I can still vividly recall writing up this Prospect Rundown late in the 2011 season. The article recapped the campaigns of each of my Top 10 Twins prospects, and the results were... depressing. While the big-league club was wrapping up one of its worst seasons ever, the farm system was in a state of disarray, with the top name fresh off Tommy John surgery and many of the other prominent prospects saddled by poor performance or injury.
With a few exceptions (most notably Miguel Sano's explosive season in Elizabethton), finding glimmers of positivity anywhere within the system around this time was a challenge. It was about the lowest I had ever been on the franchise in my years as a writer.
What a difference a couple years can make.
Today, Minnesota's system stands out as the finest in the game. Not only does it shine at the top end, where Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano were recently ranked by Baseball America as two of the three best prospects in baseball, but the depth of this organization's minor-league success is pretty incredible. I've been even more struck by it after researching the systems of other teams for our Trade Talk series; when you look through the top 10-20 for other organizations, invariably you find numerous cases where stocks have dropped. That is, of course, the volatile nature of prospects.
But it hasn't been true for the Twins this year. Checking in on Twins Daily's preseason Top 10 Prospects, we find that -- from top to bottom -- almost everything is pointing in the right direction. With the club in Minnesota on its way to a third straight 90-plus loss season, the unrivaled success of this group could not be more important.
10. Max Kepler, OF
2013 Stats (A): 81 PA, .288/.358/.521, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 9 R, 0/0 SB
Kepler missed most of the first half with an elbow injury, but since joining the Cedar Rapids Kernels in mid-June he has made up for lost time with a red-hot start. After flashing minimal power in his first two seasons at rookie ball, the athletic German exploded with 31 extra-base hits in 59 games at Elizabethton last year and he has carried that forward with 10 XBH through his first 18 contests at Low-A.
9. Trevor May, RHP
2013 Stats (AA): 95 IP, 3.98 ERA, 93/41 K/BB, 1.42 WHIP
May led the Eastern League in strikeouts last year, and has unsurprisingly racked up the whiffs at a similar rate this year. The biggest hurdle for the right-hander was always going to be improving his spotty command, and he's made progress in that department. His 3.9 BB/9 rate -- while far from great -- is the lowest of his career, and he's been getting better and better of late with only nine walks in 37 innings since the start of June (2.2 BB/9).
8. J.O. Berrios, RHP
2013 Stats (A): 63.2 IP, 3.53 ERA, 72/20 K/BB, 1.41 WHIP
There are only a handful of teenagers pitching in the Midwest League, and the 19-year-old Berrios stands out from that group with a 10.2 K/9 rate that ranks in the top five overall. He's given up a few more hits than you'd like to see thanks to a .374 BABIP, but the shiny K/BB ratio demonstrates that the kid's filthy stuff is playing well against advanced hitters.
7. Eddie Rosario, 2B
2013 Stats (A+/AA): 333 PA, .312/.369/.493, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 59 R, 4/13 SB
With all the buzz surrounding Miguel Sano, Rosario's midseason promotion to New Britain slipped under the radar to some degree, but he certainly deserves plenty of recognition. He's the third-youngest second baseman to play in the Eastern League this year and is holding his own (.275/.353/.418) after dominating the Florida State League, where his .903 OPS led his position by nearly 100 points. In an organization that has really struggled to produce middle infielders, Rosario's continued success is hugely encouraging.
6. Kyle Gibson, RHP
2013 Stats (AAA/MLB): 104.1 IP, 3.54 ERA, 86/29 K/BB, 1.21 WHIP
Gibson pitched extremely well in Triple-A over the first half before finally getting the call to Minnesota in late June. Since joining the Twins, he has had his ups and downs. So it goes for a rookie getting his first exposure to big-league sluggers. Overall, it's been an extremely positive campaign for the 25-year-old, who has allowed just four home runs in 104 innings while consistently flashing mid-90s velocity.
5. Alex Meyer, RHP
2013 Stats (AA): 61 IP, 3.69 ERA, 73/27 K/BB, 1.31 WHIP
Acquired in exchange for Denard Span during the offseason, Meyer has lived up to his "power pitcher" billing by racking up 73 strikeouts in 61 innings at Double-A. His 10.8 K/9 rate ranks second among pitchers in the Eastern League with 60 or more innings. Meyer has also been extremely stingy with the hits, holding the opposition to a .225 average with only three home runs. Unfortunately, Meyer has been sidelined for more than a month due to a shoulder injury, so he's the biggest question mark on this list at the moment.
4. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
2013 Stats (AAA/MLB): 312 PA, .283/.362/.475, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 37 R, 3/4 SB
During his brief time in Triple-A, Arcia raked, posting a .930 OPS as a 22-year-old with no prior experience at the level. The reason his time there was so short is that he's been busy building a Rookie of the Year case in the majors, where his powerful swing has provided an unexpected jolt for the Twins lineup.
3. Aaron Hicks, OF
2013 Stats (MLB): 238 PA, .205/.271/.372, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 32 R, 6/8 SB
After a breakout season in Double-A last year, Hicks made the jump straight to the majors out of spring training. His first few weeks on the job were as brutal as could be, but the 23-year-old has shown steady progress over the course of the season, which is exactly what you'd hope to see. Since the beginning of May, he has a .787 OPS with seven homers and 18 total extra-base hits in 41 games. Solid production for a rookie center fielder with strong defensive skills.
2. Byron Buxton, OF
2013 Stats (A/A+): 370 PA, .341/.422/.543, 9 HR, 62 RBI, 75 R, 33/45 SB
What more is there to say at this point? Buxton has firmly established himself as the best prospect in baseball, displaying elite skills across the board while posting monster numbers as a teenager facing more experienced competition. Average, power, discipline, speed, defense... it's all there. Buxton is the total package.
1. Miguel Sano, 3B
2013 Stats (A+/AA): 340 PA, .292/.385/.611, 22 HR, 65 RBI, 64 R, 9/12 SB
Not to be outdone, Sano has put up some pretty incredible numbers of his own. He made a mockery of the Florida State League before earning a promotion to Double-A, where he has had some contact issues but is continuing to crush the ball. Sano is the best power-hitting prospect in the minors, and he's backing that up with a full-season home run pace approaching 40.