In the 2013 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (which is now available in paperback and e-version copies), I wrote an article looking back at all of the players that were considered rookies in 2012. From Brian Dozier and Chris Herrmann to Scott Diamond and Tyler Robertson, there were 15 rookies to make appearances with the club. On a team fighting for every win, there were plenty of opportunities for some young blood to sink or swim.
Now that the Prospect Handbook has been out and fans have been able to look through it, the future can turn to those prospects that have the chance to make an impact on next year's squad. It can be tough to guess which players will be given the opportunity but the Twins have made hints at a few different names.
Joe Benson and Aaron Hicks will both have the opportunity to earn the starting center field job out of spring training. If one of these two young men sticks with the club for the entire year, there is a good chance they will have the big impact on next year's club. Hicks seems to have the best chance of making the club. There is also a chance that neither of them earn the job and that could make their opportunity to shine a little harder.
When looking to the pitching core, there are a few names that could make a splash in 2013. Kyle Gibson, the former first round pick, should be making his big league debut this year. He missed most of last season following Tommy John surgery. At the end of last season, he came back healthy and he looked good for portions of the Arizona Fall League. His innings limit this year could hinder him but he could still make a big impact.
BJ Hermsen was the organization's minor league pitcher of the year and he was strong at two different levels this past season. He accumulated most of his innings at the Double-A level so this could put him at the cusp of making his debut next year. If the Twins start him in Rochester, he is only an injury or two away from getting the call.
Out in the bullpen, Caleb Thielbar or Ryan Pressly could factor into the team's plans for this year. Theilbar, a Minnesota native, has been slowly working his way towards the big leagues. He pitched out of Rochester's bullpen for all of last season so he only has one more level to conquer. Pressly was the Twins Rule 5 pick this year from Boston. This means that he will have to stay on the big league roster for the entire year or be offered back to the Red Sox.
The one player that could be considered a dark horse for next year's squad is Oswaldo Arcia. His performance in 2012 earned him Twins Minor League Player of the Year honors so it would exactly be a breakout year. The surprise would come from the fact that he doesn't seem to have an open position on the roster. He fits into a corner outfield spot and the Twins are looking to use Josh Willingham and Chris Parmelee in left field and right field. This could leave Arcia at Triple-A hoping for someone on the big league roster to get injured.
In the end, there are a few different ways to look at who will be making the biggest impact. Some of the names on this list are almost guaranteed to make their big league debuts and some of the others have less of a chance. Kyle Gibson is most likely going to pitch more big league innings than Caleb Thielbar. Aaron Hicks will probably get more at-bats than Joe Benson or Oswaldo Arcia.
Here is a ranking of the top five players from the list above based on the kind of impact they will have on next year's team. This list isn't completely based on talent. It is based on what type of playing time each player is expected to get next year and what kind of impact he will have at the big league level.
1. Kyle Gibson RHP- He looked healthy at the end of last season and in the Arizona Fall League. Gibson is ready to prove that he is completely recovered from Tommy John surgery.
2. Aaron Hicks OF- He might have to start the year in the minor leagues and this could hinder his ability to make an impact. A hot start at Triple-A could have him in the big leagues sooner than expected.
3. Caleb Thielbar LHP- There is always a need for left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. Thielbar could make the team out of spring training and stick with the club for most of the year.
4. BJ Hermsen RHP- The Twins have been stocking up on questionable starting pitching this offseason. This could leave a hole in the rotation for Hermsen.
5. Ryan Pressly RHP- If the Twins want to keep him, he has to stick on the big league roster. They could make him a long relief man or use him as a spot starter since he has experience as a starting pitcher.
Which rookie do you think will have the biggest impact on next year's squad? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.