Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Top Twins' Prospects: #6-10

#10: Miguel Angel Sano, IF - The Twins have aggressively scouted Latin America since they moved to the Twin Cities in 1961. However, never has the team given $3.15M to a 16 year-old prospect. However, the Twins gave Miguel Angel Sano a $3.15M signing bonus in 2009, and all accounts suggest the Twins made a shrewd move. Sano (or "Jean," depending upon who you believe) is a 6-3 shortstop with raw skills who has dazzled scouts. Several teams were in the bidding for Sano after he became eligible to sign last July, but some teams were apparently scared off by rumors that some of his personal documents pertaining to his visa application were falsified. Still, the Twins ended up with a player who was widely believed to be the best talent coming out of Latin America this year. Perhaps his future lies at third base, but who knows with a 16 year-old? It will be interesting to see how Sano, and fellow 16 year-old Max Kepler, believed to be the best prospect to come out of Europe ever, fare in their first seasons of pro ball, likely with the GCL Twins.

#9: Anthony Slama, RHP - The Twins selected Slama in the 39th round of the 2006 MLB Draft and the right-hander started his pro career with the Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League in 2007. Splitting the year between E-Town and Beloit, Slama appeared in 27 games - all in relief - spanning 31.2 innings, allowed a fine 17 hits, walked 10, and struck out 49 hitters. He compiled a 1-1 mark with a 1.71 ERA and 14 saves. The Twins had Slama spend the entire 2008 season with Ft. Myers, and Slama formed a tremendous 1-2 punch with fellow prospect Rob Delaney at the back end of games for the Miracle that season. Slama was 4-1 with a 1.01 ERA and 25 saves in 71 innings that season. He allowed only 43 hits and struck out 110 hitters. Preferring the patient approach, Slama began 2009 in New Britain at age 25, and the results were great: 65.1 innings, 46 hits, 93 strikeouts, 4-2 record with 25 saves and a 2.48 ERA. Finally promoted to Rochester, Slama continued to pitch well, giving up 11 hits and struck out out 19 men in 15.2 innings. In three seasons, Slama has posted a 9-6 mark with 68 saves, a 1.86 ERA in 183.2 innings, and has struck out 271 men against only 117 hits allowed. The Twins added him to the 40-man roster for the first time this off-season, and it's because he was not on the 40-man that he was not given a look last season while the bullpen was imploding in August. Slama will get a chance to win a spot this spring, but I would be shocked if he didn't make some appearances in Minnesota during the 2010 season.

#8: Deolis Guerra, RHP - Potential is the name of the game with Guerra. Only 20 years-old, Guerra was acquired by the Twins in the Johan Santana trade before the 2008 season began, and was already a two-season veteran of the Florida State League. Rushed through the minors in typical Mets' fashion (see Gomez, Carlos), Guerra has been a work-in-progress in his two seasons in the Twins' organization. With the Miracle in 2008, Guerra won 11 ball games, but posted a 5.47 ERA in 130 innings. He allowed 138 hits and walked 71 hitters in that span, but also struck out 71. Asked to repeat high-A ball in 2009, Guerra pitched ok for Ft. Myers. He was 6-8 with a 4.69 ERA in 86.1 innings, but still allowed 95 hits. Most encouraging to Twins' management, Guerra managed to cut his walks down to 25, while striking out 57. Not exactly deserving one, Guerra gained a promotion to New Britain mid-season, and pitched ok with the Rock Cats. In 62.2 innings, he surrendered 62 hits, 17 walks, and struck out 49, while posting a 6-3 record with a 5.17 ERA. Overall in 2009, Guerra was 12-11 with a 4.89 ERA in 149 innings, allowing 157 hits, 42 walks, and striking out 106 men. The Twins will likely have Guerra with New Britain again this season as a 21 year-old righty. As encouraging as the strikeout to walk improvement was from 2008 to 2009, the Twins know they have a work in progress with Guerra, but will definitely be more patient than the Mets were when Guerra was their property.  

#7: Kyle Gibson, RHP - The Twins stuck their collective neck out on Gibson in the first round of the 2009 MLB Draft and scouts believe they hit a home run. Widely believed to be a top-10 talent, Gibson suffered a stress fracture in his right arm late in the 2009 collegiate season and dropped into the Twins' lap at #22. The University of Missouri right-hander held out until the last possible moment in order to get a signing bonus commensurate with a top pick. The Twins signed him before the deadline for a bonus of $1.8M and Gibson will begin his pro career next spring. A top-of-the-rotation guy at Mizzou, the 6-6 Gibson possesses a low-90s fastball, and mixes in a change and hard slider. He has solid command of all three pitches, and has ace makeup. The Twins may have found a steal at #22, but pitchers are a unique bunch, and one needs to see how he adjusts to the pro game. What is certain, however, is that he has all the tools to be a solid top-of-the-rotation starter and just needs experience in order to develop.

#6: Luke Hughes, 3B - Signed by the Twins out of Australia, Hughes will be entering his eighth season in the Twins' organization in 2010. He has played all over the diamond in his career (all four infield positions), but the Twins see him as a third baseman at this point in his career. What has never been questioned has been his bat. In seven pro seasons, Hughes has managed a .270/.333/.421 line in 2,355 plate appearances, with 112 doubles, 19 triples, 55 HR, and 298 RBI. He is only 25 and has two seasons of AAA under his belt (.270/.336/.469 in 274 plate appearances), but has started each of the past two seasons in AA (.288/.357/.480 in 910 plate appearances). Hughes will get every opportunity to start 2010 in AAA, assuming he doesn't make the Twins out of spring training. The Twins have two solid prospects at third with Hughes and Danny Valencia, and one of them is blocking the other. Unless the team signs a MLB-ready third baseman, there is a strong possibility that either Hughes or Valencia will be opening up Target Field at third base. Hughes is a solid hitter who deserves a look, and will likely see some time with the Twins in 2010 at some point.