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Continued: Twins prospects aren’t ready yet

The Twins farm system just might have the solution to the biggest problem with the major league club.

"Our strength is going to be in the pitching department," said Jim Rantz, the longtime Twins director of minor leagues.

There is a catch.

"But it's going to be two to three years away," Rantz said.

Of course, the Twins would like nothing more than to see rapid advancement from a couple starting prospects or power-arm relievers. It would be a welcome development for an organization whose idea of filling out a rotation through free agency is by signing Ramon Ortiz (2007) or Jason Marquis (2012).

Third baseman Miguel Sano is the Twins' top prospect, and one of the better ones in all of baseball. Outfielders Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia and second baseman Eddie Rosario, along with this year's No. 1 pick, Byron Buxton, likely fill out their top five.

The Twins might not have a pitching prospect in their top five once the experts release their lists next spring. But with minor league seasons now complete, the Twins can look back and see that some talented pitchers are developing. They just have to be patient.

"Our best pitching is low [in the minors], and that's not good," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said.

Especially for a team sorely in need of immediate help.

Gibson is back

The one pitcher Twins fans have been waiting to see is healthy and should make his debut in 2013.

Righthander Kyle Gibson, the Twins' first-round pick in 2009, returned to the mound this season after having reconstructive elbow surgery on Sept. 7, 2011. Before he was injured, some in the organization felt he was more talented than most of the pitchers on the major league roster.

Gibson is working to regain the feel and command of his pitches and throwing as many innings as he can.

Between rookie ball, Class A Fort Myers and Class AAA Rochester, Gibson threw 28 1/3 innings, going 0-2 with a 4.13 ERA. He had to start slowly, pitching one inning a few times as he built his endurance.

Now he's throwing five-inning stints during instructional league in Fort Myers, Fla. On Wednesday, he will report to the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League to pitch against other top prospects for about a month.

"We're trying to get him between 75 and 80 innings by the end of this year," Ryan said.

Gibson will report to spring training in February with a chance to make the major league club, but could start the year at Rochester if he still needs a little more work. Anyone who has watched the Twins for the past couple of seasons knows that if Gibson starts the year at Rochester, he might not be there long.

Velocity cycle?

The farm system hasn't provided the Twins with many flamethrowers in recent seasons. That might be changing down the road.

"We really drafted some good arms this year," Ryan said. "You guys always talk to us about velocity and we drafted velocity this year. There's no doubt about that."

Righthander Jose Berrios, taken with the 32nd overall pick earlier this year, is an 18-year-old who throws 93 miles per hour and has a good feel for pitching. He started with the Twins' rookie team at Fort Myers but was moved to Elizabethton, Tenn., of the Appalachian League, where he was 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three late-season starts.

Lefthander Mason Melotakis, one of two 2012 second-round picks, has touched 97 with his fastball but averages around 93-94. The other second-rounder, righthander J.T. Chargois, also has thrown as hard as 97.

The Twins had to be careful with the workload of some of the college pitchers they drafted, making them relieve this year after signing. They will meet later this month to determine if Melotakis and some of the other promising arms should be converted to starters.

"We need starters and will continue to look for that," Ryan said.

One pitcher to watch next season is reliever Michael Tonkin. A 30th-round pick in 2008, Tonkin made big strides with his command this season. Between Class A Beloit and Class A Fort Myers, Tonkin, who throws around 95 mph with good movement, averaged 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

The near future

The Twins have several position prospects who figure to be much closer than the young pitchers to making their major league debut. Arcia and Hicks should be next in line, as they both took big steps this season at Class AA New Britain.

Arcia actually began the season at Fort Myers, but kept hitting once he joined the Rock Cats. He batted .328 with 10 homers and 67 RBI in 69 games at New Britain. He could slide into one of the Twins' corner outfield spots as soon as late next year, if all goes well.

Hicks could make the Twins outfield of the near future even more interesting. After getting off to a slow start, the 2008 first-round pick rallied to bat .286 with 13 homers, 61 RBI, 11 triples and 32 stolen bases at New Britain. The switch-hitting Hicks struck out 116 times, but had an on-base percentage of .384 thanks to 79 walks.

"He's got skills, he's got strength, he's got numbers," Ryan said.

More top talent

Outfielder Buxton, the second overall pick in this year's draft, batted .248 with five home runs and 20 RBI in 48 games between the Gulf Coast League Twins and Elizabethton. But the raw talent was obvious. Ryan said Buxton is the fastest player in the organization -- even faster than Ben Revere -- and has good power potential.

"The thing that has come out now that we have gotten to know him is that he's a great teammate, he's a great worker, he prepares, he tries to pay attention to detail," Ryan said. "All those things you can't scout. He knows he's supposed to be a guy and that's a good thing. He doesn't want to mesh into a crowd and not be noticed."

And then there's Sano and Rosario, both of whom played at Beloit. Both have excellent offensive potential but are trying to stick at their positions.

Rosario, who shifted this season to second base from center field, is working on his footwork while turning double plays. He missed several weeks after being hit in the face by a line drive, but hit .296 with 12 homers and 70 RBI in 95 games.

Sano, who is 6-3 and around 230 pounds, hit .258 with 28 homers and 100 RBI. He walked 80 times and struck out 144. He also committed 42 errors at third, and his defense must improve if he's going to remain there.

"His agility is a work in progress," Rantz said. "We're trying to make his agility better through drills. He's a big kid for age 19, but there's no problem with his arm."

  • THE SERIES

    Sunday: Joe Mauer Monday: Can the starting rotation be fixed?

    Today: Analysis of 2012 farm system

    Wednesday: Look ahead to 2013 payroll

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Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
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Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
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San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
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Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
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Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
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Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
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Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
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Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
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Rice 42
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(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
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(22) Ohio State
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Southern Miss
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(13) So Carolina
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Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
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(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
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Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
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Hamilton 25
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Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
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