Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Twins Top 20 Prospects, 11-20

Most people make a list of resolutions to bring hope to the flipping of the calendar from one year to the next. The New Year is full of hope for the good things that will come in future. In the baseball world, the best way to find hope is to examine the minor league system for a person's favorite franchise. After some tough seasons throughout the entire system of the Twins in 2011, there are many players who are looking to bring hope to a group of fans that is thriving for something to cheer about in 2012.

 It is Minor League Appreciation Week, here at NoDak Twins Fan. That means the entire week's post will be dedicated to the young players who hope to one day take their place in the line-up at Target Field. These young players work tremendously hard to try and reach the ultimate dream of being a big league player and they should be recognized for efforts on the field. This week I will unveil my Top 20 Prospect List and feature some stories around the players who make their living wearing the jersey's of the Twins farm system.

Here is the schedule of posts that will be featured during the next week:
Monday (Today): 2012 Twins Top 20 Prospects, 11-20
Tuesday: 2012 Twins Top 20 Prospects, 1-10
Wednesday: Feature story on Miguel Sano
Thursday: Plotting a path through the 2012 Draft
Friday: Minor League Edition of Friday Links-N-Thinks

11. Brian Dozier, SS (2011 Rank: NR) Level: A+/AA
.320/.399/.491, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 33 DBL, 92 R
At the beginning of the season, there were few who thought that Dozier would end the year as the top hitter for the minor league teams of the Twins. Dozier broke onto the scene in 2011 with a fantastic season for the New Britain Rock Cats. The former 8th round pick in 2009 was recently named as the 2011 Twins Minor League Player of the Year. In a farm system that is struggling to produce middle infielders, the Twins needed someone to step-up in a big way. The success that Dozier produced in New Britain carried over to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .296/.358/.454 with three home runs and eight doubles in 26 games. Even though Dozier spent most of his time at shortstop in '11, it seems the Twins might start trying to use him as a shortstop and a second baseman from this point forward. The 5-foot-11, 160 pound player could make his way into the big league line-up as soon as this season.

12. Kyle Gibson, RHP (2011 Rank: 2) Level: AAA
W-L (3-8), 95.1 IP, 4.81 ERA, 1.427 WHIP, 91 K, 27 BB
A year removed from winning the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year award, Gibson had some injury troubles in 2011. In the beginning of September, Gibson was forced to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery and there is a good chance he will be out for all of next season. In 2010, Gibson flew through three levels of the minor leagues and looked like he was well on his way to being a fixture in the starting rotation at the big league level. The first part to Gibson's 2011 campaign seemed to be off to a decent start as he posted a 3.15 ERA in four starts for the month of April. From that point on, Gibson's ERA would rise in each of the following months. It was clear something was wrong by the end of the year as he failed to pitch more than five innings in each of his last five starts while allowing 21 earned runs. Overall, this is a terrible situation for a player that figured to be part of the Twins plans at some point last season and now he won't be on the mound at Target Field until 2013 at the earliest. 

13. Angel Morales, OF (2011 Rank: 13) Level: Rookie/A+
.259/.314/.400, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 7 DBL, 19 R
The 2007 third round draft pick, Morales was on the sidelines for most of the 2011 season with an elbow injury. In only 37 games on the field, Morales was still able to get decent production while manning left field. His speed helps him while playing defense and during his time on the base-paths. With Aaron Hicks in CF and Morales in LF, the Miracle had quite the defensive setting to end the 2011 season. During the 2010 season, Morales batted .280/.362/.405 in 133 games with the Miracle and the Snappers. For his minor league career, he has shown the ability to hit for a consistent average while combining that with power and speed. If injuries don't become a consistent problem, he has the chance to develop into a five-tool player as he works his way through the farm system of the Twins.  With the time he has played the last two seasons at Fort Myers and the fact he just turned 22 last month, it will be interesting to see if he gets the bump to New Britain for 2012.

14. Manuel Soliman, RHP (2011 Rank: NR) Level: A
W-L (7-11), 136.0 IP, 3.97 ERA, 1.309 WHIP, 120 K, 50 BB
The Twins signed Soliman as a non-drafted free agent in 2007 but he didn't start playing stateside until 2010. He played all of that season for the E-Twins and posted a 3.48 ERA in 64.2 innings pitched with a 1.052 WHIP. He pitched more innings this year than both of the previous years combined in the Dominican Summer League and the Appalachian League. At  6'2" and 185 lbs, Soliman is still a lanky player but he knows how to get some fire behind his pitches. It would nice for him to be able to get a little more control to bring his walk total and WHIP down but that will come with age. He is only in his third season since being converted from third base and that mean he has two good pitches at this point. At 21 years old, he is still relatively young and it will be nice to see how he can continue to develop with more pitching experience.

15. Chris Herrmann, C (2011 Rank: NR) Level: A+/AA
.269/.385/.399, 8 HR, 62 RBI, 19 DBL, 67 R
Herrmann continues to wow with his ability to get on-base at such a high rate and he combines this with a powerful swing. He has the tendency to hit more doubles than home runs. During the 2011 season, he was third in the Eastern League with 64 walks to his name. His defense behind the plate had some holes last season as he had a career high seven errors and four passed balls. His bat is good enough that the Twins have given him time in the outfield and at designated hitter. With Wilson Ramos being traded in 2010, Herrmann is the best catching prospect the Twins have in the organization. His limited time in the 2011 AFL was very productive and the hope will be that he can transition this success to the 2012 season. After his experience in Arizona, odds are that the Twins will give Herrmann a return trip to the Eastern League to start the 2012 season. 

16. Hudson Boyd, RHP (2011 Rank: NR) Level: N/A
No Statistics- Did not play after being drafted
The big 6-foot-2, 235-pound pitcher was selected by the Twins in the supplemental round of this past June's MLB Draft. The native of Ft. Myers, Florida grew up close to the Twins Spring Training complex and he had been closely followed by the organization. In an interview following the draft, Boyd described his pitching style as, "Variety, 90-94, throw strikes, try to work ahead and compete and be around the strike zone." He would go on to say, "Be dependable. Be durable. Just be reliable for my teammates and coaches." The Twins director of scouting Deron Johnson said he had seen Boyd reach 97 with his fastball and he compared him to MLB pitcher Jonathon Broxton. The Twins hope Boyd will develop into a dominant starter but if that plan doesn't work he could be a very reliable relief option.

17. Levi Michael, SS/2B (2011 Rank: NR) Level: N/A
No Statistics- Did not play after being drafted
The Twins saw a need to add depth to the middle infield of the minor leagues by drafting Michael with their first round pick in 2011. In his three-year career at North Carolina, he hit .306 with 183 runs scored, 159 RBI and 81 extra-base hits (43-2B, 11-3B, 27-HR). He also showed the ability to draw walks with 119 for his career which ranked sixth in his school's history. For the 2011 season, Michael batted .289 with a .434 OBP and 22 extra-base hits in 65 games played. On the defensive side of the ball, he started at multiple infield positions in college but the Twins hope he can stick at shortstop. At the time of the draft, it sound like he could be moved to second base in the future. When the Twins signed Michael, their scouting director Deron Johnson said, "Levi is a switch-hitting 20-year old college shortstop with speed and top of the order skills. We like his athleticism on both sides of the ball and he has the defensive skills to play either shortstop or second base. He is a hard worker and hard-nosed player."

18. Madison Boer, RHP (2011 Rank: NR) Level: Rookie/A
W-L (2-1), 25.1 IP, 3.91 ERA, 1.105 WHIP, 43 K, 3 BB
The Twins drafted Boer in the second round of this June's draft so that means the right-handed hurler only had a limited amount of time to show his "stuff" to the organization. Boer, the Eden Prairie native, enters the Twins organization after three years of experience at the University of Oregon. The 6-foot-4 right handed pitcher spent time as a starter and a reliever in college. In his final year of college, he managed a 2.27 ERA in 18 appearances (12 starts) and he held opponents to a .234 batting average. He was used mainly out of the bullpen since he racked up 99 innings during his college season. It is most likely that the Twins will give him a chance to start in 2012 and it will be up to Boer to take the opportunity and run with it.

19. Max Kepler, OF (2011 Rank: 10) Level: Rookie
.262/.347/.366, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 11 DBL, 29 R
When Kepler was signed by the Twins in July of 2009, he was the top prospect coming to the United States out of Europe. The 2010 season was his first in the Twins system and he spent the entire year with the GCL Twins. At 17-years old and as one of the younger players in the GCL, he hit .286/.346/.343 with seven extra-base hits. Kepler spent all of the 2011 campaign with some of the best prospects in the Twins system at Elizabethton. With players like Rosario and Sano having outstanding seasons around him, it was hard for him to follow in their footsteps. He began to see some of his power numbers slowly increase and he was only 18 this past season so his "man muscles" still have time to develop. On the defensive side of the ball, he spent almost all of his time in left field but he has been asked to play the other outfield spots. For the future, the organization is hoping that he will continue to develop some more power as he grows in years in the minor league system. 

20. BJ Hermsen, RHP (2011 Rank: NR) Level: A/A+
W-L (13-8), 151.1 IP, 3.33 ERA, 1.335 WHIP, 101 K, 37 BB
The Twins used a sixth round pick to select Hermsen out of high school in 2008 and he has made the most of his opportunities with the organization. 2011 marked his third year in the farm system of the Twins and he made it all the way to starting for the Miracle. To start the season, Hermsen was sent back to Beliot, the place he ended at in 2010. He pitched 124.2 innings for the Snappers and posted a 3.10 ERA with an 81/31 K/BB ratio. His walk total combined with his average of allowing a hit an inning made his WHIP stay higher than the Twins would like. When he was promoted to Ft. Myers at the end of the year, he made five starts and posted a 4.39 ERA in 26.2 innings pitched in the FSL. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound right-hander turned 21 in December and the Twins will be looking for him to take the next step in 2012. 

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If you enjoy learning more about the Twins minor league system, make sure to order a copy of the 2012 Twins Prospect Handbook. This book was put together by Seth Stohs of SethSpeaks.net and it is a great resource for any fan of the Minnesota Twins. There are over 160 prospect profiles, featured articles by Twins writers, and multiple top prospect lists from Twins bloggers. This is the best way to get to know the players who are the future of the Twins franchise. ORDER HERE

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