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.

Another attempt to rank farm systems

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III under Twins Farm System, Twins prospects, Vikings draft Updated: February 4, 2012 - 12:10 PM

We began the week debating the Twins farm system. We might as well end the week doing the same thing.

ESPN has taken a look at farm systems across the league and has ranked them based on the WAR of every player teams have selected over the last ten drafts. The results aren't cut and dry. There are teams that have drafted rather well but haven't won recently. But if you look at the bottom of the list, it's full of scuffling teams - like the Mariners, Mets, Astros and White Sox.

(We must acknowledge that the White Sox did win a title in 2005, but Chicago has since drafted poorly and traded away some of the decent prospects they've had).

The Yankees are in the bottom third of the list, but they can make up for farm system failures with $$$$$$$.

And the rise of the Rays makes sense when you see them near the top of the list.

The Twins are ranked 14th, kind of odd for a team that has won six division titles since 2002. But keep in mind that the rankings are over the last 10 drafts. That's 2002-11.  Joe Mauer was drafted in 2001 and Justin Morneau was drafted in 1999. Actually, I wonder if ESPN should have focused on 2000-2009, because how many draftees from 2010-11 have reached the bigs?

Oh, here's the answer: Four - pitchers Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale, Addison Reed and Chance Ruffin. All were drafted in 2010.

Now let's look at how the Twins have drafted during that time.

The Twins selected Denard Span in the first round in 2002. Jesse Crain and Pat Neshek were selected in later rounds that year. Since then:

2003: Matt Moses -  48 games at Class AAA Rochester was as high as he got.

Other pick: Scott Baker (second round)

2004: Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins, Kyle Waldrop, This was the draft the Twins needed to cash in on. While Perkins has found his niche, Plouffe and Waldrop are trying to establish themselves. Twins drafted Jay Rainville and Matt Fox in the supplemental round, but both suffered injuries. Rainville had nerve damage in his shoulder and had to quit. Fox had shoulder problems in 2005 and was never the same. At the time, the Twins were praised throughout the league for this draft. Look what happened.

Other picks: Anthony Swarzak (second). Matt Tolbert (16th). Rene Tosoni (34th)

2005: Matt Garza. Has developed into a solid pitcher and is missed by Twins fans. The Twins had a sandwich pick that year and used it on prep power hitting prospect Henry Sanchez. Ugh. What's worse is that Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie went a few picks later. Ugh.;

Other picks: Kevin Slowey (second). Brian Duensing (third), Steven Tolleson (fifth). Alex Burnett (12th). Rene Tosoni (36th).

2006: Chris Parmelee. The first baseman showed promise during a September call up.

Other picks: Joe Benson (second). Brian Dinkelman (eighth). Jeff Manship (14th). Danny Valencia (19th). Anthony Slama (39th).

2007: Ben Revere. No pop, Little arm. But look at what he CAN do. He has blazing speed and projects to be a good contact hitter. Once he learns how to bunt for hits and learns the pitchers, he'll take off.

2008: Aaron Hicks. Still has upside, but the switch-hitting outfielder needs to start putting it all together. The Twins had a second first round pick in this draft and selected - - - - - righthander Shooter Hunt. Ugh.

2009: Kyle Gibson, Matt Bashore: Both pitchers have had Tommy John surgeries. For Bashore, it was his SECOND. Ugh.

2010: Alex Wimmers: Looks to have recovered from extreme wildness early last season. The righthander should start the season at Fort Myers..

2011: Levi Michael, Travis Harrison, Hudson Boyd. Michael, a shortstop, was so banged up after the college season he was shut down for the rest of the summer and limited during fall instructional league. He let ankle, groin and hip injuries heal up and spent the offseason working out in Tampa at a facility owned by his agency, CAA. Harrison's YouTube workouts and batting practices are very impressive. Twins hope he can stick at third base. Boyd, a righthander, was throwing in the low 90's out of high school but showed up to instructional league a little heavy and was given a workout plan. It will be a while before we can determine if this draft sailed or failed.

Things that strike me:

1. Where are the bats? The jury is still out from 2006 on but, man, that's quite a gap between Span and Valencia when it comes to drafting and developing position players. And I don't know how to categorize Plouffe, who's being moved to the outfield and will report to camp out of options but not a lock to start.

2. The 2004 and 2005 drafts have really set this franchise back. Those drafts should have added to the core of this team. Instead, there have been injuries, underachievement and trades of Garza and Slowey.

3. They have to cross their fingers.  Can Gibson become the Twins' ace that some feel he can be? Can Bashore get his career going after two Tommy John surgeries. Is Wimmers ready to fly through the system like some thought he would?.

4. The 2009 draft: In addition to Gibson and Bashore, reliever Ben Tootle (third round) was throwing in the upper 90's but has been slowed by shoulder surgery. Sixth-round pick Chris Hermann, an outfielder drafted as a catcher,  is starting to come on. Shortstop Brian Dozier (eighth) could debut this year. Left-handed reliever Dakota Watts (16th) throws 95-97 mph. This could turn out to be a productive class for the Twins.

I think the state of the Twins farm system will be constant topic of conversation as we close in on the June draft, where the Twins have the second overall pick. This is meant to give you an idea of where the Twins stand before they begin focusing in on top prospects to draft. The Twins have had their swings and misses in the draft (all teams do) and I don't think their system is barren (see White Sox and Astros). But it's definitely a system that could use some top-end talent. And top-end talent should be coming in June.

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