Liam Hendriks of the Minnesota Twins (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Minnesota Twins Top 20 Prospects for 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Miguel Sano, 3B, Grade B+: Contact issues and defensive questions remain cautionary factors, but given his youth and prodigious power potential, he's clearly the class of the system. I buy the Miguel Cabrera comparisons but there is always the chance he could turn into Joel Guzman if he is mishandled.
2) Eddie Rosario, OF, Grade B: Solid tools across the board, with better-than-expected power production in the Appy League. A total steal as a fourth round pick in 2010.
3) Liam Hendriks, RHP, Grade B: Australian right-hander should be in the rotation mix for 2012. Possible outcome: Kevin Slowey circa 2008-2010 with fewer homers.
4) Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Grade B: Excellent power potential, but I don't like the problems he showed with the strike zone, 18 walks/70 strikeouts in 292 at-bats. Young enough to improve a great deal at age 20.
5) Joe Benson, OF, Grade B-: Impressive power/speed tools and should get a shot at a major league job in 2012. Still fights the strike zone, could be a 20-15 player but could also struggle in batting average and OBP departments.
6) Chris Parmelee, 1B-OF, Grade B-: He isn't going to hit .300+ in the majors, but I bet he can hit .260-.270 with moderate power and a good OBP. Not a star but should have a productive career. Less upside than Benson, but a higher floor too.
7) Aaron Hicks, OF, Grade B-: Tough to get a handle on this one. The tools are all here, patient, great glove, but the power is just not developing. He gets slack with the grade for one more year.
8) Levi Michael, SS, Grade B-: No pro data to work with, but based on college performance and scouting reports, I think he can be a solid regular and useful at the top of the order, OBP with speed-type.
9) Travis Harrison, 3B, Grade B-: Like Michael, a 2011 draftee who signed too late to play, so there is a lot of projection/speculation here. Excellent power potential, but reports/opinions are very mixed about how complete of a hitter he really is, and where he fits defensively. Personally I lean to optimism about the bat but am not sure about the glove.
10) Brian Dozier, SS, Grade B-: Not the best tools in the universe, but very polished, terrific instincts, and he just keeps hitting. Older prospect at age 24 but all the markers of a guy who will surprise people, and soon.
11) Madison Boer, RHP, Grade B-: Minnesota kid and University of Oregon product looked great in relief in Appy League but will reportedly move to rotation, where he projects as a workhorse inning-eater.
12) Hudson Boyd, RHP, Grade B-: Hard-throwing, mature-bodied Florida high school prep was supplemental first round pick, no pro data yet. Lacks physical projection, but already throws hard and command is well-regarded. Stock could go way up in 2012.
13) Adrian Salcedo, RHP, Grade B-: Scouts outside the organization are lukewarm on him, but he keeps throwing strikes and getting people out and doesn't turn 21 until February.
14) Alex Wimmers, RHP, Grade C+: Stock took a big hit following spring collapse of command and confidence, but he seemed to have righted the ship by the end of the season. Hard to rank higher than this without seeing what happens early in 2012.
15) Kyle Gibson, RHP, Grade C+: Tough to rank, since he will miss all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Number three starter if healthy.
16) Niko Goodrum, SS, Grade C+: Outstanding tools, took a big step forward late in the year for Elizabethton, hit .341/.438/.489 in August with greatly improved plate discipline. Still raw, but this is progress.
17) Max Kepler, OF, Grade C+: Uber-athletic German outfielder showed little power in the Appy League, but given age (just 18 in 2011) and background he remains intriguing.
18) Manuel Soliman, RHP, Grade C+: Converted third baseman with power arm has one of the higher upsides in the system but is still learning to pitch and was erratic in Low-A. Has to be protected on the 40-man roster to avoid Rule 5.
19) Matthew Summers, RHP, Grade C+: Overlooked sleeper prospect, converted outfielder, throws hard, fourth-round pick out of UC Irvine, posted 0.87 ERA with 36/5 K/BB in 21 innings in Appy League, 3.33 GO/AO. Left-handed hitters batted .000 against him.
20) Deolis Guerra, RHP, Grade C+: Forgotten remnant of Santana trade posted 2.77 ERA with 65/13 K/BB in 52 innings, 36 hits, after conversion to relief in Double-A. Still just 22 years old. Sleeper prospect for relief contributions in 2012.
21) Nate Roberts, OF, Grade C+: On-base machine hampered by knee problems in Low-A, still hit .302/.443/.446 in 68 games. Turns 23 in February so he needs to move forward, solid tools, questions about power.
22) Lester Oliveros, RHP, Grade C+: Hard-thrower acquired in Delmon Young trade, could be nice relief asset if he throws strikes more consistently.
23) Tyler Robertson, LHP, Grade C+: Like Guerra, a forgotten prospect who revived his career in 2011 after moving to bullpen in Double-A, left-handed ground ball machine, could help in major league pen in '12.
24) Matt Hauser, RHP, Grade C+: Posted 1.98 ERA with 75/29 K/BB in 64 innings between Low-A, High-A, Double-A. Good arm, very effective when his command is on, yet another bullpen option.
OTHERS: Matt Bashore, LHP; David Bromberg, RHP; Scott Diamond, LHP; Tyler Grimes, SS; Carlos Gutierrrez, RHP; B.J. Hermsen, RHP; Chris Herrmann, C; Trent Higginbotham, RHP; Austin Malinowski, LHP; Angel Mata, RHP; Angel Morales, OF; Daniel Ortiz, OF; Jairo Perez, 3B-2B; Bruce Pugh, RHP; Daniel Santana, SS; Tim Shibuya, RHP; Yangervis Solarte, UT; Kyle Waldrop, RHP; Jason Wheeler, LHP; Corey Williams, LHP; JaDamion Williams, OF.
There is an awful lot of B-/C+ in this system. Michael, Harrison, Boyd, Boer, and Summers from the 2011 draft could all rank higher next year and rate more confidently as impact players once we get more pro data. The Sano/Rosario duo was devastating at Elizabethton and I expect both to keep hitting. The system still needs more high-upside arms; they don't have anyone who looks like a future ace starter to me, although there are several inning-eater types and strong potential relief arms.