The 2011 season was one of disappointment for the Minnesota Twins. Punctuated by a 63-99 record and a last-place finish in the American League Central, the Twins endured a painful step back after consecutive division titles in 2009-10. Injuries and missed playing time dented the roster from team leaders Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to the end of the bench. The result was a farm system in a state of flux as a number of prospects were pushed into service, disrupting player development plans and timelines.
"This past season was tough from the Minor League side because it was a tough year at the highest level," Twins farm director Jim Rantz said. "Obviously, that was good for experience, but some of the guys were probably not ready. We do have some of that downtime with holes and trying to fill positions at the Triple-A level because guys are filling holes at the Major League level."
Perhaps most notable of last season's promoted prospects were first baseman Chris Parmelee and outfielder Joe Benson, who were thrust into action. Parmelee performed well, hitting .355 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 21 games, and Benson chipped in with a .239 average and two RBIs in 21 games.
Despite their notable contributions, the pair was a small sample of the 15 Minor Leaguers utilized by the Twins last season. The large number of callups in turn led to an interruption in what has been a steady blueprint of player development.
"Chris performed very well ... [Joe] is another one we think who will step up in the next year or so and could help the Major League club this year," Rantz said. "But we need to fill some voids at the higher levels and hold back some of the younger players to have them gain more experience and seasoning."
The result will be a very competitive Spring Training season in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins are expected to invite up to 65 players to big league camp.
"We've got a lot of young talent, but we've had gaps in the system because we've had to open up the system a little bit more than we've hoped to," Rantz said.
Top 20 Prospects
Young third baseman Miguel Sano tops the Twins' prospect list -- No. 23 on MLB.com's Top 100 list -- after a strong sophomore season with Rookie League Elizabethton in 2011. The 18-year-old, who is the second-ranked third baseman by MLB.com, hit .292, slugged 20 home runs and drove in 59 runs.
The four players that follow Sano offer a blend of power and speed. Outfielder Aaron Hicks (No. 2 and No. 72 in MLB.com Top 100) displayed a balance of raw tools with Class A Fort Myers in 2011, while outfielder Oswaldo Arcia (No. 3) showed good power between Class A Beloit and Fort Myers. Eddie Rosario (No. 4), a fourth-round pick in 2010 who is moving from the outfield to second base, comes off a monster year with Elizabethton, where he hit .337 with 21 home runs, 60 RBIs and a 1.068 OPS. Benson (No. 5) led Double-A New Britain with 16 home runs.
Parmelee (No. 7) and third baseman Travis Harrison (No. 10) help round out the top 10 that includes right-handers Kyle Gibson (No. 6), who was on the verge of joining the big league club before undergoing Tommy John surgery in September; Australian import Liam Hendriks (No. 8); and Adrian Salcedo (No. 9).
Outfielder Angel Morales (No. 11) seeks a return from an elbow injury in '11, while last year's compensatory-round pick Hudson Boyd (No. 12) will make his professional debut in '12. Outfielder Alex Kepler (No. 13) and second baseman/shortstop Brian Dozier (No. 14) slot in front of 2010 first-round pick Alex Wimmers (No. 15).
A pair of hurlers in Manuel Soliman (No. 16) and Madison Boer (No. 17), and left-hander Corey Williams (No. 19) and right-hander Matt Hauser (No. 20) beef up the end of the list, which also includes catcher Chris Herrmann (No. 18), who spent 97 of 121 games last season with Double-A New Britain.
twins' top prospects
Under the radar
Niko Goodrum, SS: Goodrum took important strides last season -- his second since being selected in the second round of the 2010 Draft. The 19-year-old shortstop displays developing but high-upside tools, including his contact approach and plate discipline. He still has a ways to reach his ceiling, but has plenty of time and opportunity.
B.J. Hermsen, RHP: A big-bodied starter, Hermsen put together a very productive season between Class A Beloit and Fort Myers. The 22-year-old, who was a sixth-round pick in 2008, features an assortment of pitches that isn't overpowering but a repertoire he commands well and uses to his advantage. Hermsen made just five starts with Fort Myers last season.
Hitter of the Year
Sano displayed advanced tools last season, and now with two years in the system, will make his move up to full-season ball, likely at Class A Beloit. His plate discipline and power are established enough that the longer schedule and the attrition within that schedule should not prevent him from enjoying another big year at the plate.
Pitcher of the Year
With Gibson on the shelf for at least the majority of 2012, Hendriks has the opportunity to pick up greater visibility. He battled during his nine starts with Triple-A Rochester last season, but with four pitches, fastball command and another year of health under his belt, Hendriks could be in position for his best season yet.