Thursday, October 27, 2011

Twins' top prospects looking to improve in AFL

After your favorite team is eliminated from the MLB Postseason, it might seem like there is very little to cheer for when it comes to your hometown nine. The Twins were out of the playoff race for most of the second half of the season and this allowed the team to get an extended look at some of their top prospects. The baseball offseason can offer many interesting box scores to follow as players from across baseball compete in fall leagues, winter leagues, and international tournaments.

One of the biggest offseason gathering of prospects happens in the sunny state of Arizona with the Arizona Fall League. Organizations pick out some of their top young talent and let them hone their skills after the minor league season has reached a conclusion. The Twins sent seven of their up-and-coming pitchers and position players to the AFL this season. There have been some ups and downs for these young players but a lot of the learning that takes place can be hard to quantify.

Here's an update of how each of the Twins' position players has looked during their time in the AFL.

Aaron Hicks-Outfield
Ended last season: Fort Myers Miracle (High A)
AFL Stat Line: .218/.338/.419, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 2 DBL, 10 BB
Hicks struggled to find any hits in the early part of his time in the AFL but there have been signs of life from Hicks in recent games. Yesterday afternoon was one of his best performances at the plate as he compiled a two for three day with a home run, three RBI, and two runs scored. Hicks is on the younger end of the prospects competing in the AFL and his recent hot streak is a good sign. In his last ten games, he has batted a respectable .286 with three home runs, eight RBI, and a 1.047 OPS. As a switch hitter, he continues to struggle from the left side of the plate.

One Thing to Improve: In 20 AB from the right side, Hicks is batting .300 with two of his home runs. The problem is when he steps to the other side of the plate and bats left-handed, his batting average has dipped to .171, a continuing trend from this season.

Brian Dozier-Shortstop
Ended last season: New Britain Rock Cats (AA)
AFL Stat Line: .293/.343/.723, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 2 DBL, 5 BB
Dozier, the Twins organization's winner for Minor League Player of the Year, has looked to continue his breakout season in the AFL. The beginning of the AFL looked like Dozier had not missed a step from the regular season. He started off on a torrid pace and was near the top of the batting leaders for the entire AFL. He has since cooled off and the last ten games have been a see-saw affair. During that stretch of games, Dozier has a .238 batting average with no home runs and only one double. He has managed to be an RBI machine by knocking in eight runs during those ten games.

One Thing to Improve: It would be nice to see him drawing more walks to increase his OBP during the rest of the AFL. His walk totals were not off the charts during the regular season either but there is a good chance Dozier could get a long look in Spring Training for a middle infield role. If that is the case, his eye at the plate could improve.

Chris Herrmann-Catcher
Ended last season: New Britain Rock Cats
AFL Stat Line: .391/.481/.652, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 DBL, 4 BB
Hermann has not seen a lot of game action during his time in the AFL but he has made the most out of every opportunity he has been given. The Mesa Solar Sox have only used Herrmann in seven games so far and he has continued his high level of production from the 2011 season. In his last game on Tuesday, he was two for four at the plate with a home run, three RBI, and a run scored. To top it all off, he also stole a base in the game. Herrmann could be given the opportunity to play a role on the big league squad next season. With his current performance, he is putting himself in the running for the back-up catcher position with the Twins in 2012.

One Thing to Improve: Herrmann has been limited when it comes to power potential during his minor league career. He does not hit a lot of home runs but his doubles total is starting to look promising. Translating some of that power to next season should be a goal for Mr. Herrmann.

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