Spend two minutes around Ben Revere and it becomes awfully difficult not to root for him. His personality is as infectious as his style of play. Both are just about ready to take Minnesota by storm.
The 2007 first-round pick did in 2010 what he's done every other year of his professional career: He hit, he ran and he played the game with an all-out style and joy that was simply fun to watch.
Revere hit .305 with Double-A New Britain, which actually was his lowest batting average since he came out of the Kentucky high school ranks in the summer of '07, bringing his career average down to .328.
He's such a contact machine, he hasn't always been one to take pitches, but he's improved upon that part of his game, understanding that small ball is the way he'll need to go. He's stolen 146 bases in 348 games and he's still learning the nuances of the art of basestealing (he's been caught 52 times).
All that earned the 5-foot-9 center fielder a September callup to Minnesota. While he only went 5-for-28 over 13 games, it left an indelible mark on the 22-year-old.
"It was the life up there," said Revere, adding that he hired a personal trainer and worked harder than he ever had this offseason. "It's hard, don't get me wrong, it's tough to stay up there. I want to stay up there for the longest time. It was so much fun. All the guys were nice and cool. Traveling was easier. It seemed like I was a lot more comfortable up there than I was in the Minor Leagues. It's a dream."
It's a dream he'd rather not wake up from. From the time he was a bit of a surprise as a first-round draft selection, every step of the way, Revere has had to prove people wrong. People who thought he was too small or that he wouldn't hit enough.
Even though there's no room in the big leagues right now for Revere -- he's headed to Triple-A to start the season -- he's ready and willing to keep showing people he belongs at the highest level. He's well aware that development of a Major Leaguer can take time. That's what makes getting that call that much more special
"Baseball is one of those things, it can take five or six years to get up to the show, unlike basketball or football when, boom, you're already there," Revere said. "That's why it's such a remarkable dream to be up there because you've been working your tail off."
Twins' Top 10 Prospects
1. Aaron Hicks, OF: It hasn't come quickly for the 2008 first-rounder, but if the second half of 2010 was any indication, it looks like it's starting to happen now. He's got tools aplenty and even if he doesn't develop a ton of power, he has all the other tools at his disposal. Hicks hit .308/.429/.459 in the second half last year. If he can keep it going when he moves up to the Florida State League, he could be on his way toward being a special center fielder.
2. Kyle Gibson, RHP: The Twins like college arms who can advance quickly and that's exactly what Gibson did, pitching at three levels in his first full season. The 2009 first-rounder has the pitchability Minnesota covets, but he's also got above-average stuff, particularly his grounder-inducing slider and plus changeup. He'll start the year in Triple-A, but look for him in Minnesota at some point this season.
WHEN WILL THEY ARRIVE?
4. Ben Revere, OF: Making a habit of proving people wrong, Revere will be waiting for another chance to show what he can do in Minnesota after last September's debut. He can flat-out run, allowing him to steal bases and cover a ton of ground in center field. He should make for an excellent leadoff hitter in the near future.
5. Oswaldo Arcia, OF: The Appalachian League MVP, Arcia led the rookie-level circuit in a host of offensive categories in 2010. He's got power to all fields, though he'll have to swing and miss less if he wants to keep putting up those kinds of numbers as he moves up. He should hit enough to handle the outfield corner he'll man in the future. The move to full-season ball should be a good test for him in 2011.
6. Joe Benson, OF: The Twins might look back and say 2010 was the year this 2006 draftee finally started putting it together, when his raw tools started turning into performance. Benson led the system with 27 homers and also stole 19 bases and 20-20 seasons could eventually become the norm. He's got the legs to stay in center, but could be a terrific right fielder with a plus arm if need be. He should be in Triple-A, just a phone call away from Minnesota.
7. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS/2B: Slated to be the Twins' starting second baseman, the 26-year-old signed with the Twins this offseason. Nishioka won three Gold Gloves in Japan and in 2010 won a batting title. He's a speedy slap hitter who could be a leadoff type. A switch-hitter, he's got plus speed and a little extra-base ability from the left side of the plate. He played shortstop in Japan, but his skill set may actually be better suited for second.
8. Alex Wimmers, RHP: See "Gibson, Kyle" about the Twins' love of strike-throwing college starters. Wimmers fits the description, with three at least average pitches he can all throw for strikes. His changeup stands out as a plus pitch, he's got a decent curve and his fastball has some life to it. He's not quite Gibson, but he could follow a somewhat similar trajectory.
9. Carlos Gutierrez, RHP: The 2008 first-round pick has gone back and forth between starting and relieving as a pro, but it looks like the bullpen is now his home for good. He's got a nasty hard sinker that generates a ton of groundballs, even more when he's pitching in short stints. His other pitches are inconsistent and he'll have to improve his command, but once he does that, he could be joining the Twins 'pen before long.
10. Liam Hendriks, RHP: The Aussie right-hander was on his way to a breakout season and an appearance in the Futures Game when an appendectomy ended his season. He's had some issues staying healthy, but when he's on he can throw four pitches for strikes, with impeccable command of all of them. He made up for some lost innings by pitching in Australia over the winter and he should be ready to give Double-A a try this season.
Under the Radar
David Bromberg, RHP: The 2005 draft-and-follow didn't have as much success last year as he did in 2009, but he did pitch at two levels and make it to Triple-A. He topped 150 innings for the third straight season and while his strikeout rate went down, so did his walk rate and he still finished third in the organization in ERA. Maybe he's only a No. 5 starter, but every big league staff needs one.
Manuel Soliman, RHP: Signed out of the Dominican as a third baseman in 2007, he moved to the mound after two summers in the Dominican League and a .199 batting average. In his first summer in the Dominican, he had a 2.15 ERA. Then he moved up to the Appalachian League last year and finished with a 3.48 ERA, 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings and a .201 batting average against. Next up: a full-season debut?
Hitter of the Year -- Arcia
The Midwest League won't prove to be too much of a challenge for the outfielder. With a full season, he'll compete for the organizational triple crown.
Pitcher of the Year -- Hendriks
This time, his appendix won't stop him. He'll set a career high for innings, giving him more than enough to lead the system in ERA.
To be eligible for a list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service