Young outfield talent rises to top of Twins' system
Sano ranked No. 1; Buxton, Arcia and Hicks among team's top six prospects
The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the Top 20 Prospects to under-the-radar types.
For a team that traded away two of its top outfielders this winter –- dealing Denard Span to the Nationals and Ben Revere to the Phillies -- the Twins have plenty of young outfield talent.
Right-hander Alex Meyer, who came over in the Nationals deal, jumps right toward the top of the organization's list, and is No. 40 overall across baseball. He falls behind third-base prospect Miguel Sano (No. 12 overall and top-ranked third baseman) and top outfield prospect Byron Buxton (No. 19 overall). In all, three of the system's top six players ranked by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo are outfielders, including No. 5 Oswaldo Arcia and No. 6 Aaron Hicks.
"Outfield continues to be a strength in our system and that depth allowed us to go out and acquire Trevor May and Alex Meyer over the winter," said Brad Steil, the Twins' director of Minor League operations. "We also have some hitters with the potential to hit in the top half of a Major League lineup in the future."
May, a 23-year-old right-hander, was traded to Minnesota from Philadelphia, along with Vance Worley, for Revere. He joins Meyer and Kyle Gibson as the trio of right-handers in the Twins' top seven.
"On the mound, I think we've added some power arms through the Draft the last two years and we hope to develop some starting pitching out of that group," Steil said.
Gibson, ranked No. 49 among baseball's top prospects, has moved quickly through the Minnesota system and was on the brink of being big league ready before needing Tommy John surgery in late 2011. He's been able to shake off most of the rust and could arrive in the Majors this season.
"The fans should be excited that Kyle Gibson is back healthy," Steil said. "He has the potential to have three above-average pitches, and he'll be competing for a Major League roster spot this spring."
Top 20 prospects
Indeed, the core of the top of Minnesota's prospects list is the trio of outfielders –- Buxton, Arcia and Hicks -– who rank in the organization's top six. Overall, there are six outfielders –- adding No. 10 Max Kepler, No. 14 Joe Benson and No. 20 Niko Goodrum to the mix -– in the system's Top 20. Benson is probably most likely to see the big leagues first out of that second trio, with Kepler expected to arrive in the Majors in 2015 and Goodrum in 2016.
Beyond the outfield, the Twins have a fine balance of talent all over the field -– two third basemen, two middle infielders, eight right-handers and two left-handers round out the Top 20. Gibson (No. 49 overall), Arcia (No. 93) and Hicks (No. 98) join Sano, Buxton and Meyer on the MLB.com Top Prospects list.
Under the Radar
Among the lesser-known players that Steil figures to have big seasons this year are two guys who made a splash with Class A Beloit last year: first baseman Kennys Vargas and right-hander Zack Jones. Vargas, Steil says, because of his power. The 22-year-old slugger played just 41 games in Beloit, batting .318/.419/.610 while hitting 11 homers and driving in 36 runs.
"He had a great month in Beloit last season, so we're looking forward to seeing how he handles a full season this year," Steil said.
Jones, the team's fourth-round pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, appeared in 18 games out of the bullpen between Rookie and Class A ball, posting a 2.25 ERA and averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
Hitter of the Year
Arcia has steadily improved over his five years in the Minnesota system, leading up to a 2012 season with Double-A New Britain in which he smacked 10 homers, drove in 67 runs and hit .328/.398/.557 in just 67 games after playing 55 with Class A Fort Myers. His stock has been on the rise the last two years and he is suddenly near Major League ready long before many expected him to be. One more season like his last and he could be in a Twins uniform before we know it.
Pitcher of the Year
Upon being dealt to the Twins from Washington, Meyer became the top pitcher in the Minnesota organization and he's worth keeping an eye on this year. He spent just one season between high and low A ball in the Nationals' system, going 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA in 25 starts for Hagerstown and Potomac, but is poised to continue to grow with the Twins. Command has always been a bit of an issue for him, but something he's continued to correct as he's grown. Meyer is still a year or two from the Majors, but 2013 could be a year in which he develops into the No. 1-type starter that teams have long considered him to be.