The major league all star game is just around the corner, and while some short season leagues just got going, I nonetheless figure it’s close enough to half way through the minor league season to dial up a Twins prospect all star team. This team is mostly a look at which prospects are having the best 2012 seasons, but I’ll tend to give a tiebreaker of sorts to the guy I think is the better prospect:
C – Chris Herrmann (AA)
Herrmann has gotten a lot more comfortable behind the plate (and already had a good arm back there) which has helped assuage some of the concerns about his bat. Unfortunately, his hitting has gotten worse repeating AA, as his OBP has gone from .380 to .334. Herrmann walked almost as often as he struck out last year, but this year he’s walked 31 times next to 49 strikeouts. They aren’t awful numbers, especially if he can still catch, but one does have to wonder why his numbers are so much worse repeating the level.
Others of note: Matthew Koch, a 2011 12th rounder, is hitting .299/.421/.522 in Beloit. On one hand, he’s a college kid playing against younger competition, but on the other hand it is the midwest league, so those numbers are impressive regardless of his age. He’s also hit 6 homers in 130ish at bats.
1B – Michael Gonzales (A+)
Gonzales isn’t much of a prospect, finally getting promoted to high A at the age of 24, but he’s put up nice numbers in a pitcher’s league. Gonzales doesn’t have much in the way of contact, with just a .235 batting average. He does, however, have a .337 OBP and a .386 slugging percentage. Those aren’t great numbers superficially, but it’s nice to have that type of gap between is average and his OBP and slugging.
2B -Eddie Rosario (A)
Really the lone second base prospect in the system, Rosario led the Appy league in homers last year, but through roughly the same amount of at bats this year he has only 7 long balls. It’s the Midwest League, though, so don’t be too discouraged. He’s probably not going to be a real power hitter in the major leagues, but one very encouraging sign is he has cut his strikeouts almost in half while walking just as much. Most of his hits that went for homers last year are doubles this year, as he has 20 doubles already this year compared to just 7 last season, suggesting he definitely has good gap power.
SS – Niko Goodrum (Rookie)
Trust me when I say there’s not much going on as far as Twins shortstops go. Levi Michael has been a disappointment at Fort Meyers, with scouts already suggesting a move to 2B is necessary and Pedro Florimon, an AAA all-star, is already 25. Goodrum, just 20, has a .400 OBP so far at Elizabethton (granted in just 9 games) but more importantly scouts are raving about his tools. He still might need to move off short but he will no doubt stick in center.
3B – Miguel Sano (A)
Sano could conceivably hit somewhere around 25 homers. In the Midwest League. He’ll need to heat up again, but scouts put an easy 80 on his raw power and call him the best power hitter in the minors. The problem lies in whether he will be able to make consistent enough contact to allow that power to play. He has 95 strikeouts in 76 games and his batting average has collapsed to just .240. But he has walked 45 times and has a .358 OBP. He definitely has an idea at the plate, which is encouraging, there’s just too much swing and miss there. I still say his downside is Adam Dunn with much better defense (or possibly let him go the Miguel Cabrera route and let him be a statue at third), and that’s still a hell of a player.
OF -Aaron Hicks (AA)
Hicks is my personal cheeseball (TM – John Manuel of Baseball America). To be honest I’m not sure what there is that people hate about him. He is a bit passive at the plate at times, but is 22 and in AA and is going to set a career high for homers. He’s not a great contact hitter but still manages to walk a lot (though those numbers are a bit down this year) and he’s also going to set a career high in steals this year. He’s a plus defender in center field as well, so there isn’t as much pressure on him to hit. He might have to repeat AA next year, at least to start, but being slow to adjust to AA (as a 22 year old!) is hardly a sin.
OF – Oswaldo Arcia (A+/AA)
Arcia repeated A+ ball to start 2012, but his numbers were very impressive: a .309/.376/.517 line in one of the worst hitting environments in baseball, though he did walk only about half as much as he struck out. Still, Arcia has shown good hitting ability and though the defense needs some work (not helped by his arm injury last year), he has probably the second highest ceiling bat in the system behind Sano.
OF – Max Kepler (Rookie)
This is one of those picks where I am taking a bit of editorial leeway to promote how much I love Kepler. He hasn’t shown any power yet, and he strikes out twice as much as he walks, but he has shown a great ability to put the bat on the ball so far and he has crazy tools. Because he hails from Germany he will probably be brought along pretty slowly, but if his baseball skills catch up to his tools (and by all accounts they have a pretty good shot to) the Twins could have a hell of a prospect on their hands in a couple of years.
P – Jason Wheeler (A)
Wheeler was an 8th rounder in 2011 and because he pitched in college he is a bit advanced for the level, but he’s still putting up good numbers: 62 strikeouts next to just 21 walks and a 1.35 WHIP. Again he’s nothing to write home about as a prospect, but he’s put together a nice little half season for Beloit and deserves to be rewarded with a spot on this highly prestigious mythical team.
Others of note: Liam Hendriks and Cole De Vries have put up good numbers at AAA, but haven’t thrown enough innings for me to justify giving them a spot. I still don’t love Hendriks as much as most people seem to because the stuff just isn’t good enough, but I think he can become a successful back end of the rotation type of guy if he improves.