La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Joe Benson, Kyle Gibson named top prospects

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III under Twins Farm System, Twins prospects Updated: September 27, 2010 - 2:35 PM

The Twins have named outfielder Joe Benson their minor league player of the year and righthander Kyle Gibson Twins minor league pitcher of the year.

Benson, 22, split time between Class AA New Britain and Class A Fort Myers this season. He opened at New Britain but struggled early. He looked ready to snap out of his slump when the Twins shipped him to Class A Fort Myers. I thought the timing was bad when the move was announced..

Benson hit .294 with 4 homers, 13 RBI and 16 runs scored over 21 games and was sent back to Britain, where he finished .251-23-49 with 14 steals and 39 walks at New Britain. Benson clearly has the tools but has to continue to sharpen his plate discipline - and lift his average..

The Twins were in a little bit of a tough spot. Ben Revere's numbers - .305 average, .371 on base percentage, 36 steals - are easier on the eyes in a sense, but Revere has won the last two awards and the Twins didn't want to go there.

They did consider Oswaldo Arcia, the outfielder who batted .375/.424/.672 with 14 homers and 51 RBI in 65 games  at E-Town, but they just couldn't go the short-season route.

Other than that, it was a down year in the farm system with few players having great statistical years. That doesn't mean the Twins don't have plenty of prospects. I think there are several really good ones.

Benson definitely has the tools - I lifted him to No. 3 in my prospect rankings (but probably will drop him down a couple spots for the final ones) - and is worth tracking.

Gibson, however, was the clear-cut choice for pitcher of the year. He began his pro career at Fort Myers, where he flirted with a no-hitter and kept climbing up the organizational ladder. In 26 starts at Fort Myers,New Britain and Class AAA Rochester, Gibson, 22, went 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA with 39 walks and 126 strikeouts in 152 innings.

The kid knows how to pitch. He has a good sinker, he can cut the ball in on lefties. his slider is sharp and he has worked to improve his change up. He should debut in the majors sometime next season.

Benson and Gibson will receive their awards, along with other Twins award winners, at the Diamond Awards banquet scheduled for Jan. 27. 2011 at Target Field.

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