MINNEAPOLIS -- With the help of strong individual performances in the Minor Leagues and the influx of talent from the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, the Twins' farm system is on the rise.
The Twins have four players ranked in the Top 100 -- Miguel Sano (No. 21), Byron Buxton (No. 30), Aaron Hicks (No. 67), Eddie Rosario (No. 88) -- after starting the year with only Sano (No. 23) and Hicks (No. 72) in the Top 100. Using a scoring system that awards 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to the team with No. 2 and so on, the Twins moved up from being ranked 23rd to the 14th-best in the Majors.
Sano remains the crown jewel of the class and had a monster regular season at Class A Beloit. The 19-year-old third baseman hit .258/.373/.521 with 28 homers, 28 doubles and 100 RBIs in 129 games en route to being named the Midwest League Prospect of the Year.
"Sano, for his age and what he has done, he's done a nice job, obviously," said Twins Minor League director Jim Rantz. "He did have 42 errors, but this is a man with a very high ceiling. He's power driven and was able to stick at third base."
Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in the Draft, showcased his combination of power and speed while hitting a combined .248/.344/.448 with five homers, 10 doubles, four triples and 11 stolen bases in 48 games.
The 18-year-old outfielder made his debut in the Top 100 at No. 30 and is the highest ranked prospect from the '12 Draft class.
Hicks, meanwhile, overcame a slow start at Double-A New Britain to have perhaps his best season to date, hitting .286/.384/.460 with 13 homers, 21 doubles and 11 triples in 129 games. The 22-year-old first-round Draft pick from '08 also stole 32 bases and scored 100 runs. The outfielder moved up five spots in the Top 100 as a result.
"He had a breakout year," Rantz said. "He was very consistent and set our Double-A record there in terms of runs scored with 100. And he also ended up leading the organization in stolen bases. So he had a good year and will go play winter ball."
And Rosario, 20, snuck into the Top 100 for the first time after batting .296/.345/.490 with 12 homers, 32 doubles, 11 stolen bases and 70 RBIs in 95 games with Class A Beloit.
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The converted second baseman did all this despite being struck in the face by a line drive during batting practice in mid-June that caused him to miss about six weeks after having a metal plate inserted above his lip.
Sano, Buxton, Hicks and Rosario are Minnesota's top four prospects and are followed by Oswaldo Arcia (OF), Travis Harrison (3B), Adrian Salcedo (RHP), J.O. Berrios (RHP) Joe Benson (OF) and Angel Morales (OF) to round out the Top 10.
The next 10 are Hudson Boyd (RHP), Corey Williams (LHP), Matt Hauser (RHP), B.J. Hermsen (RHP), Madison Boer (RHP), Kyle Gibson (RHP), Matthew Summers (RHP), Max Kepler (OF), Alex Wimmers (RHP) and Niko Goodrum (INF).
The newcomers to the list are Berrios, who was taken in the supplemental round of the '12 Draft, and Hermsen, Summers and Goodrum, who all had breakout seasons.
Berrios is the most intriguing, as the 18-year-old Puerto Rico native posted a 1.17 ERA with 49 strikeouts and just four walks in 30 2/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League and at Rookie-level Elizabethton, where he helped the Twins to the Appalachian League title.
Chris Parmelee, Liam Hendriks and Brian Dozier all graduated from the preseason Top 20 while catcher Chris Herrmann and right-hander Manuel Soliman both fell out of the Top 20. Herrmann, who is set to play in the Arizona Fall League, was more a casualty of new prospects joining the list while Soliman had season-ending shoulder surgery in June.
Of Minnesota's Top 20, 10 are pitchers, and given the Twins' pitching problems this season, it's certainly a welcome sign for the organization.
"Overall, I think pitching is going to be the strong suit," Rantz said. "You can't have enough of it as we know."