It's that time of year to start tracking which Twins players are headed to offseason leagues.
The Arizona Fall League is expected to announce its rosters sometime this afternoon, and at least six Twins prospects will be headed west during the offseason.
At the top of the list is righthander Kyle Gibson, who is on the comeback trail following Tommy John elbow surgery last year. The Twins are tying to get Gibson to throw as many innings as possible before spring training, and this will allow him to get plenty of work.
Between rookie ball, Class A Fort Myers and Class AAA Rochester, Gibson has thrown 24.2 innings so far. He should get at least one more outing with Rochester. He could get another 25 innings or so in Arizona then prepare for spring training.
Other Twins prospects expected to play in the league include catcher Chris Hermann, outfielder Evan Bigley and pitchers Logan Darnell, Caleb Thielbar and Michael Tonkin. It's another good development for Thielbar, who was pitching for the Saints when the Twins signed him. Tonkin is the brother-in-law of former Twin Jason Kubel.
The Twins are holding a spot open for outfielder Joe Benson. Benson had surgery on his left knee on Monday to clean out loose bodies. They hope he can rehab for a few weeks then participate in the league. They want him to finish the year on a positive note after an awful minor league season in which he struggled and missed several weeks because of wrist surgery.
Some other notes from around the system:
HICKS FINISHING WELL: Class AA New Britain outfielder Aaron Hicks is scheduled to play winter ball in Venezuela. It's chance for him to face pretty good competition in advance of next season. Hicks, Twins' first round pick in 2008, is beginning to come around, with a .287/.385/.450 slash line at New Britain with 12 homers and 31 stolen bases. He's batting .359 in August. The Twins give out a, "Man of Steal" award to the prospect with the most stolen bases, and Hicks currently has the edge.
HU ARE YOU?: Earlier this month, the Twins signed Taiwanese righthander Chih-Wei Hu for around $200,000. Hu, 18, throws a fastball, change up and curveball, His fastball sits from 88-91 but has hit 94 at times. And here's some video of him (the third one). Apparently, he touched 95 in this game.
SANO WATCH: Miguel Sano is batting .260 with 42 errors at Beloit. But everyone swoons over his potential because his 28 doubles, 27 homers and 98 RBI. Sano has a chance to become the first player at Class A Beloit to drive in 100 runs since David Winfree drove in 101 in 2005.
GIVES NO GROUND: One of my favorite Twins prospects to track is Beloit outfielder Nate Roberts, who doesn't mind taking one for the team. In 71 games (he was injured early in the season), Roberts has been hit by a pitch 20 times. He's batting .306 but has a .440 on base percentage. He was hit 29 times in 68 games last season, and 29 times in 59 games in 2010, his last year at High Point University. And Jim Rantz, the Twins director of minor leagues, said Roberts is improving as an outfielder. It will be interesting to see how his 'approach,' works as he moves up the chain. Roberts is batting .395 with four steals over the last 10 games. He has 26 stolen bases and could challenge Hicks for the Man of Steal title..