While the major league season didn’t go so well, there’s always an eye toward the future. As teams rebuild and reload, players in the minors leagues step up, surprise, and start fitting into long-term plans.
Baseball America does a great job of keeping track of those minor leaguers as they make their way up the ranks.
In the Twins case, many players in their minor leagues were recognized as the best of their respective leagues:
#5. 1B Chris Parmelee – While Parmelee performed well in a brief stint in the majors in 2011, he started 2012 back in Triple A. There, he combined a patient approach (18.2% BB rate) with some power (.310 isolated power) and earned a longer look at the big leagues. In 210 plate appearances with Minnesota, the 24-year-old hit .229/.290/.380. Baseball America ranked him as the #5 prospect in the International League.
#6. OF Oswaldo Arcia – The Venezuelan prospect has been in the Twins system since 2008 and was added to the Twins 40 man roster before the Rule 5 draft last November. Baseball America ranked him as the #5 overall prospect in the Twins entire system in their Annual Prospect Handbook, citing his raw power and strong arm as his strongest assets. Arcia finished up the year in Double A after a good start at High A. In fact, his Double A numbers were even better than those he put up in the Florida State League (where he was also recognized as one of the best to go through the league in 2012). Across two levels, Arcia hit .320/.388/.539 with 17 homers and 61 extra base hits. Arcia represented the Twins in the 2012 All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City in July.
#8. OF Aaron Hicks – Baseball America had Hicks as the Twins #4 prospect entering 2012. He played the entire year in the Eastern League, compiling good numbers and taking advantage of his speed. He got on base at a good rate, and reached career highs in base hits, triples, home runs, runs scored and RBI. In 129 games for New Britain, he set a team record for runs scored with 100 and another record for triples with 11.
#2. 3B Miguel Sano – Among all Twins prospects, Sano is regarded as the guy with the most upside and his potential for immense power makes him Baseball America’s second-best prospect coming out of the Midwest League in 2012 behind only the Cubs’ Javier Baez.
Sano hit 28 homers for Beloit in a season after he’d hit 20 in 66 games for Elizabethton in the Appy League. Baseball America rates his power as a 75 on the 20-80 scale and the slugger won’t even turn 20 until next May. By that time he may be in Double A and less than a year from hitting the big leagues. He did strike out 144 times so pitch recognition and plate discipline are his biggest leaks, but he profiles as a big power third baseman in the big leagues and there are few who doubt his ability to reach that potential.
#12. 2B Eddie Rosario – Despite suffering an injury in June, Rosario had a strong season for Beloit. Building on 2011′s strong showing in Elizabethton, hitting .296/.345/.490. He has a strong skillset and is able to make good contact and seems to have some power, especially for a second baseman. Baseball America touted his development at second base defensively as well. Add some better than average speed to the mix and Rosario’s a strong prospect going forward.
#1. OF Byron Buxton - After signing him to a team-record $6 million bonus as the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton went right to work. He spent about six weeks in the Gulf Coast League and showed enough to earn a promotion to the next level in rookie ball. Though he hit only .216 for the GCL Twins, he also showed enough of his raw talent and hit enough extra base hits to build up a .250 isolated power rate in 27 games and was the top-ranked prospect by Baseball America in the league.
Many called him the best overall talent in the draft, though he was a risky selection. His speed is an asset and he evokes phrases like “super toolsy” with the potential for five tools. He helped lead Elizabethton to an Appalachian League title with his .286/.368/.429 performance in 21 games in the regular season and contributed in the playoffs (though he did struggle against Burlington in the final series). Buxton could be a future star.
#7. OF Max Kepler - Ranked 20th in the Twins system coming into 2012 by Baseball America, Kepler has had to make some adjustments to pro ball. He was signed out of Germany and the level of competition is a bit different in Europe. The 2012 season shows that he was able to gain experience and development and he’s showing a lot of promise as he makes his way up the ranks. After two seasons in rookie ball, Kepler’s power started to develop this year, hitting 10 homers after only one in the previous two seasons. He only struck out about 12% of the time this year, so that power combined with improved bat control are good signs that he’s catching up to his competition. Kepler still won’t be 20 until around the start of spring training, so there’s a lot of room to grow still, too. After two seasons in the Appalachian League, he’s probably ready to get some full-season ball on his resume.
Michael Engel is the Assistant Editorial Director for FanSided’s MLB Division and the editor of the Royals blog Kings of Kauffman.