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A quick rundown of how each of my Top Ten Prospects performed during the month of May...
10. Joe Benson, OF | Class-A Ft. Myers
May Stats: .263/.364/.561, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 10 R, 4/4 SB
Season Stats: .235/.352/.469, 9 HR, 20 RBI, 30 R, 8/10 SB
After a dreadful April in New Britain, Benson seemed to be picking up the pace in May. Over his first 46 at-bats of the new month, he was hitting .283/.411/.609, going deep four times after homering just once in April. Then, mysteriously, the Twins sent Benson back down to Single-A, where he spent his entire '09 campaign. The demotion couldn't have been performance-based, as Benson was on a tear and ranked second among New Britain hitters in OPS. Whatever the reason, the young outfielder has reacted well, putting up a .925 OPS while launching four more homers over his first 13 games at Ft. Myers. Despite his low overall batting average this season (.235 between the two levels), Benson is showing a lot more power while getting on base at a strong clip. He ought to be back up at Double-A very soon.
9. Carlos Gutierrez, SP | Class-AA New Britain
May Stats: 37.2 IP, 2-2, 2.15 ERA, 24/13 K/BB, 1.14 WHIP
Season Stats: 56.2 IP, 2-3, 3.65 ERA, 40/19 K/BB, 1.32 WHIP
Last month in this space I broke down a disappointing April for Gutierrez, but pointed out his strong peripheral numbers and stated that we can "look for him to improve rapidly as the season progresses." Sure enough, Gutierrez rebounded in a big way during the month of May, cutting down immensely on his number of base runners allowed and subsequently allowing far fewer runs. He continues to induce a huge number of ground balls while missing bats at a reasonable rate, but his walk totals will be worth keeping an eye on as we move forward. As hit-prone as he tends to be, limiting the free passes will be a key ingredient in Gutierrez's future success.
8. David Bromberg, SP | Class-AA New Britain
May Stats: 26.1 IP, 1-3, 6.15 ERA, 17/19 K/BB, 2.13 WHIP
Season Stats: 50.1 IP, 2-3, 3.75 ERA, 36/25 K/BB, 1.59 WHIP
Taking the opposite path of Gutierrez, Bromberg followed up an excellent April with an absolutely disastrous May. Of all the poor numbers the righty turned in during the season's second month, none are more alarming than the gigantic walk total. His erratic tendencies have always been one of the big potential drawbacks for Bromberg, and now they seem to be manifesting. On the plus side, his overall numbers for the season still look OK thanks to his strong April and he's still only allowed one home run on the year.
7. Danny Valencia, 3B | Class-AAA Rochester
May Stats: .330/.384/.408, 0 HR, 16 RBI, 14 R, 1/1 SB
Season Stats: .298/.350/.381, 0 HR, 24 RBI, 22 R, 2/2 SB
Valencia has always been a pretty streaky hitter, so it figured that he'd follow up his disappointing month of April with a red-hot May. The third baseman did just that, batting .330 while doubling his RBI total. The power still has not emerged this year for Valencia though, as he's gone homerless over the first two months of the season and possesses a meager .381 slugging percentage. Fans have grown frustrated by the fact that Valencia is getting passed over for promotions by lesser prospects like Matt Tolbert and Luke Hughes, but don't expect to see Valencia in a Twins uniform until he begins hitting the ball with more authority and cutting down on his still-high strikeout rates.
6. Angel Morales, OF | Class-A Beloit
May Stats: .235/.328/.343, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 14 R, 6/9 SB
Season Stats: .253/.339/.404, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 23 R, 14/19 SB
The speedy center fielder saw his batting average drop off in May and the OPS came tumbling down with it. It didn't help that Morales failed to go deep after launching three homers in April, although he did continue to display his speed with six steals and four triples on the month. Morales has struck out 52 times in 166 at-bats this year, so the low batting average should come as no surprise. Much like Carlos Gomez, Morales needs to start making better contact to better utilize his athleticism.
5. Miguel Angel Sano, SS | Dominican Summer League (rookie)
May Stats: .500/.500/1.750, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 0/0 SB
Season Stats: .500/.500/1.750, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 0/0 SB
It certainly bears noting that the numbers above all come from one game and four at-bats; Sano joined the rookie-level DSL Twins at the end of the month and went 2-for-4 with a home run and a triple in his very first game. The homer came on the first professional pitch he saw. A great start for the hugely promising teenager.
4. Ben Revere, OF | Class-AA New Britain
May Stats: .336/.412/.429, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 15 R, 12/16 SB
Season Stats: .315/.394/.387, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 21 R, 18/23 SB
Revere did a solid job of setting the table during the season's first month, putting up a .361 on-base percentage while going 6-for-7 on stolen bases, but in May he took his game to the next level across the board. Not only did he bump his batting averge up by about 60 points, Revere also added significant power, ripping a homer, a triple and six doubles after managing just a pair of extra-base hits (both doubles) in April. He also doubled his stolen base total while getting on base at a .412 clip. With 21 walks and just 19 strikeouts on the season, Revere seems locked in and he's already positioned himself as the top call-up option in the event that the Twins suffer a major injury in the outfield.
3. Kyle Gibson, SP | Class-AA New Britain
May Stats: 26.1 IP, 3-0, 1.37 ERA, 23/5 K/BB, 0.95 WHIP
Season Stats: 69.2 IP, 7-1, 1.68 ERA, 63/17 K/BB, 1.00 WHIP
I concluded my writeup on Gibson last month by stating that the right-hander "doesn’t seem destined to spend much time with the Miracle." Just a few days later, he found himself promoted to New Britain, and his early returns at the Double-A level have been truly marvelous. Through four starts for the Rock Cats, Gibson has allowed only four earned runs over 26 1/3 innings while maintaining his outstanding strikeout and walk rates. More importantly, he's continued to induce an insane number of ground balls, limiting opponents to a .208 batting average while surrendering no home runs. He's sure to spend some more time in Double-A for now, but Gibson is pitching like he wants to see major-league action before the end of his first pro season.
2. Wilson Ramos, C | Class-AAA Rochester
May Stats: .170/.200/.264, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 0/1 SB
Season Stats: .175/.208/.300, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R, 0/1 SB
It's been an interesting season for Ramos thus far. He raised plenty of eyebrows while collecting seven hits over his first two big-league games after being called up to briefly fill in for Joe Mauer back in early May, but that performance has helped cover up a lousy performance at Triple-A this season. He was hitting just .179 with the Red Wings before being called up and has now just .170 since returning. While he's kept his strikeout rate in check, Ramos isn't walking at all (just five times in 125 plate appearances in Rochester) and his power has gone missing. A big debut at the big-league level is nice and all, but Ramos needs to turn around his season at Triple-A in order to be an enticing trade deadline chit for the Twins to dangle.
1. Aaron Hicks, OF | Class-A Beloit
May Stats: .214/.321/.313, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 14 R, 1/3 SB
Season Stats: .246/.362/.369, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 30 R, 6/12 SB
Hicks recovered from a wretched start to finish his month of April with quality numbers, but he was back in the tank in May, hitting just .214 with one home run. Hicks continues to keep his on-base percentage afloat thanks to a very good walk rate, which is encouraging, but the other aspects of his offensive game simply aren't developing. He's striking out at an alarming rate (36 times in 112 May at-bats) and isn't hitting for power. Discouraging signs for the first-round pick, considering he's spending a second year in Beloit.
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