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.

Following up on Monday's post about the minor league system

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III under Twins Farm System, Twins prospects Updated: January 31, 2012 - 5:03 PM

Yesterday, I pointed out that MLB.com's ranking of the top 100 prospects for 2012 included just two Twins players in Miguel Sano and Aaron Hicks. It touched off a decent discussion in the comment section.

I want to react to one response I read a few times.

Several of you argued, with 30 teams in the league, each club should have three (or 3.3333333333) prospects on the list, so being off by one (or 1.333333333) is not bad.

I disagree.

Ever since I've got on this beat, the Twins have talked about scouting and development as a top priority. Even with the revenues Target Field provides, they want to maintain the small market mentality when it comes to procurement and development. And I agree with that. The Twins' bar should be set a little higher than average - and you can argue that they have fallen a little short.

To me, the indictment is on them when, in a span of a few months, they no longer have Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel but only had Ben Revere ready to plug into the outfield. Getting Josh Willingham was a solid move, but they don't have a prototypical corner outfielder for the other side of the field. Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson probably are next in line but aren't quite ready. They haven't had stability at shortstop for years, and it doesn't help that Trevor Plouffe is focusing on the outfield now. They appeared to have starting depth a year ago, but we all know what happened with Kevin Slowey and Kyle Gibson's injury was a big blow.

[EDITED: SORRY ABOUT THE TYPOS]

Prospect wise, they've been in a down cycle in the upper levels. They haven't had a starter break into the rotation. Glen Perkins' development has bailed out the bullpen, but they still wait for Carlos Gutierrez to perfect other pitches. Middle infield...ugh.  Danny Valencia has broken in at third, and we're waiting to see if he takes off.

Interesting note about Valencia. MLB third baseman had a .252/.316./.390 slash line last year with 15 homers and 75 RBI. Valencia's: ..246/.294/.383 with 15 homers and 72 RBI. It's hard to find production at that position, and Valencia is not far away from being above average.

[UPDATE: I agree that Valencia needs to improve defensively as well. But you can see that just with a litte improvement on both sides of the ball he will compare favorably to other third basemen.]

I do believe that Benson, Chris Parmelee and Brian Dozier will lead the next wave of prospects to the majors, so the future looks brighter. Gibson's return from surgery is critical. Gibson, and or Liam Hendriks could break into the rotation next season, when Carl Pavano is a free agent and Scott Baker has a $9.25M option to pick up.

As for the top 100, I felt Oswaldo Arcia and Eddie Rosario could have been on the list, and Gibson would have been on it if healthy. That's five prospects. And an argument for us to look at things differently.

I'm hearing that ESPN's Keith Law is putting the finishing touches on his list, so it should be out soon. I think he's pro-Arcia, so there's a chance the outfielder will be on the list.

OTHER NOTES

The Twins have a good idea where most of their prospects will start the season at. It looks like Aaron Hicks will start at Class AA New Britain (sending him to the Arizona Fall League after last season should help the transition). Sano and Rosario will get their first taste of cold weather at Beloit.

They are still kicking around thoughts on some other players. There's been talk of giving Arcia a shot at New Britain, but he was just O.K, at Fort Myers after recovering from elbow surgery so he'll probably return to Fort Myers.

As of now, first round pick Levi Michael, who apparently is totally healthy after working out in Florida throughout the offseason, will start at Beloit. Ankle, groin and hip injuries suffered during his last year at North Carolina keep him from making his pro debut and limited him during instructional league.

Righthander Madison Boer and Matt Summers and lefthander Corey Williams have a shot at starting at Fort Myers. The Twins want them to start, so space will key. If any of them end up at Beloit, that would make an in-season road trip there more interesting because the Sano and Rosario show will be going on.

Beloit could have an infield of Rosario at second, Michael at short and Sano at third.  Start saving gas money.

 

 

 

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