, some were surprised that Luke was promoted to AA. He spent much of the season as a utility player for the Rock Cats where he committed only 3 errors. Yet, when the season was over Hughes graded out as having the 12th best season of any player in the system. He has continued playing this fall for Team Australia in the IBAF World Cup, where he hit very well as the starting second baseman for the surprising Aussie squad.
New Britain 315ab 56runs 18-2B 2-3B 9-HR 43-RBI .283Ave/.356OBP
Last season, Alexi Casilla was the top ranked player in the system. This season he seemed to struggle all season, whether with the Twins or at Rochester, ending as the seventh best player in the organization. He only hit .222 Average with the Twins, however, stole 11 bases in 12 attempts. He gave us all a hint of the exciting player he could be, if he only can figure out how to eliminate the mistakes he seemed to make to often in the field, on the bases and at bat. At Rochester, he stole 24 bases but was thrown out 12 times while committing 10 errors in only 84 games. With the second base position up for grabs and no real lead off hitter on the team, Alexi Casilla can be one of the most important players in the entire organization next season. The good news is that Alexi is hitting .293 early in the Dominican Winter League with a .359OBP and 5 stolen bases in 7 attempts.
Rochester 320ab 53runs 13-2B 1-3B 3-HR 20-RBI .269Ave/.345OBP
Minnesota 189ab 15runs 5-2B 1-3B 0-HR 9-RBI .222Ave/.256OBP
The newest member of the Twins minor league system is third baseman Matt Macri, whom the Twins acquired from the Colorado Rockies late this season for Ramon Ortiz. After having been drafted by the Twins in the 17th round of the 2001 draft, Macri went to Notre Dame and later was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 5th round of the 2004 draft. Originally a shortstop, Matt has reasonable power as evidenced by his .502SLG at Tulsa. Based on his performance in the Rockies organization this past year, he would have been ranked as the sixth best player in the Twins system. He is currently playing very well in the Arizona Fall League where he is one of the leading hitters for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, hitting for a .257Average with 9 doubles and 2 home runs in 101 at bats.
Tulsa (AA) 275ab 46runs 23-2B 0-3B 11-HR 33-RBI .298Ave/.349OBP
Colorado Springs 9ab 1run 2-2B 0-3B 1-HR 4-RBI .667Ave/.667OBP
Rochester 47ab 5runs 1-2B 0-3B 3-HR 6-RBI .213Ave/.260OBP
Garrett Jones spent more time than anyone this year traveling between Rochester and Minnesota, however, was never given the opportunity to play regularly with the Twins. With the Twins first base position secure, Jones has seen more playing time in the outfield to improve his versatility. Long considered the best power prospect in the system, Jones spent to much time on the bench when with the Twins to know if he can become a power hitter at the major league level. Jones struck out 83 times at Rochester, however, his strikeout rate was considerably better than in 2006. Jones is out of options, thus he will need to make the 25-man roster in 2008 or be exposed to waivers before returning to Rochester.
Rochester 400ab 57runs 32-2B 3-3B 13-HR 70-RBI .280Ave/.334OBP
Minnesota 77ab 7runs 2-2B 1-3B 2-HR 5-RBI .208Ave/.262OBP
Denard Span is another young prospect whom could play an important role for the Twins as early as 2008. Long considered the heir apparent to Torii Hunter in center field, Span began his first season at AAA in a terrible slump, hitting only .214Ave and .212Ave his first two months with the Red Wings. After the June all-star break, Denard hit an excellent .306Average with a .371OBP and 11 stolen bases in 19 attempts. Long recognized as one of the fastest players in the system, Span is an excellent defensive centerfielder whom depending on what moves the Twins make this winter, could be in the hunt for a position with the big club next spring although most observers believe he needs at least part of another season of experience at AAA.
Rochester 487ab 59runs 20-2B 7-3B 3-HR 55-RBI .267Ave/.323OBP
Late last July, the Twins traded Luis Castillo to the Mets for two minor leaguers. One is Dustin Martin who is an excellent young centerfielder who was the eleventh best hitter in the Florida State League with a .288Average. He also had the eighth most runs batted in (71), tied for seventh most triples (6), fourth most hits (139), and eighth most runs scored. Martin struck out to often (118), while taking 53 bases on balls in 482 at bats.
Mets (GCL) 4ab 1run 0-2B 0-3B 0-HR 0-RBI .500Ave/.500OBP
St. Lucie 368ab 52runs 22-2B 6-3B 5-HR 52-RBI .287Ave/.358OBP
Ft. Myers 119ab 23runs 8-2B 0-3B 3-HR 19-RBI .294Ave/.366OBP
THE STARTING ROTATION
This year’s starting rotation includes four of my top five rated pitchers (the fifth was Scott Baker who was not eligible for this team) in the Twins organization. Each had a wonderful season with three still pitching strong in the IBAF or Arizona Fall Leagues.
RHSP - Kevin Slowey/22 (#1 - Rochester Red Wings/Minnesota Twins)
RHSP - Nick Blackburn/25 (#2 - Rochester Red Wings/Minnesota Twins)
RHSP - Jeff Manship/22 (#5 - Ft. Myers Miracle)
LHSP - Brian Duensing/24 (#4 - Rochester Red Wings)
LHSP - Tyler Robertson/19 (#9 - Beloit Snappers)
LHSP - Ryan Mullins/23 (#22 - New Britain Rock Cats)
The top pitcher in the Twins organization this season was Kevin Slowey, who was also named the International League’s Pitcher of the Year and the 18th best prospect in the International League by Baseball America. The best way to realize how dominating Slowey was this year for Rochester, is that his league leading 1.89ERA was well over a run better than the pitcher with the second best ERA, Norfolk’s Garrett Olson who had a 3.16ERA. Slowey also had a league best 0.96WHIP with 107 strikeouts in 133.2 innings while walking only 18 hitters…nearly a 6-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. This season’s performance at Rochester and with the Twins puts Kevin in line for a spot in the Twins 2008 starting rotation.
Rochester 10W-5L 1.89ERA/0.96WHIP 133.2ip 107K/18BB
Minnesota 4W-1L 4.73ERA/1.39WHIP 66.2ip 47K/11BB
The second rated pitcher began his season in New Britain and finished it working out of the Twins bullpen. Nick Blackburn has previously moved slowly through the system since joining the Twins out of Seminole State JC in 2001. This season Nick moved up to Rochester when the Twins raided their starting rotation early this summer. Nick went on to be one of their top starters, having one stretch of over 40 innings without allowing an earned run. Nick has continued to pitch well this fall and is in contention for the Arizona Fall League’s Pitcher of the Year award after posting a 4-0 record with a 1.64ERA with 20 strikeouts and only 2 walks in 22.0 innings with the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Blackburn also got the start in the Desert Dogs championship game, pitching 6 innings while allowing only 1 run as the Desert Dogs went on to win the Arizona Fall League championship.
New Britain 3W-1L 3.08ERA/1.13WHIP 38.0ip 18K/7BB
Rochester 7W-3L 2.11ERA/0.98WHIP 110.2ip 57K/12BB
Minnesota 0W-2L 7.71ERA/1.80WHIP 11.2ip 8K/2BB
Jeff Manship is often mentioned amongst the Twins top young prospects. Jeff was another Twins find in the mid rounds when he was drafted out of Notre Dame in the 14th round of the 2006 draft. Many thought that Jeff would return to Notre Dame, however, the Twins were successful in signing him late in the 2006 minor league season. This season, Jeff was as good as any pitcher in the Midwest League before being promoted to Ft. Myers where he pitched as well as any starter on the team. Although he didn’t qualify for the Midwest League ERA title because he moved on to Ft. Myers, his 1.51ERA for the Snappers was nearly three-quarters of a run better than the eventual League winner. Jeff was a starter in this year’s Midwest League All-Star game and Baseball America recently named him the league’s 13th best prospect.
Beloit 7W-1L 1.51ERA/0.77WHIP 77.2ip 77K/9BB
Ft. Myers 8W-5L 3.15ERA/1.43WHIP 71.1ip 59K/25BB
The top left handed starter on this staff began his season at New Britain like Blackburn, before shining after being promoted to Rochester. Brian Duensing is also continuing his season as the Twins only representative on Team USA in the IBAF World Cup where he was the starting pitcher in Team USA‘s championship win over Cuba. Brian will likely begin 2008 back at Rochester, however, should make his first trip to Minnesota some time during the 2008 season.
New Britain 4W-1L 2.66ERA/1.07WHIP 50.2ip 38K/7BB
Rochester 11W-5L 3.24ERA/1.24WHIP 116.2ip 86K/30BB
The youngest starter is a pitcher whom several blogs have named as the Number 1 prospect in the organization. I have him ranked as having had the ninth best performance in 2007, although Tyler Robertson was certainly as good as any starter not named Slowey as he teamed with Alex Burnett to lead the Snappers to the league’s championship series. This young lefthander, who was the Twins 3rd round pick in 2006, began the year in Extended Spring Training. He moved up to Beloit early in the season and proceeded to pitch so well that Baseball America ranked him as the 20th best prospect in the Midwest League.
Beloit 9W-5L 2.29ERA/1.17WHIP 102.1ip 123K/33BB
Ryan Mullins began his season as a starter for Ft. Myers and proceeded to be one of the top starting pitchers in the organization. This tall lefty moved on to New Britain and then to Rochester, where he did struggle in 4 starts before returning to New Britain. Mullins finished his season with an excellent performance for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League where he had a 2.84ERA with 20 strikeouts in 19.0 innings.
Ft. Myers 3W-3L 1.98ERA/1.13WHIP 54.2ip 56K/12BB
New Britain 4W-3L 3.99ERA/1.28WHIP 85.2ip 68K/23BB
Rochester 0W-3L 10.57ERA/2.15WHIP 15.1ip 11K/5BB
This bullpen includes several of the best pitchers in the organization, including one or two who could be with the Twins sometime in 2008.
Long Relief - Yohan Pino/23 (#8 - New Britain Rock Cats)
Long Relief - Brad Tippett/19 (#6 - Elizabethton Twins)
Set-up - Jose Mijares/22 (#31 - New Britain Rock Cats)
Set-up - Rob Delaney/22 (#10 - Ft. Myers Miracle)
Closer - Eduardo Morlan/21 (#17 - New Britain Rock Cats)
Yohan Pino began his season working out of the Miracle bullpen. After moving into the starting rotation Pino started 10 games including the best game pitched by any Twin minor leaguer in 2007, a 7-inning complete game no hitter. Pino wasn’t as successful while adjusting to AA after his promotion to New Britain and will likely begin his 2008 season as a member of the Rock Cat starting rotation.
Ft. Myers 4W-3L 1.73ERA/0.95WHIP 67.2ip 64K/17BB
New Britain 2W-4L 5.13ERA/1.39WHIP 47.1ip 40K/9BB
Brad Tippett appeared in 21 games of long relief for the champion Elizabethton Twins. Yet as a reliever, Tippett tied for the second most wins in the league (7) behind teammate David Bromberg who led the league with 9. Although Tippett didn’t have enough innings to qualify, his 0.93ERA was over a half run better than the league leader. Tippett finished his season with the Twins as the only pitcher in the organization with a Dominance Ratio (strikeouts divided by hits plus walks) greater than 2.0 (2.125DR), striking out 51 hitters in 38.2 innings with only 4 walks.. Looking at Tippett’s raw numbers, unadjusted for level of play and age, indicate that he had a better year than any pitcher in the organization.
Elizabethton 7W-1L 0.93ERA/0.62WHIP 38.2ip 51K/4BB
This was the second season that Jose Mijares was a member of the Twins 40-man roster, yet he was only 22 years old. Mijares has the world of talent, yet, often frustrates the organization with his inconsistencies and lack of focus. Other than struggling with his control at times, Mijares pitched very well for New Britain. He did however, struggle in his brief appearance with Rochester. Look for Mijares to be in Rochester next year and it isn’t out of the question that we will see this talented lefty in a Twins uniform at some time before the 2008 season is over. This winter Mijares is again home in Venezuela where he is pitching well for Aragua with a 3.38ERA and 8 strikeouts in 8.0 innings.
New Britain 5W-3L 3.54ERA/1.44WHIP 61.0ip 75K/45BB
Rochester 0W-1L 6.23ERA/1.62WHIP 8.2ip 6K/5BB
Scouting and selecting players in the annual draft isn’t an exact science as evidenced by Rob Delaney going undrafted in all 50 rounds of the 2006 draft. This former St. Johns University star signed with the Twins following the draft and proceeded to not impress anyone with his 4.64ERA in 33.0 innings with the GCL Twins. Delaney credits Beloit pitching coach Steve Mintz with helping him make changes to his slider which resulted in his having one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the organization. His remarkable turn-around began in Beloit where he earned a franchise record 28 saves in 36 appearances for the first half champion Snappers. He was promoted to Ft. Myers later in the season where he shared closer duties with Eduardo Morlan, earning another 7 saves in 17 appearances for the Miracle.
Beloit 1W-0L 0.77ERA/0.66WHIP 46.2ip 56K/6BB
Ft. Myers 2W-0L 1.54ERA1.24WHIP 23.1ip 27K/10BB
This year’s closer is a Cuban native whom the Twins drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft. Scouts continually rave about this young man’s arm and his fastball that has reportedly touched 100 mph on the gun. Eduardo Morlan has gone back and forth between the bullpen and starting rotations the past few years before settling into his current role as a short reliever. The Twins look at Morlan as a future closer which is the role he recently filled for the championship Phoenix Desert Dogs in the AFL where he had a perfect 0.00ERA in 12.2 innings in 12 appearances. Baseball America recently recognized Morlan as the 16th best prospect in the Florida State League.
Ft. Myers 4W-3L 3.15ERA/1.10WHIP 65.2ip 92K/17BB
New Britain 1W-0L 2.25ERA/1.50WHIP 4.0ip 7K/3BB
Thanks again for stopping by this site. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families! If you have any questions, comments or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me.