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Ask a baseball fan in Houston who Aaron Hicks is, and it is likely that he or she will know about the Twins top prospect. Ask a baseball fan in New England who Wilson Ramos or Ben Revere are, and they will probably know they are highly touted prospects of the Twins. Everyone knows about Kyle Gibson and Miguel Sano. People hear about top minor league prospects, but it is important to remember that there are a lot of minor leaguers that are not on the 'top prospect' track, that may never be mentioned on even Top 50 prospect lists, and yet, they work really hard and sometimes they get an opportunity to play in the big leagues. The Twins provide such opportunities. There are many examples of this. Chris Heintz was over 30 years old when he debuted with the Twins. Tommy Watkins was in his 11th season in the Twins organization when he hit .357 for the team in several games before an injury ended his season. Some may make it to the show for a cup of coffee, or as a backup, or a relief pitcher. Every once in awhile, you find a diamond in the rough that makes it and becomes a regular.
Today, I want to highlight a few Twins minor leaguers that, although they won't be in anyone's Top 20 Twins Prospect lists, are worth paying attention to.
Brock Peterson - 1B - Rochester Red Wings - The Twins used their 49th round pick in the 2002 draft on this Washington (state) high school selection. He signed late, so his career started in 2003 at Elizabethton. He spent 2004 in Quad Cities (Low A), and moved up to Ft. Myers for the 2005 season. He ended that season with a respectable .733 OPS (12 HR) as a 21 year old. He returned to the Florida State League in 2006 and his OPS jumped to .853 (including 21 home runs). He moved up to AA New Britain and had improved his OPS to .858. In 2008, he returned to New Britain and his numbers dropped. However, he was promoted to Rochester for the season's final few weeks. In 2009, he went to Rochester and played very little for the season's first six weeks. However, he was given an opportunity to play more and became the team's top hitter the rest of the season. He hit .304/.376/.468 with ten homers. In the offseason, he became a free agent for the second time. Wisely the Twins brought him back late and invited him to spring training. The big, right-handed, powerful hitter is not a very good defensive first baseman. However, if something were to happen to Justin Morneau, something that cost him significant time, I would not be surprised to see Brock Peterson get an opportunity with the Twins.
Matt Fox - RHP - Rochester Red Wings - The Twins drafted Fox in the supplemental first round out of the University of Central Florida, where he pitched to current Twins backup catcher Drew Butera. Fox had a solid debut in Elizabethton in 2004, but then he needed Tommy John surgery which cost him the entire 2005 season. He came back with Elizabethton in 2006, spending the season in the E-Twins bullpen. In 2007, he started the season in the Beloit Snappers bullpen before starting during the second half. The same thing happened in Ft. Myers in 2008. In 2009, Fox was in the New Britain Rockcats starting rotation the whole season. This year, he is back in the bullpen for the Red Wings and pitching well. He may be presented an opportunity to start for the Red Wings at some point in 2010. His velocity has slowly come back over the years, and he has really learned how to pitch with what he has. That is a great combination.
Allan de San Miguel - C - Rochester Red Wings - The Twins signed De San Miguel from Australia when he was a 16 year old. He came to the States in 2005 and played for the GCL Twins, hitting .204. He was 17 years old and was presented an opportunity to get some at bats and time behind the plate at Ft. Myers. He was already showing how good his defense behind the plate is. He has struggled offensively through his years with the Twins, but in recent years, he has found a great ability to take walks and get on base. His career Isolated Discipline coming into the season was an impressive .115, and it was even higher in 2009 when he spent time with all four Twins full-season affiliates. He understands that his big league aspirations are as a backup catcher, whether with the Twins or another organization, but he is very well respected for his work behind the plate, his ability to work with a pitching staff and call a ball game, his technique on pitches in the dirt and on throws to second base.
Danny Lehmann - C - New Britain Rockcats - Lehmann was invited to spring training and was the final catcher sent to the minor leagues. Some were surprised that he was sent back to AA, but it showed that the Twins really like Lehmann. Rather than backing up Wilson Ramos and seeing limited playing time in Rochester, he is playing the great majority of the time with the Rockcats. Several Twins minor league pitchers have told me that he is the best catcher to throw to in the entire organization. He is fundamentally sound, and has a very high baseball IQ. He is able to make adjustments to pitchers or hitters quickly throughout the game. Although defense is his major asset, he does have the ability to hit as well. Although he hit just .190 with New Britain last year in a backup role, he had hit .294 in Ft. Myers. Truth be told, he has been the most consistent hitter for the Rockcats this season. Despite going 0-7 over his past two games, he is still hitting .310. Don't expect a ton of offense from Lehmann, but don't underestimate the value the he brings behind the plate, and the confidence the pitchers have in him.
Mark Dolenc - OF - New Britain Rockcats - The Twins selected Dolenc in the 15th round of the 2006 draft out of Minnesota State - Mankato. He was touted as being a very athletic, very toolsy player with some upside, but who would need to develop with patience. He spent a year with the GCL Twins, then a year with the Elizabethton Twins. In 2008, he made his full-season debut with a year at Beloit. He hit .260 and got on-base nearly 34% of the time. He stole 31 bases. He moved up to Ft. Myers in 2009 where he hit .288 and got on 33% of the time. He stole 27 bases in 33 attempts. He will be 25 years old throughout the season. He is a fourth outfielder and capable of playing all three positions defensively. He has very good speed and a strong arm. He will continue to get a lot of at bats.
There are the names of five prospects that I would consider unsung prospects. I believe that all five of them could see time with the Twins in some minor capacity in time if they continue to work and improve, and if there is a need. All five are within two promotions of the big league club, and it may be fair to say that all five have already advanced beyond where anyone would have fairly thought they might even three or four years ago. I think all five of these guys should be followed this year. I think all five of them are talented at what they do. I think that these stories are often far more interesting than the stories of some of the prospects who will be highly touted as they advance to the big leagues.
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