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Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Minnesota Twins

Craig Goldstein takes a look at some of the top fantasy prospects in the Minnesota Twins organization.

Jeff Gross

Over the coming weeks, Jason and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.

Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.

Previous Reviews

NL West: Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles
NL Central: Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee
NL East: Atlanta, Miami
AL East: Baltimore, Boston
AL Central: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City
AL West: Houston, Los Angeles

System Overview

The Twins have seen a resurgence in their farm system stem from reinvestment in the foreign markets. While Tsuyoshi Nishioka didn't work out on the major league front, their farm system has seen the benefits in a major way, with Dominican born Miguel Sano leading the way. He's not alone though, with Oswaldo Arcia (Venezuela) and Max Kepler (Germany) also seeing their stock rise. And that's not to mention contributions from J.O. Berrios and Eddie Rosario, both acquired through the rule IV draft, but hailing from Puerto Rico. The Twins system isn't the top heaviest, nor is it the deepest, but it is an interesting system with lots of names to keep track of. It doesn't hurt that they selected near the top of this years draft and had a fairly large draft allotment to spend.

Graduates in 2012

Chris Parmelee (1B), Brian Dozier (SS), Matt Carson (OF), Pedro Florimon, Jr. (SS), Eduardo Escobar (MI), Darin Mastroianni (OF), Scott Diamond (SP), Liam Hendriks (SP), Sam Deduno (SP), Cole De Vries,

AAA or Higher in 2012

These are players who reached the Twins' International League affiliate in Rochester in 2012 or higher. They will likely see time in the Majors in the 2013 season, and could be a significant contributor there.

Kyle Gibson (BBRef Statistics)

Gibson reestablished his stock with a strong Arizona Fall League performance that saw him strike out 10.8 per nine innings against only 3.09 walks per nine facing some of the best prospects in baseball. Gibson was highly thought of out of college but fell because of forearm issues. He was healthy following his draft year, but fell prey to Tommy John in 2011, which is why he was in the AFL making up innings. Gibson is about as ready for the big leagues as he's going to be and the Twins are as about as desperate for pitching as a team can be, so it seems likely that Gibson will make his debut early on this season. They could decide to give him a few innings in Triple-A to delay his clock, since he will also likely be shut down early as it his first full season coming back from TJ. Given the shape of the Twins roster, an early season shutdown is unlikely to cause a Strasburg like furor with the public, though it's something to keep in mind for fantasy owners. He's not a big strikeout guy despite his AFL stats and relies on a four pitch mix including a two seam fastball with good movement, a plus change and a slider with good bite.

AA in 2012

These are players who reached the Twins' Eastern League affiliate in New Britain in 2012. They could see time in the Majors in 2013, but are more likely to arrive during the 2014 season.

Aaron Hicks (BBRef Statistics)

Oh Aaron Hicks. Where haven't you been on the prospect spectrum? Hicks was a highly thought of 1st round draft pick, ranking as high as 19 overall on Baseball America's 2010 top 100 prospect list. He has always shown patience at the plate, though sometimes to a fault. He's struggled to hit for average and the scouting reports have been up and down on him as well - mentioning numerous flaws even at his best. Hicks is a premium defensive centerfielder, covering a lot of ground and showing a plus to plus-plus arm. Hicks is a switch hitter who has struggled to hit from the left side, but made progress to that end in 2012. He had a resurgent season, putting up a .286/.384/.460 slash line. Get that with plus defense in centerfield, and you're talking about a star caliber player. He's stumbled before though, and could again - so don't be too enamored with him. I've set my prospect dial to "cautiously optimistic".

Oswaldo Arcia (BBRef Statistics, Profile)

Arcia is one of my favorite prospects in the minors. He's not going to be a world beater, but I'd bet my life he becomes a solid big leaguer. I've linked to the profile above - so without going too in depth: He's got plus raw power and has produced throughout his time in the minors despite being young for his league at each step. In his age 21 season, he split time between Hi-A and Double-A, recording a combined .320/.388/.539 slash line with 17 home runs as part of 61 extra base hits. For more information peruse the profile above.

High-A in 2012

These players reached the Twins' Florida State League affiliate in Fort Myers, and are at least 2 full seasons away from contributing in the Major Leagues.

Alex Meyer (BBRef Statistics, Profile)

Acquired earlier today (November 29, 2012) from the Nationals for Denard Span, Meyer is a physical monster standing 6'9 tall and capable of doing this. He's got a superior fastball and a slider that ranked best in the Nationals system in 2012 according Baseball America. Beyond that, control and command issues are his sticking point, as one might expect given the mechanics issues that come with being 6'9. We might hope that those smooth out as he ages and learns to control his body better, but that's not a given. His fallback is a nasty, dynamic reliever so there's value both ways for fantasy owners. For a deeper look at Meyer, check out the profile linked to above.

Low-A in 2012

These players reached the Twins' Midwest League affiliate in Beloit, and are at least 3 full seasons away from contributing in the Major Leagues.

Miguel Sano (BBRef Statistics, Profile)

That profile is from way back in March so I'll update it a bit. Sano did exactly what you might expect from a good and bad standpoint in 2012. He hit the ball really really far, with 28 home runs in the pitching friendly Midwest League, as part of a 60 extra base hit assault. He didn't hit for average, but he also didn't fail completely in that vein, hitting .258 and supplementing that with a .373 on base percentage. On the other side of the ledger, Sano did strike out a stunning 144 times in 457 at-bats, while playing middling to worse defense at 3rd base. Put it all together and you have one of the better prospects in the game - a 19 year old who crushed 28 home runs in Lo-A en route to recording an 893 OPS.

Eddie Rosario (BBRef Statistics, Profile)

That profile is from Tuesday, so I implore you to read it.

Short Season in 2012

These players made it to one of the Twins' short season affiliates in the Gulf Coast League or Appalachian Leagues. They are likely to be at least 3 or more seasons away from contributing at the Major League level.

Byron Buxton (BBRef Statistics)

The second overall pick in the draft, Buxton has been compared favorably to Bubba Starling as an extremely toolsy but raw centerfielder, that can offer value on both sides of the ball. Buxton is a potential five tool monster if he can convert his plus bat speed into power as he works his way through the minors. Buxton also sports plus speed, getting down the line in as little as 3.9 seconds from the right side of the plate. On defense his speed gives him range for days in the outfield and he has an above average arm to boot. The questions on Buxton reside in the competition he faced, coming from rural area of Georgia, and whether his hit tool will develop as he begins to face more advanced pitching. There's plenty of risk here, but there's plenty of reward as well.

J.O. Berrios (BBRef Statistics, Brief Mention)

I had mentioned Berrios a while back as a guy to keep an eye on as he was dominating both the Gulf Coast League and the Appalachian League. He's got a nice profile as a #3 starter, but is going to pitch well above that in the lower minors due to his combination of present stuff and command. Berrios isn't expected to make any leaps forward in terms of stuff and already shows good control - so while there isn't a ton of development room, there are plenty of skills to get excited about here. If you're someone who treats prospects like stocks, invest in Berrios now and sell him to a stat line scouter by seasons end, and you'll have made a healthy profit.

Max Kepler (BBRef Statistics, Brief Mention)

I brought up Kepler in the same piece as Berrios, and given that that was in September, not much as changed. Check the article for a more detailed look at Kepler - but note that he's someone to keep an eye on and has the potential to be an average regular in time.

Others of Note

Niko Goodrum (BBRef Statistics)

Goodrum is in the infancy of his journey, having completed 3 seasons without escaping the rookie level. However, he is a shortstop with a rifle for an arm, and power potential at the plate which places him squarely on the prospect map. He was a second round draft pick in 2010, and will hopefully progress to Lo-A in 2013, by which time he will be 21. The clock isn't ticking quite yet, but you'd like to see some progress soon. He's a name to monitor, as he has the tools to break out.

Travis Harrison (BBRef Statistics)

I mentioned Harrison in my mid-season ranking of third baseman (located here), and we also listed him in our Consensus Top 20 First Basemen Prospects. He's at third base right now, with a strong chance of moving across the diamond due to sketchy defense at third base. If the Twins are willing to live with below average defense at the hot corner, he might well remain there though. That's not why we're interested in him however - as fantasy leaguers, we're in it for the offense. And offense he provides. Playing on the loaded Elizabethton squad (with the above mentioned Goodrum, Berrios, Kepler and Buxton), Harrison produced a .301/.383/.461 slash line. The 2011 supplemental first rounder has a natural feel for hitting (he doesn't use batting gloves), and power that should emerge as he bulks up. If Harrison can stick at third base, I could see a top 100 ranking two years from now - though the bar gets raised significantly if he is forced to play first.

Statistics from Baseball Reference and Fangraphs
Scouting Information from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus

You can follow me on Twitter @cdgoldstein