Thursday, September 6, 2012

Revisiting my preseason projections for the minors

At the beginning of the year, Seth Stohs from the Twins Daily crew asks some of the bloggers from across Twins Territory to put together their picks for a variety of categories across the minor leagues. It's a fun exercise to do at the beginning of the year and it's interesting to track the progress of players during the minor league seasons. There were some breakout candidates at almost every level in 2012 but there were some setbacks along the way as well. 

Here are my picks from the beginning of the year and a look at how each of them fared during the season. I am working on some posts that will name my minor league hitter, pitcher, and relief pitcher for 2012 campaign so look for those to come in the next week. The players listed below are my picks from the beginning of the year and there were some hits and some misses as are usually true with any predictions post.
Breakout Hitter (Upper Levels): Aaron Hicks, New Britain
Season Stat Summary: .286/.384/.460, 21 2B, 11 3B, 13 HR, 61 RBI, 32 SB, 100 R
At the beginning of the year, I begged for Hicks to have the breakout year that Twins fans have waited for since he was drafted in the first round. He didn't fail to disappoint as he set the Rock Cats record for triples and runs scored in a season. There were some rough patches along the way but Hicks put together a very good second half by batting over .300 after the All-Star break. His combination of speed and power will continue to make him one of the best prospects in the Twins organization. He could be playing in Minnesota as early as next season.

Breakout Hitter (Lower Levels): Angel Morales, Fort Myers
Season Stat Summary: .220/.310/.328, 8 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 115 SO
After missing a good chunk of the 2011 season due to injuries, Morales was my pick to have a bounce-back season at the plate. This wasn't the case as he struggles to get into any kind of rhythm with the Miracle. He looked good in the first month of the season by hitting over .300 and having six extra-base hits. The next three months were awful as he hit under .200 in two of them and he showed very little power along the way. He struck out over 20 times in every month except August where he only struck out 19 times. It was a rough year for Mr. Morales but he ended the season on a high note by hitting .298 in the last couple months of the year.

Breakout Hitter (in Extended Spring Training): Max Kepler, Elizabethton
Season Stat Summary: .297/.387/.539, 16 2B, 5 3B, 10 HR, 49 RBI, 40 R
When I wrote my post at the start of the season, I hoped that the 19-year old Kepler would start to grow into his body and add some more power. He went above and beyond those expectations the year by showing the ability to hit for average and power. He was one of the core members of the Elizabethton team that won the Appalachian League Championship earlier this week. It will be exciting to see what he can do as he moves up the ladder of the Twins farm system. He could be a potent corner outfield option if his bat continues to develop at the current pace.

Hitters Summary: I'd say that I went 2-for-3 with a couple home runs (Hicks and Kepler) but one big strikeout (Morales).

Breakout Pitcher (Upper Levels): Alex Wimmers, New Britain
Season Stat Summary: W-L (0-1), 9.00 ERA, 4.1 IP, 3 SO, 3 BB
Wimmers ended last season with a bang by throwing a 7-inning no-hitter to close out 2011 for Fort Myers. He seemed set-up to move quickly through the minor leagues for the Twins in 2012 but this was far from being the case for him. He only made two starts on the season and he will miss all of next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. 

Breakout Pitcher (Lower Levels): Madison Boer, Beloit/Fort Myers
Season Stat Summary: W-L (9-12), 5.84 ERA, 138.2 IP, 86 SO, 42 BB
The season started off fine for Boer in Beloit as he threw 27.2 innings for the Snappers and posted a 3.58 ERA with twice as many strikeouts as walks. Boer struggled a little more with the transition to the Florida State League as his ERA ballooned to 6.41 over the 111.0 innings he threw for Fort Myers. He continued to strikeout more than twice the amount of batters that he walked but he gave up 15 home runs in the hot Florida weather. His college experience made him a likely candidate to have a breakout season but it looks like he will have to wait until next year for his breakout year.

Breakout Pitcher (in Extended Spring Training): Matthew Summers, Beloit/Fort Myers
Season Stat Summary: W-L (11-7), 3.88 ERA, 148.1 IP, 97 SO, 59 BB
Summers started the year in extended spring training but ended up making it all the way to Fort Myers by the end of the season. He started more games than I thought he would at the beginning of the year and he put up good performances at both levels. Opponents hit .307 off of him in Fort Myers so it would be nice to reduce that number in the coming years. In a season where there were few standout starting pitchers in the system, Summers put together a very decent year.

Pitchers Summary: I went 1-for-3 with a double (Summers) and two strikeouts (Wimmers and Boer).

Preseason Picks
Best Hitter (Upper Levels): Joe Benson, Rochester/New Britian/Fort Myers
Season Stat Summary: .202/.288/.336, 13 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 36 RBI
Best Hitter (Lower Levels): Miguel Sano, Beloit
Season Stat Summary: .258/.373/.521, 28 2B, 4 3B, 28 HR, 100 RBI
Best Hitter (in EST): Niko Goodrum, Elizabethton
Season Stat Summary: .242/.349/.419, 12 2B, 8 3B, 4 HR, 38 RBI

Miguel Sano was arguably the best power hitter in the Midwest League in 2012 but his swing still has plenty of holes. His batting average was lacking but he still managed to get on base at a decent clip. Fans across Twins Territory kept their eye on Sano over the last few months and they will continue to watch him as he closes in on Target Field. Joe Benson was in the majors at the end of last season so it could be expected that he would continue his track to the being a starter with the Twins. It was a lost season for Benson as he was demoted after a terrible showing in Rochester. Niko Goodrum had an okay year with the E-Twins but there were many other hitters that ended up having a better year than him. He did show some ability to use his speed to leg out some triples.

Best Hitters Summary: I went 1-for-2 with a long home run (Sano), a walk (Goodrum), and a strikeout (Benson).
Preseason Picks
Best Pitcher (Upper Levels): Alex Wimmers
Season Stat Summary: W-L (0-1), 9.00 ERA, 4.1 IP, 3 SO, 3 BB
Best Pitcher (Lower Levels): Adrian Salcedo
Season Stat Summary: W-L (0-2), 5.87 ERA, 30.2 IP, 18 SO, 16 BB
Best Pitcher (in EST): Matthew Summers
Season Stat Summary: W-L (11-7), 3.88 ERA, 148.1 IP, 97 SO, 59 BB

There were a lot of swings and misses here and unfortunately it wasn't from the pitchers that I picked out at the beginning of the year. Wimmers and Salcedo fought injuries all season and they managed to throw a combined 35.0 innings on the mound. At the start of the season, it looked like these two players  were some of the best in the system for the Twins. It's amazing how much can change in one short season. Summers did fine during his time on the mound and he looks like a Cy Young candidate compared to the other two. It was a rough year for starting pitching in the Twins system especially when two of their best prospects are big question marks for next year. The organization needs pitching help but that shouldn't be a new discovery to Twins fans.

Best Pitchers Summary: I went 1-for-3 with a single (Summers) and two strikeouts (Wimmers and Salcedo). Unfortunately I ended up getting hurt during one of the swings and I am questionable for 2013.

Make sure to check back in the next week or so when I reveal my picks for the minor league hitter of the year, pitcher of the year, and relief pitcher of the year. These young players work as they try to live out their dream of playing professional baseball and they deserve to be recognized for all of their accomplishments.

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