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Twins deep in outfield and on mound

Twins deep in outfield and on mound

Before the 2008 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now it's time to recap and analyze all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent Draft class.

Young pitchers and speedy outfielders from the farm system were supposed to make a difference for Minnesota in 2008. Despite falling one game short of the playoffs, the Twins lived up to those expectations with a rotation that featured, at one time or another, a homegrown quintet of Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano and rookies Glen Perkins and Nick Blackburn.

Several players we listed as being on the verge of the Majors entering the season, such as Blackburn and newly acquired outfielder Carlos Gomez, made solid debuts in 2008. Our previous assessment of good young pitching and outfield speed still accurately describes the system's strengths right now.

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Less positive was the rash of injuries that afflicted several Twins prospects this season, including recent top picks like first baseman/outfielder Chris Parmelee, outfielder Joe Benson, 7-foot-1 pitcher Loek Van Mil and third-base prospect Deibinson Romero.

But youth is definitely being served in the Twins organization. Its Short-Season Appalachian League club in Elizabethton, Tenn., is one of the closest things to a dynasty you'll find in the Minors. The E-Twins won their third league title in the last four seasons with a 41-25 record in 2008 after posting marks of 50-18 in 2007, 42-16 in 2006 and 48-19 in 2005.

Overall, Minnesota's Minor League affiliates combined to go 408-343 for a .543 winning percentage -- sixth-best among the 30 big-league organizations. The Class A Advanced Fort Myers Miracle (77-59) went to the Florida State League finals, while the Twins' Gulf Coast League club (35-21) also made the playoffs. Class A Beloit (71-67) and Triple-A Rochester (74-70) both fell short of postseason play despite winning records. Only Double-A New Britain (64-77) finished below .500, though it rallied to go 20-11 down the stretch.


•  Monday, Oct. 6: Washington Nationals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 7: Seattle Mariners
•  Wednesday, Oct. 8: San Diego Padres
•  Thursday, Oct. 9: Pittsburgh Pirates
•  Friday, Oct. 10: Baltimore Orioles
•  Monday, Oct. 13: Atlanta Braves
•  Tuesday, Oct. 14: San Francisco Giants
•  Wednesday, Oct. 15: Cincinnati Reds
•  Thursday, Oct. 16: Colorado Rockies
•  Friday, Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
•  Monday, Oct. 20: Kansas City Royals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 21: Oakland Athletics
•  Wednesday, Oct. 22: Texas Rangers
•  Thursday, Oct. 23: Cleveland Indians
•  Friday, Oct. 24: Arizona Diamondbacks
•  Monday, Oct. 27: Florida Marlins
•  Tuesday, Oct. 28: Toronto Blue Jays
•  Wednesday, Oct. 29: St. Louis Cardinals
•  Thursday, Oct. 30: Houston Astros
•  Friday, Oct. 31: Minnesota Twins
•  Monday, Nov. 3: New York Yankees
•  Tuesday, Nov. 4: New York Mets
•  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Los Angeles Angels
•  Thursday, Nov. 6: Chicago White Sox
•  Friday, Nov. 7: Milwaukee Brewers
•  Monday, Nov. 10: Chicago Cubs
•  Tuesday, Nov. 11: Boston Red Sox
•  Wednesday, Nov. 12: LA Dodgers
•  Thursday, Nov. 13: Tampa Bay Rays
•  Friday, Nov. 14: Philadelphia Phillies

Organizational Players of the Year

MLB.com Preseason Picks

Ben Revere, OF: Though mildly surprised when the Twins took Ben Revere out of a Kentucky high school with their first-round pick in 2007, we had a feeling the speedy center fielder would do well after a pro debut in which he hit .325 with 21 steals in the Gulf Coast League. But we didn't realize just how hot he'd be in 2008, winning the Minor League batting crown with a .379 mark despite missing the last month following arthroscopic knee surgery. Just 5-foot-9, he also led the Twins system with 44 stolen bases and is one of the most exciting young players around.
Interview with Ben Revere

Deolis Guerra, RHP: The youngest of the four prospects acquired from the New York Mets for Johan Santana, Guerra was also the most raw of the three pitchers the Twins received in the deal. Though possessing the most potential, the 19-year-old remains inconsistent. Shoulder trouble limited his innings in 2007, but he still pitched in that summer's Futures Game at age 18. This year at Fort Myers he led the organization in wins at 11-9, but his 5.47 ERA showed room for improvement. Still six months shy of his 20th birthday, it's way too early to call him a disappointment -- Santana, after all, had a 4.35 ERA at Short-Season Auburn at the same age.
Guerra gets bases-loaded K

MLB.com Postseason Selections

Ben Revere, OF: OK, we didn't predict he'd lead the Minors in batting or flirt with .400 in his full-season debut, but nevertheless, we nailed it. Revere emerged as the most exciting Twins prospect in quite a while. He earned both Midwest League MVP and Top Prospect honors at Class A Beloit and posted a .433 on-base average.

Michael McCardell, RHP: This 2007 fifth-rounder out of Division II Kutztown (Pa.) had a great pro debut last season, going 5-1 with a 2.00 ERA at Elizabethton while limiting Appalachian League hitters to a .179 average. This year, in his first full season at Beloit, he led Twins' Minor League full-season pitchers with a 2.86 ERA, going 9-4 and striking out 139 in 135 1/3 innings while walking just 25. His out-pitch is a plus-curveball.
McCardell notches fifth strikeout

Climbed the Ladder

Nick Blackburn, RHP: A 29th-round pick in 2001 who signed with the Twins the next spring as a draft-and-follow, Blackburn came on strong in the second half of 2007 by going 7-3 with a 2.11 ERA down the stretch at Triple-A Rochester. He came into Spring Training as a long shot for the Minnesota rotation but ended the season with a team-high 33 starts, going 11-11 with a 4.05 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 193 1/3 innings.
Blackburn gets big K

Rob Delaney, RHP: A poster boy for non-drafted free agency, the 2006 St. John's sign was our MiLBY winner this season for Best Minor League Relief Pitcher after posting a 1.23 ERA, 18 saves and 83 strikeouts in 70 innings between Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain. It was his second MiLBY in as many years after earning Class A honors in 2007 for his 28 saves and 0.77 ERA at Beloit before moving up to Fort Myers in early July.
Delaney earns one of his 18 saves

Jose Mijares, LHP: This 24-year-old made a remarkable comeback in 2008 after fracturing his pitching elbow in a January car accident in his native Venezuela. He returned to the mound in late June and reached the big leagues by September. The left-hander had a 2.70 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 36 2/3 Minor League innings before posting a 0.87 ERA in 10 appearances for Minnesota. In his last full season, 2007, he fanned 81 in 69 2/3 innings (mostly at New Britain) and limited hitters to a .194 average.
Mijares notches back-to-back Ks

Wilson Ramos, C: Though the big-league club has an All-Star catcher in Joe Mauer, they may want to find a place for Ramos' bat. He hit .288 with 13 homers and 78 RBIs in the heart of the Fort Myers order this season and at just 21 has plenty more upside, combining good defense with offensive power potential.
Ramos goes deep twice

Ben Revere, OF: See selections above.

Anthony Slama, RHP: Slama, our Class A Advanced MiLBY winner this year, split time as the Fort Myers closer during the first half of the season before assuming full-time duties when Delaney moved up to New Britain. Overall, he posted 25 saves and a 1.01 ERA, ranked among the Minor League leaders in strikeouts per nine innings (13.94) and average against (.173), and fanned 110 in 71 innings while walking 24. He was a 39th-round pick out of San Diego in 2006 who signed the following spring.
Slama fans two in a row

Mike McCardell, RHP: See selections above.

Denard Span, OF: Though Carlos Gomez received most of the attention after the Santana trade, the Twins' top pick in 2002 also made big strides. By season's end he was the club's starting right fielder, having made a shift from his accustomed center-field spot. Span hit .340 in 40 games at Triple-A Rochester and .294 with six homers, 47 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in the big leagues.
Span cranks two-run homer

Kept Their Footing

Deolis Guerra, RHP: See selections above.

Jeff Manship, RHP: Minnesota's 14th-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2006, Manship went 15-6 with a 2.30 ERA at Beloit and Fort Myers in 2007, his first full season. This year his numbers were not quite as good: he posted a 10-9 record and 3.65 ERA in 27 starts at Fort Myers and New Britain, with his ERA rising from 2.86 with the Miracle to 4.46 in Double-A. He's not overpowering but mixes a solid fastball with a curve and slider.
Manship strikes out the side

Kevin Mulvey, RHP: Mulvey had the best season of the three hurlers acquired from the Mets in the Santana deal, posting a 7-9 record and 3.77 ERA in 27 starts for Rochester while striking out 121 in 138 innings. A second-round pick out of Villanova in 2006, he was the Mets' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2007 after going 11-10 with a 3.32 ERA at Double-A Binghamton. His slider is the best of his four pitches.
Interview with Mulvey

Chris Parmelee, 1B/OF: The club's first-rounder from 2006 remains in this category after missing the second half of the summer with a broken wrist. The young power hitter batted .239 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs for Beloit in 2007 and posted similar numbers in his second season with the Snappers before his June 25 injury: .239 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs in 69 games. Still just 20 years old, the slugger needs to bring his average up and stay healthy in 2009.

Tyler Robertson, LHP: Another prospect who lost the second half of the season to injury, this 2006 third-rounder went 9-5 with a 2.29 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 102 innings in 2007, his first full season. At Class A Advanced Fort Myers at age 21, Robertson was 5-3 with a 2.72 ERA in 15 starts before shoulder tendinitis shut him down in early July. No surgery was needed, but his unorthodox delivery has been the subject of concern among observers. His out-pitch is an indisputably nasty slider.
Robertson strikes out the side

Slipped a Rung

Joe Benson, OF: This outstanding athlete was the Twins' second-round pick out of high school in Illinois in a talented but so far injury-plagued 2006 Draft. Benson hit .255 with five homers, 38 RBIs and 18 stolen bases at Beloit in 2007, and his return to the Snappers' center-field slot this season did not result in much improvement. He was hitting .248 with four home runs, 27 RBIs and 17 steals in late June when a stress fracture in his lower back sidelined him for the rest of the year. He has power to all fields and is a good defensive player, but back injuries are problematic and the Twins have a glut of strong outfielders he'll have to beat out to get his shot.

Philip Humber, RHP: Perhaps the biggest name of the four prospects acquired in the Santana deal, the Mets' top pick out of Rice in 2004 has simply not met expectations. He spent most of 2008 at Rochester, where he finished with a 10-8 record and 4.56 ERA in 31 games, though his ERA exceeded 5.00 until the last two weeks of the season. With the depth of young starters in the Minnesota organization, Humber will have to regain his college form to factor into the Twins' long-term plans.
Interview with Humber

Trevor Plouffe, SS: Plouffe still has a shot, if mainly due to Minnesota's lack of depth at shortstop. He's had decent seasons but not reached the level the Twins had hoped for when they made him their first-round pick in 2004. His numbers at New Britain and Rochester this year evened out to a .260 average without much pop. He also saw time at second and third and could move forward in a utility role.

On the Radar

David Bromberg, RHP: A 32nd-round pick in 2005 who signed the next spring as a draft-and-follow, the 6-foot-5 Bromberg led the Minors in strikeouts this year with 177 in 150 innings at Beloit, where he went 9-10 with a 4.44 ERA. Though he was also among the Minor League leaders in wild pitches, he comes off a 2007 season where he earned Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year honors at Elizabethton after going 9-0 with a 2.78 ERA.
Fifth strikeout for Bromberg

Luke Hughes, 3B: A participant in the All-Star Futures Game representing his native Australia, Hughes missed a few weeks in early June to the DL but still finished with a .309 average, 18 homers and 61 RBIs at New Britain and Rochester. He ranked seventh in the Twins system in average and third in homers. Hughes needs to refine his defense at the hot corner, but the club loves his bat and his makeup.
Hughes blasts three-run shot

Danny Valencia, 3B: Another promising third baseman, Valencia was a 19th-round pick out of the University of Miami in 2006. He split the 2008 season between Fort Myers and New Britain (sliding into Hughes' spot when he was promoted), hitting .311 with 15 homers and 76 RBIs, fourth-best in the system. He batted .297 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs at Beloit and Fort Myers in 2007, his first full season.
Valencia's two-run triple in FSL All-Star Game

Angel Morales, OF: The club's third-round pick in 2007, this native of Puerto Rico is a good defensive center fielder with a strong arm who showed raw power in the Gulf Coast League that summer. He raised every level of his game at Elizabethton in 2008, batting .301 with 15 homers and a .623 slugging percentage. He is still raw but has huge upside. The Twins' outfield depth allows them to be patient with his development.
Morales launches second homer

Anthony Swarzak, RHP: A second-round pick out of high school in Florida in 2004, the Twins have been waiting for Swarzak to put it all together. We predicted he'd be Minnesota's comeback player of 2008 after he was limited to 15 games at New Britain by a non-PED suspension in 2007. Though his ERA rose from 3.23 at New Britain in 2007 to a 3-8 record and 5.67 ERA in 20 starts this season, Swarzak was shipped upstairs to Rochester, where he went 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in seven starts.
Swarzak fans his 10th

Draft Recap

1. Aaron Hicks, OF: The 14th player taken overall, this two-way high school star could be a great complement to his first-round predecessor from 2007, Ben Revere, before long. A switch-hitter with power from both sides, he has a plus arm and good speed. His .318 average in the Gulf Coast League was fourth-best in the organization, and he stole 12 bases with four homers and 27 RBIs in 45 games.

2. Carlos Gutierrez, RHP: Selected out of Miami with the Twins' second first-round pick, Gutierrez is an advanced college pitcher who could move up quickly. He was 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in 16 appearances out of the Fort Myers bullpen and pitched in the Florida State League playoffs.
Gutierrez gets another K

3. Shooter Hunt, RHP: A supplemental first-round pick out of Tulane, Hunter started his season at Elizabethton and compiled a 0.47 ERA in four starts, allowing just four hits in 19 innings while striking out 34. Promoted to Beloit, he posted a 1-4 record and a 5.46 ERA in seven starts. His great repertoire is highlighted by a fastball and curveball.
Hunt notches ninth strikeout

Others of Note: RHP Bobby Lanigan (third round) led the system with a 2.78 ERA at Short-Season Elizabethton, striking out 65 and walking nine in 74 1/3 innings. ... LHP Daniel Osterbrock (seventh round) was the Appy League Pitcher of the Year at Elizabethton, going 7-2 with a 3.00 ERA and striking out 104 while walking eight in 75 innings. ... 1B Michael Gonzalez (ninth round) hit .331 with 23 RBIs in the Gulf Coast League. ... OF Evan Bigley (10th round) was ninth in the Twins system with a .300 average at Elizabethton, to go along with 14 homers and 47 RBIs. ... LHP Blake Martin (17th round) was 1-2 with a 3.18 ERA at Beloit, striking out 40 in 28 1/3 innings. ... RHP Alex Curry (25th round) was 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA in six Gulf Coast League games, walking three and fanning 23 in 24 2/3 innings.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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