Life as a Twins' fan may be a roller-coaster, but its ups and downs are very predictable.
Most seasons, Minnesota fans live the summer months on the edge of their seats, waiting either for the Twins to surge ahead of their division rivals or fade out of competition. In the end, Minnesota's chronic competitiveness surprises even the most pessimistic of followers. A late-season let down almost always follows, but the Twins find themselves in the thick of the divisional race each October.
These successful seasons come after a boring winter spent far away from baseball's Hot Stove, where significant transactions involving the Twins were far and few between.
With the selection of Scott Diamond in the annual Rule V draft being the most notable Minnesota move, it's clear the Twins are in the midst of another boring winter. It's tough to watch other teams trading for ___ and signing superstars while your team seems more intent on filling out the roster of their Triple-A affiliate.
But the Twins have gone through winters like these many times before and always seem to find a way to compete. While many fans have spent the last few weeks worrying, the Twins have been busy. A Jim Thome signing was announced recently, and the team seems closer to an agreement with Carl Pavano every day. Neither Thome nor Pavano are the high-profile moves many hoped for, but both are well worth their price tag and a fine allotment of Minnesota's tight payroll.
In spite of another offseason spent nervously chewing on fingernails, Minnesota will manage to field a competitive team once again. Here's a rough outline of what the Twins roster is looking like for the 2011 season, along with projected wins above replacement in attempt to give a vague idea of how many wins to expect (an average of ZiPS, Bill James, and 'Fans' projections):
Click here to read more!
9. Ben Revere, outfielder, 22 years old
2010 stats: .305/.371/.363 with 41/32 K/BB in 94 games for New Britain (Double-A), .179/.233/.179 with 5/2 K/BB in 13 games with Twins
Last year's rank: #3
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round of the 2007 June Major League Draft.
Revere takes a significant fall on this list not because of a poor performance last year, but because so many others have made positive strides. The Twins' 22-year old outfielder continued to dominate opposing pitchers in 2010, with an on-base average of .371 displaying his incredible plate discipline. Revere also maintained a high batting average, and ranked among the league leaders in the category.
While Revere seems to have those aspects of his game figured out, his power has yet to manifest itself. Long-hailed as having “raw power,” Revere hasn't hit more than two home runs in a season. I can be fairly confident when I predict that Revere will never be capable of hitting double-digit long balls in the big leagues, but that only slightly sours my opinion of him as a prospect.
Revere posted his fourth consecutive season with a batting average of at least .300 last year, and is an excellent contact hitter. His on-base percentage was also outstanding for the fourth straight year, and Revere's skill set is becoming more and more clear. If you need someone to get on base, Revere's your guy.
Injuries forced the Twins to give Revere playing time in 2010, prematurely giving the outfielder a harsh trial by fire. Revere isn't ready for big-league pitching, and the Twins won't feel the need to rush him.
Ideal scenario: Revere will be sent to New Britain again in order to finish a full season against Double-A opposition. About half-way through the season Revere will be promoted to Rochester, where he will play for the rest of the year and possibly to start 2012.
Path to the majors: Like last year, the Twins could find themselves desperate for an athletic outfielder late in the season. If that's the case, Revere will earn another September call-up and be given another chance to show off his great on-base skills. Left alone in Rochester, though, Revere could finish the season with the Red Wings. Whether or not he's called up to the big leagues this year, though, Revere should find himself on the 25-man roster for the 2012 season.no comments
10. David Bromberg, Starting Pitcher 23 years old
2010 stats: 6-9 with a 3.75 ERA 112/48 K/BB in 151.1 innings for New Britain and Rochester.
Last year's rank: #11
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 32nd round of the 2005 June Major League Draft.
Who is the Twins best pitching prospect? Most fans say it's Kyle Gibson, Alex Wimmers, or Liam Hendriks. Who do Twins fans think is next man in for the starting rotation? Most say Kyle Gibson. Has David Bromberg become a forgotten man?
Since signing with the Twins, Bromberg has collected many accolades. He was the Appalachian League pitcher of the year in 2007 and Florida State League most valuable pitcher and the Twins "Minor League Pitcher of the year" in 2009. In between those award winning years, all he did was lead all of minor league baseball with 177 strikeouts in 2008. He's been a minor league all-star several times.
Bromberg throws in the low to mid 90s a slider, slurve and change. He has struck out more than 1 per inning while giving up about a hit an inning and walking around 3 men per 9 in his minor league career. He's an imposing presence at 6'5". He has thrown 150 innings the last 3 seasons and he has the stuff and makeup to be a middle rotation starter. At 23 years old, he could be just an injury away from the major leagues.
With all of the accolades and ability, why is Bromberg getting lost in the pitching prospect shuffle? Well his 2010 numbers don't look that impressive. He was only 6-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 2010. His strikeout rate decreased by 4 Ks per 9 at New Britain in 2010 from his previous rates.
I wouldn't worry about his 2010 numbers. His K numbers came closer to his previous years once he was promoted to Rochester. His 6-9 record was with two really bad minor league teams. He also moved up 2 levels in 2010 after spending one full season at each level in the 4 seasons prior to 2010.
Ideal scenario: Bromberg will start the season for AAA Rochester. He is on the 40 man roster and may be the first starter called up if the Twins have a need. If Bromberg has a good season at Rochester, it gives the Twins extra depth to make trades.
Path to the majors: Bromberg has a great shot of reaching the majors in 2011. His journey to the majors is almost complete. He is on the 40-man roster (Kyle Gibson is not) and would be the most likely early season call-up to start or fill a long relief role if the Twins have needs. Bromberg and Gibson could be anchors of the rotation for many years. He has very good strikeout numbers, doesn't walk too many and has been dependable. An innings eater that could be an above average major league starter. Not bad for a 32nd round pick!
11. Kane Holbrooks, RH-RP/SP, 23 years old
2010 stats: 8-6, 2.10 ERA, 110/29 K/BB in 102.2 innings for Beloit Snappers (Low-A), Fort Myers Miracle (High-A), and New Britain Rock Cats (Double-A)
Last year's rank: N/A
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 21st round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft.
Kane Holbrooks was a late-round selection of the Minnesota Twins two years ago. Coming out of Texas State College, Holbrooks had started and relieved games for the Bobcats. For the most part, Holbrooks struggled during his collegiate career. What made him an interesting prospect was his strong arm and successful season season with Texas State.
But each team passed on Holbrooks 20 times when he was eligible to be drafted in 2009. The Twins took a flier in the 21st round, assigning him to the Elizabethton Twins with a role in the bullpen. Holbrooks showed off his strong arm and struck out plenty, but struggled with control and consistency.
Minnesota advanced him to Beloit in 2010, where Holbrooks kicked off a remarkable break-through season. In 33 relief appearances for the Snappers, Holbrooks maintained a sub-2.00 ERA while striking out nearly 12 batters per nine innings. He was quickly promoted to Fort Myers, where he continued to dominate.
Holbrooks began starting games for the Miracle, and continued to over-power opposing batters, even under the strain of additional innings. We may be placing too much value in Holbrook's most recent season by ranking him at No. 11, but there is no doubt that Holbrooks has the potential to be a very valuable arm for the Twins.
Ideal scenario: The Texas State alum closed out the season with a start for the New Britain Rock Cats, where he will surely start the 2011 season. Holbrooks will spend the year focusing on his secondary pitches and furthering the dominance of his fastball.
Path to the majors: If Holbrooks can refine his offspeed pitches to further emphasize his killer fastball, he won't be far from major-league action. He could reach Rochester next year, and could be a candidate for Minnesota's bullpen in 2012. Eventually, Holbrooks could be a starting pitcher.
12. Angel Morales, Outfielder, 21 years old
2010 stats: .280/.362/.405 with 29 steals in 41 attempts between Beloit Snappers & Fort Myers
Last year's rank: #2
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 3rd Round of the 2007 draft, out of Carguas, Puerto Rico.
I'm just going to start with this: I'm more excited to see Angel Morales play than any other prospect in the Minnesota Twins' system. Why? Angel Morales has everything needed to be a 5 tool player, a potential All-Star, & 30-30 man. He has center-field speed with a right field arm.
Morales burst on the prospect scene in 2008. He put up an impressive .301/.413/.623 line at Rookie League Elizabethton in 218 plate appearances. He has great speed but only attempted 9 steals, succeeding on 7. He had an amazing .322 isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average). As an 18 year old, he looked like the next big thing. But as I observed in this post, E-Towns stats can prove a bit deceptive.
In 2009, Morales moved up to Beloit, where he hit .266/.329/.455 and stole 19 bases in 25 attempts. He started the year really slow, but came on later in the season. He did lower his strikeout rate from nearly 40% in '08 to 27.7% in 2009.
In 2010, Angel returned to Beloit. After hitting .284/.377/.469 in 60 games, he was promoted to Fort Myers. He struggled following his promotion, going .272/.347/.349 in 73 games. His power was way down. He did, however, manage to steal a total of 29 bases out of 41 attempts in 2010.
Ideal scenerio: Morales has a monster season at Fort Myers is promoted to New Britain late in the year. At 21, he will still be young for his level and with guys such as Joe Benson and Ben Revere ahead of him, he doesn't need to be rushed. Hopefully his performance will force a promotion.
Path to the majors: He is a potential five-tool athlete that can play center field, but given the glut of high end center-fielders in the system, will be a right-fielder when he reaches the Twins. His plus arm will play well out there. He has a rare combination of speed and power, hits for decent average and can take a walk. He has some work left to do, though, such as cutting his obscene strikeout rate. With hard work and some luck, this guy could be putting up 30-30 numbers someday.
13. Manuel Soliman, RH-SP, 21 years old
2010 stats: 5-2, 3.48 ERA 74/21 K/BB in 64.2 innings for Elizabethton Twins (Rookie)
Last year's rank: N/A
Acquired: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007
When the Twins signed Manuel Soliman out of the Dominican Republic back in 2007, I'm sure they weren't expecting much from the 17-year old. Soliman was simply one of dozens of young players to come out of the country every year, and Minnesota grabbed him in hopes he may be one of the few Dominican sluggers to stick in the minor leagues.
Soliman didn't. During two seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Soliman hit .199/.318/.288. His high walk total made his on-base average respectable, but this was probably only because the poor kid was afraid to take the bat off his shoulder. If Soliman couldn't hit against teenagers in his own country, there was no chance he would make against it in the United States.
Minnesota noticed the corner infielder's strong arm, however, and decided to give Soliman an opportunity from the mound. Though he was a year older than most other players in the Dominican Summer League last season, Soliman was dominant. The Twins leap-frogged him to the Appalachian League in 2010 in order to gauge him against batters his own age, and the transition appears to be successful.
Soliman may have been miserable offensively, but the young right-hander has a strong arm and the ability to throw strikes. John Manuel of Baseball American claims Soliman has three pitches, which he can throw with high velocity. Soliman averaged a very impressive 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2010, and walked just 29.
Ideal scenario: The Twins will send Soliman to the Beloit Snappers for the 2011 season. He is about a year behind most elite pitching prospects, but Soliman started pitching just two years ago and needs time to refine and develop his skills.
Path to the majors: The Midwest League will provide the Twins with a good barometer to measure Soliman's progress. Barring any setbacks, Soliman will likely spend the entire season in Beloit, though he may be eased into his first full season. The Twins will certainly not rush Soliman to the major leagues, and the young right-hander can expect several more years of development.
14. Tom Stuifbergen, RH-SP, 22 years old
2010 stats: 6-4 2.98 ERA 88/23 K/BB in 93.2 innings for Beloit Snappers (Low-A)
Last year's rank: N/A
Acquired: Signed out of the Netherlands in August 2006
Recently, TwinsTarget profiled its #15 prospect Max Kepler. The piece detailed how the Twins have recently stepped up their pursuit of international free agents. In the last couple years the Twins have spent $3.25 million on Miguel Sano, won the rights to Japanese star Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and paid $800,000 for Max Kepler.
Kepler was considered the best European prospect hitting prospect of all time. While Nishioka was the team's first foray into the Japanese market, the Twins' activity in Europe is nothing new. In the past Minnesota has signed Andrei Lobanov, a lefty reliever out of Russia. But the Twins' best European prospect is Tom Stuifbergen.
Stuifbergen has a high 80s to low 90s fastball, plus a change-up and a curve. He has struck out about 8+ batters per 9 innings throughout his minor league career and has walked very few. Aside from his minor league numbers is his stellar play in international competition. He stepped up against a Dominican Republic All-Star team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He went 4 innings, striking out 3 and giving up no runs in a winning effort. While this outing wasn't against a major league team, Stuifbergen shut down a lineup of All-Stars as a 21-year-old. This performance came after he'd missed the entire previous season due to injury.
Stuifbergen had a nice season for Beloit last year, striking out 8.46 per 9 innings while walking 2.21 per 9. He's a big guy that has battled through injuries. He has had solid numbers at every level and if he can stay healthy, he is one of the best starters in the Twins system.
Ideal scenario: Stuifbergen will start the season for High-A Fort Myers. If he can stay healthy, Stuifbergen may have an opportunity to move on to AA New Britain mid-season. The Twins have moved him rather slowly and given his injury history, he may be best served to stay in Fort Myers all season.
Path to the majors: Stuifbergen has a ways to go to get to the majors, but if his numbers stay strong in Fort Myers, he should be put on the fast track. He profiles as a middle or back-end starter based on stuff and strikeout rates. The fortitude he showed against the Dominicans and his low walk rate however could elevate him to a #2-type starter.