Guest Column: Who is the Top Prospect in the Twins System?

Today we have a guest column from Seth Stohs of SethSpeaks.net, an excellent site regarding the Twins farm system. Take it away Seth!

 Three For One: Who is the Twins Top Prospect?
by Seth Stohs

It has been a disappointing year for the Twins minor league affiliates, at least in terms of Wins and Losses. The degree to which that matters can be argued ad-nauseum. But what is exciting, as a Twins fan, is to see that there are a lot more really high-end prospects in the system. But who is the Twins top prospect? I conducted a very informal survey of a dozen people who follow the Twins minor league system closely, and three players received at least three votes. And I believe that a legitimate case could be made for all three of them to be called the Minnesota Twins top prospect. Today, I will write about Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks and Miguel Sano, and let you discuss where they rank.

Kyle Gibson, RHP

The ‘old' man on this list (will turn 23 in October), Gibson was the Twins 1st round pick in 2009 (22nd overall) out of the University of Missouri where he went 28-10 with 9 saves in three years. Gibson signed just minutes before the deadline a year ago, so 2010 has been his professional debut. On Friday night, he made his AAA debut. He gave up one run in 5.2 innings against Lehigh Valley. He is 11-6 with a 3.04 ERA overall between Ft. Myers, New Britain and now Rochester. He is currently at 142 innings pitched this year, and the team would like to limit him to 150-160 innings, so he could soon move to the bullpen. Gibson is a ground ball pitcher. Overall, he records 2.4 ground balls per fly out. Gibson does pitch-to-contact (just 2.3 walks per nine IP), although he has averaged 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Since 2004, three other Twins minor league pitchers have pitched at three levels. They are Scott Baker (2004), Matt Garza (2006) and Brian Duensing (2006). Gibson has the long, lanky body type (6-6, 210 pounds) that scouts like. He has four pitches and good control. He sits between 89 and 92 mph with his fastball. Kyle Gibson will be a good big league starting pitcher? How good? His ceiling is probably that of a #2 starter.  

Aaron Hicks, OF

The Twins were thrilled when Aaron Hicks was available when they made the 14th overall pick of the 2008 draft. The high school pitcher/outfielder/golfer certainly had options but he chose to sign quickly and immediately showed his six-tool potential. A great athlete, Hicks has a lot of development to go before he is big league ready, but the tools are there. How many will become big league skills? That is the question. Offensively, Hicks has shown an ability to take walks and get on base at a clip that is unusual for such young players. He has a very quick, strong swing which could potentially turn into home run power. He has very good speed which helps him running the bases, although he has a lot of improving to do in terms of base stealing. His speed certainly helps him in the outfield. He has range to be a very good centerfielder. His reported 97 mph high school fastball gives him the type of arm that plays well in right field. Hicks has spent the entire year at Beloit, and the disappointment has been in his inconsistency. He started the season by going 1-31, but he ended April with a .299 average. He had a frustrating May, but has improved every month throughout the season. His OPS is 15% better than the league average.  Hicks has had a solid year and yet remains very raw. His ceiling is big league All-Star, maybe even a 30/30 type of player .

Miguel Sano, IF

The first two names were the teams #1 picks the last two years. When the Twins gave $3.15 million to 16-year-old Miguel Sano last year, it matched the signing bonuses of Hicks and Gibson. If signing bonus were any indication, Sano has to be considered as the team's top prospect. If your definition of a top prospect is based solely on potential ceiling, Sano's is as high as anyone in baseball. However, the odds are against any 17 year old playing in the Gulf Coast League, six promotions away from the big leagues. However, at 6-3 and 195 pound, he has the size (And room to grow) that scouts like. Watching him take swings, he has a very quick, very powerful bat. He can play SS although he has also played mainly at 3B and some believe he will eventually end up in the outfield. His defense is definitely a work-in-process, but there is little question about his bat. He came to Ft. Myers in spring to work out with the rest of the minor leaguers. He went back to the Dominican Republic and played 20 games down there before coming back to the States. In those 20 games, he hit .344/.463/.547 with six XBH. His is hitting .294/.339/.459 with the GCL Twins. He has nine doubles and three homers in 109 at bats. He has just seven walks and 34 strikeouts in 116 PA's. Sure, people can question his age, but there is no questioning the talent.

Summary

Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks and Miguel Sano are all very elite prospects. A case could be made for any of them being the Twins top prospect. So, what do you think? How do you rank them, and why?

Bonus Material

If you are looking for some other Twins prospects to consider, in that next tier, here are my Twins prospects 4 through 13 as of today for you to consider:

4 - Joe Benson, OF, New Britain, 5 - Adrian Salcedo, RHP, Elizabethton, 6 - David Bromberg, RHP, Rochester, 7 - Angel Morales, OF, Ft. Myers, 8 - Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Elizabethton, 9 - Ben Revere, OF, New Britain, 10 - Liam Hendriks, RHP, Ft. Myers, 11 - BJ Hermsen, RHP, Elizabethton, 12 - Chris Parmelee, 1B/OF, New Britain, 13 - Bruce Pugh, RHP, Ft. Myers, 14 - Eddie Rosario, OF, GCL Twins, 15 - Miguel Munoz, RHP, Beloit.

Final thought - Where does 2010 1st round pick Alex Wimmers from Ohio State fit into this discussion?

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