I took a look at some of the breakout players from the Twins minor league system this year. I tried to look at this list as the players that had breakout seasons for the different levels. There are players that have compiled great seasons in previous years and this list was meant to be players that were coming out of their shell and playing up to their potential. In some cases, this was the first time in their careers that the organization had seen this level of play from these players.
A few of the Twins minor league affiliates had rough seasons but there were many great individual seasons from players throughout the system. It is hard to narrow down the list to just one player that should come out on top as the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year.
Here is the countdown of my list of the top three hitters in the minor leagues for the 2011 season.
#3 Brian Dozier, SS (New Britain and Ft. Myers Miracle)
Stat Summary: .320/.399/.491: 33 2B, 12 3B, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 24 SB
Dozier showed some great power this season and he could easily be named as the top player on this list (In fact another blogger, Seth Stohs, did have him as number one). As a shortstop, Dozier is a leader on the defensive side of the ball but his offensive numbers also helped to lead the teams he was on in 2011. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire repeatedly mentioned Dozier and the season he was having with the Rock Cats. That is not something the manager would typically do in the media. On the business side of things, the Twins did not have to add Dozier to the 40-man roster at this point since he was only drafted in 2009. Another thing holding Dozier back is the facat that the Twins have plenty of other middle infielders that need some repetitions before next year. Dozier will be heading to the Arizona Fall League in a couple of weeks and the hope is he will continue to improve upon his breakout season.
#2 Eddie Rosario, OF (Elizabethton Twins)
Stat Summary: .337/.397/.670: 9 2B, 9 3B, 21 HR, 60 RBI, 17 SB
Rosario might have been one of the hottest hitters in the minor leagues for the entire length of his short season. He was also being pushed throughout the season by his teammate Miguel Sano, possibly the best prospect in the Twins organization. The home run battle these two squared off in was something amazing to behold in the final weeks of the season. Rosario was named Co-MVP for the Appalachian League because of the offensive numbers he produced. It was great to see him combine a high batting average with great power and he was still able to be a very good defensive player. His speed on the base paths also makes him more of an offensive threat. There is a good chance that Rosario will start next season in Beliot but with numbers like the ones he produced this season, it will be hard for the Twins to hold him in the lower levels for very long.
#1 Joe Benson, OF (New Britain Rock Cats)
Stat Summary: .285/.388/.495: 28 2B, 4 3B, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 13 SB
Benson has struggled at the plate through most of his time at the MLB level but his numbers at the minor league level were hard to ignore in 2011. A year after being named the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year, Benson put together another great campaign during this season. Even after having knee surgery that cost him 4-5 weeks of the season, Benson still put together an offensive campaign that is hard to ignore. His athletic ability allows him to combine power and speed to make him an offensive threat at every place he has played in the minor leagues. During his minor league career Benson has struggled with his contact rate and his short time in the major leagues has shown a few holes in his swing. This still takes nothing away from Benson and he has shown the Twins that he is one of the top prospects the team has in the higher levels of their system. Depending on the moves the Twins make in the coming months, there is a good chance that Benson will start the 2012 season at the AAA level. There are some offensive things he could work to improve at that level and he could be ready for a mid-season call up if the Twins need him. At the very latest, Benson should be in the Opening Day line-up for the 2013 Minnesota Twins.