Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 Twins Minor League Projections

With Opening Day almost here, it is time for my annual predictions for the 2012 baseball season. It is always fun to sort through all of the teams, players, and divisions to find out who will be the best of the best in the coming year. There are always going to be surprises along the way like the Diamondbacks were in 2011. The edition of the new wild card spots in each league will also add some spice to the race for the playoffs in the 2012 season.

Over the course of the week, I will release my picks from a variety of areas. For the National League and the American League, I will predict the division winners, the wild card teams, and the major award contenders. Later in the week I will focus on the Twins and decide who is going to stand out in the major and minor leagues. Here is the breakdown of the schedule for the week.

Thursday: 2012 Twins Minor League Award Projections
Friday: Links-N-Thinks
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Wimmers could be lined up for a big season
Every year Seth Stohs of the TwinsCentric crew asks a handful of Twins bloggers to put together their list of the minor league players for the Twins who will stand out in the coming year. There are a wide variety of categories across each level of the minor leagues. The first section looks at the hitters and pitchers that will be having a breakout season in the upper levels of the minor leagues and those that will start the year in the lower level of the minors.

The second section of categories looks at some players that have already broke out but that could end up being the top hitter or pitcher in their perspective level. You will also see some players who are currently with the Twins at extended spring training (EST) but some of those players could play a big role in the success of the farm system in 2012.

Overall it is a very fun exercise to do after the rosters have been released for each level and it is fun to try and predict where these players will end up by the end of the year. If there are some unfamiliar names on this list, then you might need to order yourself a copy of the 2012 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

Breakout Hitter (Upper Levels) - Aaron Hicks: Please...Pretty please. The Twins are giving him every shot and it's time to take the opportunity and run with it. There were some struggles for him during last season but the Twins saw some good things from him during his time in the Arizona Fall League. There is so much potential in this young athletic man that it seems like it will only be a matter of time before he becomes a monster at the plate. Even with his struggles last year there were glimpses of hope and now the hope is there will be more consistent play from Mr. Hicks.
 
Breakout Hitter (Lower Levels) - Angel Morales: After missing a chunk of last year, it's time to prove he can be one of the team's best prospects. He only appeared in 37 games last season with the Miracle and this came after a year in which he split time between Fort Myers and Beliot. In 2008, he showed a ton of power in rookie ball but in more recent years some of that power has diminished. Since it will be the third season he has spent time at Fort Myers, a strong start could see him moving up to Double-A by the end of the season.
 
Breakout Hitter (in EST) - Max Kepler: In only his second year in the Twins system, Kepler showed glimpses of power last year with the Elizabethton Twins. He will only be 19-years old this season so there is still time for his body to develop more power in the coming years. Kepler showed enough last year to look like he could explode onto the scene during the 2012 campaign. Overall, more consistency at the plate and less strikeouts will be key for him to succeed as he moves through the system.
 
Breakout Pitcher (Upper Levels) - Alex Wimmers: The Twins need more starting pitching in the upper levels and Wimmers has to be that guy in 2012. Kyle Gibson is out for most of this year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Wimmers struggles at the beginning of last year were well documented but his placement on the Rock Cats roster must mean that he is throwing well to start the year. At the beginning of last year, the Twins thought Wimmers would be on the fast track to Minnesota. He fell off of that fast track last year but he could be back in line to be a quick mover this year.
 
Breakout Pitcher (Lower Levels) - Madison Boer: The Minnesota native was drafted out of Oregon by the Twins in last year's draft. He got a taste of two levels after he signed quickly with the club and he has already been to Low-A Beliot. His time last year with the team was spent as a relief pitcher but now the club will stretch him out and see what he can do as a starter. His high strikeout rate from last year won't be able to follow him when he is starting. But as a collegiate pitcher, he could move up the ladder quickly if he finds success.

Breakout Pitcher (in EST) - Matthew Summers: Much like Boer, Summers joined the Twins out of last year's draft and got a brief taste of the minors with the the E-Twins. The 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher only allowed two runs over 20.2 innings on the mound with 36 strikeouts. At this point he could be used as a starter or a relief pitcher but it seems like he might be destined for a relief role. He has only been a full-time pitcher since his last year in college so there are plenty of tweaks that he might have to undergo in the coming year to be as successful as he can be.
 
Best Hitter (Upper Levels) - Joe Benson: Benson and Parmelee have followed each other through every level of the minor leagues so seeing Parmelee in the majors should drive him on the field. His time with the Twins last September was not perfect but he showed the speed and defensive ability that he had been touted for during his seasons in the minor leagues. He could get some more playing time with the big league team this year but it might be best for Benson to spend the whole year at Rochester to perfect his game. He could be ready to make a splash by the end of the year and he is an injury or two away from heading back to Minnesota.
 
Best Hitter (Lower Levels) - Miguel Sano: During last season the combination of Sano and Eddie Rosario were a dynamic duo for Elizabethton. By season's end Rosario would receive many of the accolades in '11 and now it will be Sano's turn to show he deserves to be the organization's top prospect. Sano will be playing in his first full season league with the Snappers and there will be many eyes on him from across the baseball world. His raw power is what separates him from the rest of the pack and it could be an exciting season for Sano.
 
Best Hitter (in EST) - Niko Goodrum: At the end of last year, Goodrum was playing well and the team is hopefully of continued success from him. He was a second round pick in 2010 so the team thinks highly of the young middle infielder. He played almost exclusively at shortstop last season and the Twins have struggled in recent years with developing middle infielders. His defense needs to improve for him to stick at shortstop but his big frame could become an asset in the long run. He showed more ability to take a walk last year and now it will be time to cut down on some of the strikeouts. The tools are there and he should be able to put it all together in 2012.
 
Best Pitcher (Upper Levels) - Alex Wimmers: The best hope for the Twins is that his control problems are behind him. As stated previously, the organization needs some of their pitching prospects to be ready to enter the rotation next season. Liam Hendriks seems ready to take on this challenge and Kyle Gibson continues to recover so there is a lot of pressure on Mr. Wimmers. In his last start of the 2011 season, he showed he had the stuff to dominate by throwing a no-hitter. He should be in Rochester by the end of the year with his eyes set on fighting for a roster spot next year.  

Best Pitcher (Lower Levels) - Adrian Salcedo: He has one of the best arms in the lower levels of the Twins system and he should continue to be a workhorse as he moves through the minor leagues. Last year was his first year in a full season league and he put up very good numbers in Beliot. Now he will start the year in the Florida State League as part of a very strong pitching staff with the Miracle. He has room to add some weight to his frame and this could help him to add some velocity to his pitches. Salcedo pounds the strikezone and refuses to give up many walks so he already seems to fit the mold of the typical Twins pitcher.  
 
Best Pitcher (in EST)- Matthew Summers: Extended spring training is full of last year's draft class and Summers is an intriguing option moving forward. His unique delivery could make it hard for batters to adjust to what they are seeing on the mound. His last season in college he was outstanding at UC-Irvine by tossing 116 innings with a 2.02 ERA. His offspeed pitches will need to be honed in the coming year but he should have enought stuff to be successul in the rookie leagues. The Twins will hope that he continues to find sucess on the mound even though he hasn't been a starting pitcher for an extended period of time.

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