Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Twins Past and Present on Baseball America Top 100 List

There is a fair amount of excitement about the number of highly rated Twins prospects. Baseball America provides a full listing of their top 100 prospect lists since 1990. Below is a list of the Twins players who made that list each year.  1992 was the last time the Twins had six prospects on that list. Here are those six players:

22. David McCarty, of, Twins
25. Pat Mahomes, rhp, Twins
33. Midre Cummings, of, Twins
68. Willie Banks, rhp, Twins
96. Alan Newman, lhp, Twins
98. Todd Ritchie, rhp, Twins

For those of you who don't recognize those names. McCarty, Banks, Cummings and Ritchie were all first round draft choices. McCarty (1991)  and Banks(1987) were each the third player taken. All four of those guys played in the big leagues. Ritchie actually had a couple good years after the Twins let him go. McCarty latched on as a role player late in his career. Newman and Mahomes each were also unsuccessful as major league players. That list is a warning of the limits of prospect projections. There really is no such thing as a can't fail prospect.

Here is my analysis of the six guys who are listed this year:

9. Miguel Sano, 3b, Twins 

Why he will make it:
His powerful bat. Sano has what is perhaps the most raw power of any player in the minor leagues.
Why he won't:
He strikes out a lot. For the power to do any good, you have to hit the ball.

10. Byron Buxton, of, Twins

Why he will make it:
He has outstanding speed. A great arm. Should be a standout center fielder. His bat also has potential to be special.
Why he won't:
He doesn't get any better than he is now. Some players develop early and then they stop developing.

41. Oswaldo Arcia, of, Twins
Why he will make it:
He can hit. He is a decent defensive outfielder.
Why he won't:
He doesn't hit major league pitching well enough to hold down a corner outfield spot.

59. Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins 

Why he will make it:
He has a plus fastball and good secondary pitches. He knows what to do with them.  The Twins grabbed him because it looked like he was a power arm who could throw strikes.
Why he won't:
His control problems return and he turns into another hard thrower who can't locate his pitches.

68. Kyle Gibson, rhp, Twins

Why he will make it:
He was a guy on the fast track when drafted. He has the pitches and the mound presence to succeed.
Why he won't:
He never fully recovers from Tommy John surgery. The added speed on his fastball that he showed last fall turns out to be an illusion.

72. Aaron Hicks, of, Twins 
Why he will make it:
He is a solid center fielder with a cannon arm and great range. He's a switch hitter who draws a lot of walks and projects to hit for decent power.
Why he won't:
He strikes out a lot. In the past he has been a weaker hitter from the left side, which is where he will need to hit the most. Last year is the first year he has had success from that side.

In going through this list, it is hard to imagine Hicks or Buxton not playing in the big leagues. Both have the defensive tools to hold a job based solely on their ability to run down balls. Sano could turn into an all or nothing slugger with too much nothing. As a hitter Arcia looks like Jason Kubel, only with better defense. He will have to stumble badly to not have some major league success at the plate. Gibson and Myers are pitching prospects. And, as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. The jump to the big leagues for pitchers is huge and many don't make it.

What the list below shows is that its a long road from prospect, even a top rated prospect in all of baseball, to being a contributor to a championship team. Many players never really complete the trip.

The other thing is to notice what players never show up or only once on these lists, who nonetheless become contributors. In 2002 when the Twins went to the playoffs for the first time since they won the World Series 10 years earlier, Pierzynsky, Mientkiewicz, Koskie and Jones had never appeared on a top100. Three had appeared on the list once,  Torii Hunter in 1997, David Ortiz in 1998 and Cristian Guzman  in 1999. Rivas was the only regular who had been a top rated prospect more than once.

Eric Milton was the only guy in the rotation who had been on the list. Latroy Hawkins was the only bullpen arm. Santana, Radke, Lohse, Mays and Reed had never been on the list. Neither had Guardado.

That didn't really change until two years later with the arrival of Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer.

So not only do many players who are on the list fail, but the core of teams often includes many players unrecognized as top prospects in the minor leagues. At least not recognized by Baseball America in its rankings. But that is to be expected. The differences between prospects are overblown. They all have flaws that are keeping them out of the big leagues and they all have skills that make people think they might be able to contribute at the major league level. Sano and Buxton are exciting, but it may turn out Travis Harrison and Levi Michawl are better players than either of them. We will just have to wait to find out.

Here is the full list as provided by Baseball America:

9. Miguel Sano, 3b, Twins
10. Byron Buxton, of, Twins
41. Oswaldo Arcia, of, Twins
59. Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins
68. Kyle Gibson, rhp, Twins
72. Aaron Hicks, of, Twins

18. Miguel Sano, 3b/ss, Twins
99. Joe Benson, 3b, Twins

34. Kyle Gibson, rhp, Twins
45. Aaron Hicks, of, Twins
60. Miguel Sano, 3b/ss, Twins
100. Joe Benson, of, Twins

19. Aaron Hicks, of, Twins
58. Wilson Ramos, c, Twins
61. Kyle Gibson, rhp, Twins
94. Miguel Sano, ss/3b, Twins

59. Ben Revere, of, Twins
71. Wilson Ramos, c, Twins

35. Deolis Guerra, rhp, Twins
52. Carlos Gomez, of, Twins
56. Nick Blackburn, rhp, Twins

21. Matt Garza, rhp, Twins
66. Glen Perkins, lhp, Twins
71. Kevin Slowey, rhp, Twins
94. Chris Parmelee, of/1b, Twins

6. Francisco Liriano, lhp, Twins
58. Jason Kubel, of, Twins
75. Matt Moses, 3b, Twins
91. Glen Perkins, lhp, Twins
100. Anthony Swarzak, rhp, Twins

1. Joe Mauer, c, Twins
7. Jason Kubel, of, Twins
63. Jesse Crain, rhp, Twins
70. J.D. Durbin, rhp, Twins

1. Joe Mauer, c, Twins
16. Justin Morneau, 1b, Twins
66. J.D. Durbin, rhp, Twins
81. Matt Moses, 3b, Twins
89. Jesse Crain, rhp, Twins

4. Joe Mauer, c, Twins
14. Justin Morneau, 1b, Twins
17. Michael Cuddyer, of, Twins
37. Michael Restovich, of, Twins

7. Joe Mauer, c, Twins
21. Justin Morneau, 1b, Twins
27. Michael Cuddyer, 3b/of, Twins
63. Michael Restovich, of, Twins
85. Adam Johnson, rhp, Twins

41. Adam Johnson, rhp, Twins
55. Michael Cuddyer, 3b, Twins
93. Luis Rivas, 2b, Twins

18. Michael Cuddyer, 3b, Twins
26. Michael Restovich, of, Twins
44. Matt LeCroy, c, Twins
79. B.J. Garbe, of, Twins
86. Luis Rivas, 2b, Twins

36. Michael Cuddyer, ss/3b, Twins
50. Michael Restovich, of, Twins
63. Luis Rivas, ss, Twins
68. Cristian Guzman, ss, Twins

25. Eric Milton, lhp, Twins
55. Luis Rivas, ss, Twins
84. David Ortiz, 1b, Twins

7. Todd Walker, 3b, Twins
70. Luis Rivas, ss, Twins
79. Torii Hunter, of, Twins

22. Todd Walker, 3b, Twins
58. Jose (Javier) Valentin, c, Twins
70. LaTroy Hawkins, rhp, Twins
76. Dan Serafini, lhp, Twins

30. LaTroy Hawkins, rhp, Twins
40. Todd Walker, 2b, Twins
70. Marc Barcelo, rhp, Twins

37. Rich Becker, of, Twins
73. Todd Ritchie, rhp, Twins
92. LaTroy Hawkins, rhp, Twins

16. David McCarty, 1b/of, Twins
53. Mike Trombley, rhp, Twins
78. Rich Becker, of, Twins

22. David McCarty, of, Twins
25. Pat Mahomes, rhp, Twins
33. Midre Cummings, of, Twins
68. Willie Banks, rhp, Twins
96. Alan Newman, lhp, Twins
98. Todd Ritchie, rhp, Twins

15. Willie Banks, rhp, Twins
16. Rich Garces, rhp, Twins
72. Chuck Knoblauch, 2b, Twins

13. Willie Banks, rhp, Twins
46. Johnny Ard, rhp, Twins
88. Kevin Tapani, rhp, Twins
91. Paul Sorrento, 1b, Twins

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