Prior to the 2009 season, we identified 10 prospects to watch in the Twins' farm system. Of those 10, six remain on the 2010 list.
Carlos Gutierrez, RHP: A 2008 first-round pick out of Miami, where he was the Hurricanes' closer, his future role is still up in the air. He saw time as a starter when he turned pro, posted a 2.10 ERA at Class A Advanced Fort Myers and a 1.32 in 10 starts in a return there in 2009. But he struggled after climbing to Double-A New Britain and moved back to the bullpen as he neared his innings limit. His stuff could profile at either spot with a heavy sinking fastball and improving slider and changeup.
Aaron Hicks, OF: The club's top pick in 2008 out of high school in California is a switch-hitter with great tools, most notably speed, who will be entering his first real full season after joining Class A Beloit midway through 2009. An outstanding athlete who could have pitched or even played pro golf, he has a strong arm and good plate discipline. At Beloit, he batted .251 with four homers, 29 RBIs and 10 steals in 67 games.
Angel Morales, OF: Taken in the third round in 2007 out of Puerto Rico, Morales has the most power potential of the Twins' deep crop of talented young outfielders. In 2008, his 15 homers and .623 slugging percentage at Rookie-level Elizabethton both led the Appalachian League, where he hit .301. At Beloit last summer, in a season shortened by injuries, he batted .266 with 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 19 steals, leading the team in the last three categories. He also has a plus arm.
Wilson Ramos, C: With Joe Mauer around, it might be easy to say there is no room for an up-and-coming catcher in Minnesota, but the latter's recent back trouble makes it clear you always need someone at the ready. The Venezuela-born Ramos could be the answer down the road. After hitting .288 with 13 homers and 78 RBIs in the heart of the order at Fort Myers in 2008, he missed half of last season at New Britain between a broken finger and pulled hamstring. But he combined to bat .317 with seven homers, 35 RBIs and 17 doubles in 59 games. He has a great arm and good defensive upside.
Danny Valencia, 3B: The Twins' biggest need in the Majors is a power-hitting third baseman, and Valencia is one of the top candidates for that job. The 2006 19th-round pick out of Miami has power to all fields and a strong arm, quick wrists and good bat speed. In 2009, he combined to hit .285 with 14 homers, 70 RBIs and 38 doubles between New Britain and Triple-A Rochester.
These four players were on our 2009 list but are not on the 2010 list, due to the loss of rookie status, trade, poor performance, injury, the addition of other prospects to the list, etc.
Shooter Hunt, RHP: The 2008 supplemental first-rounder out of Tulane was a somewhat risky pick because of mild control issues, but the thought was if he could harness that he had great stuff. But this year he, well, didn't. After an impressive early debut after signing, when he posted an 0.47 ERA over 19 innings at Elizabethton, he struggled in a promotion to Beloit with a 5.46 ERA and 27 walks in 31 1/3 innings. Last year, concerns about control became huge red flags as he couldn't find the plate, going 0-5 with a 10.19 ERA between Beloit and a regrouping attempt in the Gulf Coast League. He walked 58 batters, fanning 26, over 32 2/3 combined innings.
Trevor Plouffe, SS: Plouffe continues to put up solid numbers since signing out of high school in 2004 as the club's top pick, but the acquisition of J.J. Hardy would indicate he's not in the Twins' immediate plans. His numbers have been nearly identical three years in a row at three levels, most recently hitting .260 with 10 homers and 60 RBIs with Rochester in 2009.
Tyler Robertson, LHP: A tough cut from the list because the left-hander with the unorthodox delivery has done nothing statistically to warrant being removed from a top 10 other than system depth, and he remains just "under the radar." A 2006 third-round pick who missed the second half of 2008 with shoulder trouble, he posted a 3.33 ERA in a full season at Fort Myers in 2009, including a 1.80 ERA in August. His out pitch is a nasty slider. And in an organization light on left-handers, don't rule him out.
Prospects to watch
|Carlos Gutierrez, RHP||David Bromberg, RHP|
|Aaron Hicks, OF||Kyle Gibson, RHP|
|Shooter Hunt, RHP||Carlos Gutierrez, RHP|
|Angel Morales, OF||Aaron Hicks, OF|
|Trevor Plouffe, SS||Angel Morales, OF|
|Wilson Ramos, C||Wilson Ramos, C|
|Ben Revere, OF||Ben Revere, OF|
|Tyler Robertson, LHP||Miguel Sano, SS|
|Anthony Swarzak, RHP||Anthony Slama, RHP|
|Danny Valencia, 3B||Danny Valencia, 3B|
Anthony Swarzak, RHP: The 2004 second-rounder is the lone player to lose his spot on the list due to expiration of rookie eligibility, as his 5-0 record and 1.80 ERA at Rochester to wind up 2008 put him firmly enough on the radar to get the call in 2009. After opening the year with the Red Wings and continuing to impress with a 3.28 ERA in 12 games, he was in the big leagues, where he went 3-7 with a 6.25 ERA over 59 innings in 12 starts.
The following four players are new additions to the Twins' Prospects to Watch list.
David Bromberg, RHP: Leading his league in strikeouts three years in a row finally earned Bromberg the love he deserved. The 2005 32nd-rounder, signed as a draft-and-follow the following year, was the Twins' Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 13-4 with a 2.70 ERA and 148 strikeouts over 153 1/3 innings at Fort Myers. He limited opponents to a .224 average in 27 starts. The 6-foot-5 255-pounder set career highs in wins and innings but not strikeouts as his 177 Ks in 150 innings at Beloit in 2008 led the Minors. His changeup and curveball are his bread and butter, offsetting a lively fastball in the low-90s. He's a gamer with poise and presence on the mound.
Kyle Gibson, RHP: Gibson's end-of-season injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Twins, as the Missouri ace dropped to them with the 22nd pick in 2009. A stress fracture in his pitching forearm diagnosed right before the Draft scared off some teams, but Minnesota scooped him up, let him rehab and set him loose in the instructional league, where he showed why he was so highly regarded. Despite being on track to make his pro debut this spring, he could move very quickly with a sinking fastball, plus slider and changeup, good mechanics and tremendous makeup.
Miguel Sano, SS: One of the most coveted international signees, the 16-year-old shortstop inked with the Twins and will begin his pro career this summer. Big and strong with a projectable body at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he's a right-handed hitter with good bat speed and power potential to all fields. He is remarkably mature for his age (and, yes, his age was very carefully vetted and cleared) and could move to third base down the line.
Anthony Slama, RHP: The loss of closer Joe Nathan for the foreseeable future could cause a trickle-down effect for the system's upper-level pitchers and this sleeper pick out of San Diego State may be a surprise beneficiary. Though he has remained surprisingly under the radar, he has excelled at every level, earning Eastern League All-Star honors last summer, posting a 2.67 ERA, 29 saves, 12.44 strikeouts per nine innings and a .203 BAA over 81 innings between New Britain and Rochester. In 2008, he posted a microscopic 1.01 ERA as the closer at Fort Myers, recording 25 saves and 13.94 strikeouts per nine innings to go with a .173 BAA.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.