Recent efforts by the Twins have lifted the talent level in their farm system to the point where it can be regarded as above average. That, of course, is based on projections. And it's hard to project how a kid is going to grow and develop.
We're all forecasting. And we know how meteorologists fare with their forecasts. This is one man's forecast.
These rankings are based on what I've read, been told by people in and out of the organization - and, in some cases, on what I've seen. I've noticed that some folks have lifted Kyle Gibson to No. 1 on their Twins prospect lists. I'm not ready to go there.
1. Aaron Hicks, OF, Class A Fort Myers: The tools are hard to ignore. He has a quick bat and should be able to generate some power once he figures things out. He has a strong arm in the outfield. He can run. And he walked a whopping 88 times last season. Saw him a few times this spring and he seems more sure of himself and is filling out nicely. A legitimate five tool talent.
2. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Class AAA Rochester. He has a very good sinker, a very good slider and is willing to change speeds. What's just as impressive is his pitching moxie. After a spring outing against Boston, he told the media how he was reading Kevin Youkilis' body language in reaction to one of his pitches. Wow. He has a chance to be a front end of the rotation starter. Some aren't sure if he misses enough bats to become a true ace, but perhaps a Twins ace.
3. Joe Benson, OF,Class AA New Britain: Benson showed signs of starting to figure things out at the plate last season, but he still needs to hit for a higher average before fans can start putting him in the 2013 Twins outfield. He showed in spring training that he can cover some ground in the outfield and he has a strong arm. He's built like a running back - because he was, twice rushing for over 300 yards in a game while in high school. Hasn't unlocked his power yet, either.
4. Miguel Angel Sano, 3B, Rookie League Elizabethton: The two things that jump out to me about him: How he's growing and how polished his swing is. Sano is going to be a big man. The day I watched him play in a minor league spring game, I was told he weighed in at 231 pounds that day. It's not really fat. He just has big, strong legs. The ball sounds different off his bat, but he's got work to do with strike zone judgment and really doesn't know what a good curveball is like. I have problems ranking players off of short-season experience, but one Twins official said I would be nuts not to list Sano here. The Twins are going to play him at shortstop as much as they so he can learn the game. But he's really a third baseman. But I'm wondering if he'll outgrow that position.
5. Ben Revere, OF, Rochester: Revere has hit at every level he's played at, so the Twins hope that he'll be productive on the major league level once he gets an extended amount of playing time. He also has top end speed and will pile up the stolen bases. I'm wondering how much he'll drive the ball. Can he become Juan Pierre? Something more? He's worked hard on his arm strength over the years but he definitely doesn't have a cannon. He has to work on getting to balls and getting rid of the ball quickly to give himself a chance to throw baserunners out.
6. Alex Wimmers, RHP, Fort Myers: I have never seen Wimmers pitch and I'm also going off of a small sample size. But Twins officials and some people outside the organization are high on Wimmers, who throws in the low 90's and has a good change up. He's a strike-thrower, which the Twins like, and some believe he'll move quickly through the farm system and could be in position to help the major league club during the 2012 season.
7. Liam Hendriks, RHP, New Britain: Hendriks has four solid pitches and very good control. The Twins are very impressed with his makeup and competitiveness. The key for Hendriks will be durability, as he hasn't;t thrown more than 108 innings in a season. Last year, he was slowed by an appendectomy. He's definitely worth watching.
8. Adrian Salcedo, RHP, Class A Beloit: Another pitcher who has thrown a lot of strikes in the low minors. Salcedo took his lumps at Class A Fort Myers last year when the club was shorthanded and needed an arm. But Salcedo has a good low 90's fastball and will get a lot of ground ball outs.
9. Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Beloit: He put up ridiculous numbers at short season E-Town last year. There's definitely some pop in his bat but, once again, it's dangerous to get fired up about short-season excellence. His challenge is to prove he can continue to hit his way up the ladder. He's a solid corner outfielder. It will be very interesting to see how the Appy League MVP will fare at Beloit this season.
10. Angel Morales, OF, Fort Myers: I watched him play against Clearwater last year, and he looks like a good prospect. He can run, has some pop and looks like he's a legitimate centerfielder with a good arm. Just from looking at his stats, he'll take off as soon as he starts making contact - he struck out 140 times last year, and that's way too much. But he's another toolsy outfielder who might need more time to develop than others. At age 21, he's got plenty of time.