It’s that time of year again. Time to give this prospect junkie his fix. Last year, I did farm system rankings for all of baseball, and so I wanted to do so again. As I explain with any farm system rankings, this is a completely subjective business. I do watch minor league baseball, I do a lot of research on the players, and I do talk to people who do talent evaluation in baseball. I certainly don’t have the clout in the prospect world that the guys at Baseball America have, nor do I care to. This is meant to be fun for me, and hopefully fun and informative for the reader. At the very least it should allow for some debate from other teams’ fans, as well as allow Tigers fans a glimpse into other organizations farm systems, so when the Tigers make a trade, there may be some knowledge of who they are getting. Last year, the Texas Rangers took the top spot. Who will it be this year?
*This is where the rankings get tough, because starting with the Cubs, these systems are very good to elite. I have gone back and forth on multiple scenarios, but hey, it’s not life and death, it’s just some pretty awesome farm system rankings.
1. Byron Buxton(OF)- Buxton’s five tools capabilities gives him the nod for the top spot on the Twins list. Buxton can do it all, has potential to hit for average, power, runs well, and has a strong arm and the instincts and ability to play a good defensive center field.
2. Oswaldo Arcia (OF)- I’ve only gotten a very brief look at Arcia in 2010, but was thoroughly impressed with his ability with the bat. Arcia is short and bottom heavy, meaning he won’t be a good runner down the road, but his ability to drive the baseball all over the diamond is well above average. He also possesses a strong arm and can fit on either corner outfield spot.
3. Miguel Sano (3B)- Don’t get me wrong, I like Sano, but there is enough question marks about him to put him behind the other guys for me. First, there is no doubting his power potential. And second, I think he is a little better athlete than I was hearing. However, his defense is rough at 3rd, and he might end up being a DH. And there is enough swing and miss there to be a bit concerned. Still very young though and doesn’t turn 20 until May.
4. Aaron Hicks (OF)- While Buxton has superstar potential, Hicks isn’t that far behind. Hicks is also very tooled up and his bat took a step forward in 2012. Hicks has plus defensive ability in center field, and while there is a good deal of swing and miss in his game, he should sit well at the top of a batting order drawing walks, hitting for a decent average and showing strong gap power.
5. Kyle Gibson (SP)- Gibson gets the nod for being the best pitching prospect in the Twins system, based mostly on the certainty that I feel he will reach his mid rotation ceiling. He owns a good, if not slightly above average three pitch mix across the board, that he pairs with good pitching intelligence, movement, and strong command.
6. Alex Meyer (SP)- Meyer has a bigger ceiling than Gibson, but carries with that a couple of question marks. His mid 90’s fastball is paired with a potential plus curve ball to give him an outstanding two pitch mix. His change up lags behind, however, and command can waiver at times, though he has gotten better in that aspect.
7. Jose Berrios (SP)- Berrios burst on to the scene after being drafted out of high school in 2012 and had one of the most impressive pitching debuts out of all the recent draftees. Berrios combines a mid 90’s power fastball, a potential plus slider, and a solid change up with excellent command. Size isn’t ideal, but the repertoire is.
8. Eddie Rosario (OF)- The Twins are jammed with outfield prospects, so keeping Rosario at second base despite his troubles there might not be a bad idea. He has the skill set to defend center, but he isn’t going to do it better than Buxton or Hicks. Rosario is a good athlete, who has a good idea at the plate, and should hit for average and gap power down the road.
9. Max Kepler (OF)- Kepler is yet another tooled up athlete in the Twins system that is beginning to look like a baseball player. Kepler lacks the strong arm to be a true five tool player, but he runs well, has improved his plate discipline and looks like he might be able to hit for average and tap into his above average power potential. Probably a left fielder when all is said and done.
10. Trevor May (SP)- May is kind of an enigma. His career to this point has been up and down, but nobody can question his arm. He sits low to mid 90’s with his fastball that shows solid movement. Often times he shows a hammer curve that has above average ability, but lacks command and consistency. His change is average at best, and his success will likely hinge on the Twins ability to get May to command his arsenal better.
11. Romy Jimenez (OF)- I got a friend that tells me Jimenez is one of the better pure hitters he saw in 2012. Though he was old for the Appy League, I am going to give the benefit of the doubt to Jimenez and suggest that he can become a plus hitter from a corner outfield spot. Not a particularly athletic guy at this point.
12. Jorge Polanco (2B)- Polanco for me is a younger version of Eddie Rosario at this point, though he has better ability to play 2nd base defensively. Why is he ranked lower? Well, Polanco hasn’t made it out of short-season ball yet. Polanco shows a good feel for hitting, projecting to hit for average, steal some bases, as well as showing moderate power from the position.
13. Daniel Santana (SS)- Santana is known as a glove first SS, but his bat started to come around a bit in 2012. A good athlete, Santana has above average defensive capability with good range and strong throwing arm. Offensively, he still needs to learn to be more patient, but there is good hand-eye coordination and solid pop in his bat. Has good speed but doesn’t utilize it well at this point. I am being a bit aggressive in his ranking here, but do believe in the improvement enough to rank him.
14. Travis Harrison (3B)- Harrison is the odd prospect in the sense that he seems to get downplayed despite strong numbers from 2012. Harrison shows a strong offensive profile, and while there could be better patience and pitch recognition, that could come in time. He has very good power potential though. His defense? Well, I will just say reports so far haven’t been flattering.
15. Niko Goodrum (SS)- Goodrum has the tools necessary to become a regular at shortstop. He is more advanced defensively at this point, flashing a plus arm. His offense has come along already, but still needs improvement recognizing breaking balls. If he improves his contact skills, he should tap into his solid raw power a bit, and couple that with his good speed to become a useful offensive player as well.
Just Missed The List:
I lumped all of these guys together, simply because they might all be relievers down the road, and all could be very good ones. I think the Twins might let Bard and Melotakis start early on in their careers so I might give them the nod value-wise at this point, but every one of these guys could and should spend some time in a big league bullpen at some point barring injury.
Mata is a young right hander that shows some ability to get swings and misses with a good sinking fastball, but struggles a bit with command at this point. Roberts can really rake, and absolutely destroyed the baseball in the Arizona Fall League. However, he is 24 and hasn’t been above A ball largely due to injuries. Still, he is a guy worth paying attention to.
The Twins system is obviously a bit position player heavy at this point, but what an embarrassment of riches it is. There is real high end potential on some of these guys, and even guys like Polanco at number 12 have above average every day type potential. The lack of starting pitching arms beyond Gibson, Meyer, and Berrios is definitely the downfall of this system, though it is getting better. If a guy like Bard or Melotakis can take to starting, it would help the organization out a bit. Hudson Boyd is a guy that has some real potential, but frankly, he needs to get in better shape. The relief corps in about two years has the chance to be fantastic in Minnesota. Beyond the five guys I listed, Corey Williams is another guy that could help soon.
For a prospect nerd like me, there is considerable excitement to see the Twins’ Midwest League squad in 2013. I’m anticipating it to be one of the most loaded rosters in all of minor league baseball headed by Buxton, Kepler, Polanco, Harrison, Goodrum, Jimenez, and Adam Brett Walker. Throw in Hudson Boyd, Angel Mata, and Jose Berrios and it should be a fun team to watch.
I suspect Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia might graduate from prospect status at year’s end, as well as Kyle Gibson, but a strong draft could still vault this team higher. Assuming the 2013 draft lands them Mark Appel or Ryne Stanek.