Compared with other teams, the Twins rely even more heavily on young players because they generally don’t like to spend a lot of money in free agency. They prefer to develop their young players. When there is a lull in development, some bad seasons will accompany. Check out 2011-2013 for evidence. Fortunately, the Twins have a really solid young core of players on the way. Today, we’re going to look at the top ten pre-arbitration Twins. These players are likely to be around when the next great Twins team emerges. Not only that, they could be leading that next great Twins team.
10. Josmil Pinto
Catcher of the future? It certainly seems like it. The Twins want Pinto to work on his defense and I think that makes perfect sense. They signed a stopgap for 2014 (Kurt Suzuki) and now they can ease Pinto into the full-time catcher role. Pinto has proved over the past two seasons that he can hit. If his defense comes along, he’ll be a very valuable player for a long time.
Ignore the 50-game suspension for a second and focus on the fact that Rosario has hit at every level. He’ll take a break from games but use that time to continue to work on his skills at second base. He’ll return in June and he’ll almost certainly start hitting again. Rosario is a man without a position at this moment, but his bat should play just about anywhere. The Twins may not even really need Rosario at second, as we’ll see in a couple of players.
8. Aaron Hicks
Yep, Aaron Hicks. Don’t put too much stock into his poor start in 2013. Hicks was a top five prospect prior to last season and he’s as tooled-up as anyone in the organization. He had a really tough time at the plate in 2013, but he improved as the year went on. His defense wasn’t quite as advertised, but he’s got way too much talent for that to be a long-term concern. Hicks could rebound nicely in 2014 and it wouldn’t even be a huge surprise. He might need to move to a corner, but that is only necessary because Lord Buxton is on his way. Hicks is a true centerfielder and the Twins outfield will have ridiculous range if he’s patrolling a corner.
In fact, a Rosario/Buxton/Hicks outfield is pretty enticing. Those corner guys might not hit like traditional corner outfielders, but man, they would catch everything.
7. Brian Dozier
Dozier’s 2013 season is precisely why we can’t give up on Aaron Hicks. Dozier was awful in his rookie season, but he bounced back very nicely in 2013 and established himself as a core member of this team going forward. Dozier isn’t a perfect player, but he’s a good defender, he has good power, he has good OBP skills, and he’s young and cheap. Dozier was somewhere between 3-4 WAR in 2013, depending on your WAR of choice.
6. Kohl Stewart
The baby of the group! Stewart is the furthest away from the Majors, but he has the most upside of anyone not named “Lord Buxton.” Stewart has already been compared to Justin Verlander, a standard that would seem impossible to meet, but you just never know. He’s 19 and he’s got four pitches. He’s athletic and he reportedly works very hard. He has the stuff to pitch Game One of a playoff series in the future. He may not get there for several years, but there aren’t a lot of guys with that kind of potential.
5. Kyle Gibson
When Gibson was drafted in 2009, he projected to be a fast-moving number 3 starter with good command and decent stuff. Gibson looked great in the Minors, reaching AAA in his first professional season. From there, things haven’t been quite so easy, as Gibson had Tommy John surgery in 2011 and a very rocky MLB debut in 2013. However, Gibson still has that number 3 starter ceiling and if he can reach that point, he’ll provide fantastic value as a command specialist with ability to get strikeouts. Think Mike Pelfrey but at 10% of the cost, younger and faster than molasses.
4. Alex Meyer
Meyer’s ceiling is just a touch below Stewart’s, but he’s also much closer to reaching his potential, as he proved in 2013 that he can handle AA hitters. Meyer’s shoulder injury was troubling, but he recovered and pitched very well upon his return. Meyer has front-of-the-rotation stuff, with a fastball that touches 100 MPH and a nasty slider. He’s getting very close to MLB-ready as well. When Meyer joins the Twins’ rotation in the near future, he may not leave for a very long time. Meyer won’t always be a consistent starter, but he’s going to have some really memorable starts here and there. If I had to predict a no-hitter for some reason, I’d pick Meyer to throw the next one for the Twins.
Arcia finished his rookie season with a 102 OPS+. That’s not the most exciting stat, but he did that at age 22 having played just over 100 games above High-A. He finished with 17 doubles and 14 home runs, a mere glimpse of the extra-base power that is to come. His defense was poor, but he’s athletic enough to get better in the field. Arcia will likely never hit .330 and he probably won’t hit 30 home runs either. However, he could consistently hit .285 with a .350 OBP, 35-40 doubles and 20-25 home runs. That type of player helps an offense hum. Plus, he’s really fun to watch.
2. Miguel Sano
Sano has the best raw power in the Minors and has flexed that power in games, totaling 199 extra-base hits in 379 MiLB games, 90 going over the fence. Sano got his first taste of AA pitching at age 20 and slugged a sensational .571. Sano isn’t quite ready for the Majors but he could very well make his MLB debut later in 2014. His defense at third has been questioned, but there are plenty of experts who think he can be the Twins’ third baseman for many years. The reality is that his bat might be good enough to play at first or even DH, even though everyone hopes he can stay at third for a long time.
1. Byron Buxton
Words just don’t describe him anymore, so we’ll just use that.
Nine of those ten players could be Twins as soon as 2015. Nine! Kohl Stewart might come along a few years later, but at that point, he should be joining an established core of extremely talented players. Prospects don’t hit at a 100% rate, but this collection of players should be able to provide great value, even if a couple of the individuals don’t make it. The Twins might not be a great team in 2014, but they are building a great organization. I have held the belief for a long time that 2015 is the year when things turn around. When you look at the names above, it’s easy to see why I feel this way.
Have a nice week, everyone!