Since the major league team has hit the skids lately, what better way to distract us than by naming the Twins minor league all-star team? I’ll have a starting nine, and as many pitchers as I feel like. I will give the edge to prospects, because more people want to hear about Miguel Sano than some 33 year old in AAA, but not everyone on the team will be prospects.
C – Jose Morales (AAA Rochester)
It hasn’t been a great year for Twins catching, as Wilson Ramos has really struggled in AAA. Morales’s .324 wOBA is nothing special, but he has a career high 14.7% walk rate and a 19% line drive rate. His defense isn’t great, but he probably will be up with the Twins sooner rather than later to deepen the lineup on Joe Mauer’s off-days.
1B – Kennys Vargas (Rookie GCL Twins)
The 1B crop in the system is pretty thin. Vargas has just 39 plate appearances, but has a .343/.385/.486 line. He has a very good .377 wOBA but has just a 5% walk rate while striking out in roughly one fourth of his at bats. Fortunately, if there’s a position that you want to be thin in the minors, it’s first base.
2B – Yangervis Solarte (A+ Fort Meyers/AA New Britain)
Solarte had very good stats at Fort Meyers (.383 wOBA) but has poor ones so far at New Britain (.302). He is 23, so he’s not young for the league, but Solarte is a versatile fielder, playing all over the infield and even in the outfield some. He could be a valuable utility man in a couple years.
SS – Estarlin de los Santos (A+ Fort Meyers/AA New Britain)
de los Santos has really struggled in New Britain, but posted good numbers at Fort Meyers. A .332 wOBA in a pitchers league is nothing to sneeze at, and although he doesn’t have a lot of power, he did have a .375 OBP. Santos is a good athlete with a good glove and plenty of tools, so hopefully his numbers can improve as he climbs up the system.
3B – Matt Macri (AAA Rochester)
It was tempting to go with Miguel Sano, who has had a tremendous debut so far, but Macri has played well. He’s 28, so there’s no real chance of him developing into anything, but he has been better than Danny Valencia. Macri has never walked a lot, but over the past couple years he has cut his strikeouts down and probably will get a September callup.
OF – Ben Revere (AA New Britain)
He gets underestimated at every level, yet Revere keeps producing. He has a .307/.378/.361 line and is walking more than he is striking out (though he does neither very often). Revere has drawn comparisons to Ichiro, and I think that is his ceiling, minus the cannon throwing arm. Underestimate him at your own peril.
OF – Joe Benson (A+ Fort Meyers/AA New Britain)
Benson has raw tools galore. Just 22, he is still young enough for AA, but with each passing year there are more and more questions as to whether his baseball skills will ever catch up to his athletic gifts. His walk rate was 8.3% in A+ ball and it is 10.4% in AA, while his strikout rates are 21.9% and 26.2% respectively. If he keeps up his power surge (.294 and .260 ISOs respectively) then he can get by with all the strikeouts, but if the power declines Benson’s stock will as well.
OF – Aaron Hicks (A Beloit)
Hicks started the season in a 1-31 slump. Ouch. But since then his line is .287/.405/.457. Pretty damn good for someone who is young for the Midwest league and playing in a pitcher’s league. People have said that Hicks hasn’t improved over his last couple years, but his wOBA is 20 points higher this year even when you include his 1-31 start. His ISO has gone up to .177. His strikeouts have risen but so have his walks. And on top of it all, Hicks still has tremendous tools and upside that could lead to him being a gold glove caliber center fielder with an above average bat. Sounds good to me.
SP – Kyle Gibson (A+ Fort Meyers/AA New Britain)
It looks like Gibson has cooled off a bit since his hot start in Fort Meyers, but still is striking out about 1/5th of the batters he faces in AA. And his FIP has gone down from 3.15 to 2.96 due to giving up less homers, and playing in some less friendly pitcher’s parks. Gibson has been called a top 20 prospect by Keith Law, and where his ceiling was once that of a #2 starter, I think he now has a chance to be an ace.
SP – Liam Hendriks (A Beloit/A+ Fort Meyers)
Hendriks doesn’t have great stuff, but believe it or not his numbers are even better than Gibson’s. He carries FIPs of 1.71 and 2.52 in his respective leagues into the Futures Game, where he will play for the world team. Hendriks probably is only going to be a #4 starter, as he sits in the high 80s and hits low 90s and is getting his outs by outcrafting the opposition, but Hendriks does it all: strikes betters out, doesn’t walk them, and doesn’t give up homers.