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Twins from Down Under

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: June 28, 2011 - 2:22 AM
As Trent Oeltjen and the LA Dodgers knocked around Twins pitching last night, it became clear what the subject of my TwinsCentric blog should be. We all know that the Twins have signed a lot of players from Australia, but I think when you look at the caliber of some of the prospects and how many big leaguers the Twins have produced from Down Under, it really is impressive.
 
Remember in 2005 when infielder Glenn Williams finally got a big league opportunity? He played in 13 games for the Twins and had at least one hit in each of those games. He was 17-40 (.425) when he dove back into first base and jarred his shoulder. The injury kept him out the rest of the season, and he never appeared in the big leagues again.
 
Williams was a high-profile prospect, signed to a huge bonus as an 18-year-old. The Twins had other Australians in their system, and several of them reached the big leagues.
  • Remember side-winding Michael Nakamura? In 2003, he walked just two batters and struck out 14 in 12.2 innings for the Twins. Of course, he gave up twenty hits, including four home runs, and posted a 7.82 ERA.
  • Brad Thomas was a solid reliever for the Tigers in 2010, and he is still in their bullpen this year. Did you remember that he debuted with the Twins as a 23-year-old in 2001 and pitched in 23.1 big innings over parts of three seasons from 2001 through 2004?
  • Justin Huber was a huge prospect in the Royals system but never got an opportunity with them. He came to the Twins in 2009 and after a strong AAA campaign got a September call-up to the Twins. He went 1-2 before an oblique injury cost him the rest of that season.
  • Grant Balfour debuted with the Twins in 2001 as a 23-year-old. He came back in 2003 and again in 2004. He impressed with a big fastball but was often hurt. He missed all of 2005 and 2006 after a few arm surgeries, including Tommy John surgery. His career took off in 2008 with the Rays, and became one of the league’s top setup men. He was a Type A free agent this past offseason and signed a big contract with the Oakland A’s, where he is currently 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 32.2 innings.
  • Ryan Rowland-Smith was the Twins Rule 5 selection from the Mariners after the 2004 season. He was returned to the Mariners late in Spring Training 2005. He pitched for the Mariners the last four years. He signed with the Houston Astros before this season.
  • Trent Oeltjen signed with the Twins in 2001 and moved all the way up to AAA Rochester where he spent the 2007 season. He was generally one of the better players on his teams. I had the chance to do a Q&A with Oeltjen following the 2006 season, which was fun. In my June of 2007 Top 50 Twins Prospect Rankings, I had Oeltjen at #10. He peaked in my rankings at #9 following the 2006 season. Oeltjen got into 24 games in 2009 with the Diamondbacks, and has now played in 24 games for the Dodgers over the past two years. By the way, his numbers in Albuquerque before the Dodgers called him up? .339/.429/.583 with 14 doubles, three triples and eight home runs in 180 at bats.  
 
Luke Hughes is the only current Twins player from Australia in the big leagues. He debuted in style in 2010 when he homered in his first big league at bat, against the Tigers’ Max Scherzer. He was one of the big stories of spring training again in 2011 but was the last cut. Of course, he has spent all but a couple of weeks in the big leagues this season and hit .246/.308/.313 with six doubles and a home run while playing 1B, 2B and 3B.  Hughes is followed by several very good prospects:
  • Allan de San Miguel is in his seventh season in the Twins minor league system yet is still just 24 years old. The 5-9, 200 pound catcher is currently rehabbing an elbow injury in Ft. Myers. He has a career hitting line of .202/.321/.290, playing at every level of the Twins farm system. In an organization with several very good defensive catchers, De San Miguel is among the most respected behind the plate.
  • Liam Hendriks is a Top 5 Twins prospect, and may still be underrated. The 22 year old was recently named to this year’s Futures Game in Phoenix. He was named to the team a year ago too, but he suffered an emergency appendectomy and missed a month. This year with Double-A New Britain, Hendriks is 7-2 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.
  • James Beresford is a 22 year old middle infielder for the Ft. Myers Miracle. He is hitting .251/.297/.259 with five doubles. He was the MVP of the Beloit Snappers the last two years. He is 6-2 but weighs barely 165 pounds. The most frequent saying around Beresford is that if he can add some weight, he will be really good. He is already a solid player and a tremendous glove and a leader.
  • Todd Van Steensel signed with the Twins late last year. The 20 year old was the Opening Night starter for the Elizabethton Twins. He has made two starts and has three walks and 14 strikeouts in 10 innings.
  • Also at Elizabethton is Rory Rhodes. The 19 year old third baseman stands 6-7 and weighs 200 pounds. Though seventeen at bats, he is hitting .353/.421/.706. Of his six hits, he has three doubles and a home run.
  • Tim Atherton was in the Twins system a few years ago and recently resigned with the team. The 21-year-old has two walks and nine strikeouts in six innings with the GCL Twins.
  • Mark Trau is a right-handed pitcher who just turned twenty. He has made just one appearance with the GCL Twins this year and pitched a scoreless inning.
  • First baseman Josh Hendricks is 19 years old and 6-3, 217 pounds. He is currently 0-16 with the GCL Twins.
  • Jacob Younis is a 17 year old infielder with the GCL Twins. At 5-9 and 180 pounds, he is now 5-12 (.417/.533/.417).
Hendriks is far and away the best prospect, but Rhodes has a chance to fly up prospect rankings this year. The Twins continue to have a very strong presence in Australia and the pipeline continues to grow. Any other thoughts or questions on the Twins minor leaguers from Australia or elsewhere? Feel free to comment.
 
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