Mar 7, 2013; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielderJoe Benson
(12) reacts in the dugout after making an error in the second inning during a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at Hammond Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Bonus Week! At the outset of this endeavor, I promised 120 Minor League profiles, but 128 is a superior number. In fact, 128 is the only three-digit number that is a 7th power! Plus, I didn’t want to start my top 30 Twins prospect list between Christmas and New Years (watch for that list starting next Monday). Thus, here are 8 bonus names for the lovers.
James Fuller (I can call him Jim due to tightness) is a 26-year-old lefty who spent six seasons with the Mets’ system. The Twins snatched the 2008 21st-round selection in the AA portion of the most recent Rule 5 draft. Fuller’s early career looked pretty promising as he struck out a fair amount of hitters and limited walks nicely. He then missed all of 2011 with a torn labrum and returned in 2012 unable to match his previous level of effectiveness. He converted to the bullpen in 2013 and saw a spike in his strikeout totals but a bump in his walk rate as well. He’s never pitched above AA. In his 18 AA innings, he posted a 7.50 ERA. There’s a reason he was available in the AA portion of the Rule 5 draft, but if the Twins are patient, he could emerge as a decent left-handed reliever.
Hoffman is a very accomplished BMX star who I am guessing the Twins hope will use his extreme athleticism to make a successful conversion to baseball. Wait, that’s Mat Hoffman and he’s over 40. Matt Hoffman might be good at BMX, but I can’t find that information on Wikipedia. Hoffman is a 25-year-old Minor League free agent. The Twins signed him a couple months ago and he appears to be AAA depth, as he was not invited to Spring Training. Hoffman is a reliever with low strikeout stuff and he doesn’t really limit walks all that well either. He was a Tigers org guy and now he’s a Twins org guy, at least for now.
Oh, Mr. Pino, welcome back! You may remember Pino from the intense anger you felt when the Twins traded him for Carl Freaking Pavano. Pino has been on a tour of Minor League clubs since being traded, going from Cleveland to Toronto to Cincinnati and now back to Minnesota. Pino was awful in 2010, not great in 2011, bad in 2012 and then pretty good in 2013, so your guess is as good as mine. He does own a very solid 3.02 K/BB ratio in 343 AAA innings. However, he also has a career AAA ERA of 4.72 and he’s now 30. Pino was a sleeper prospect when traded for Pavano, but he’s still sleeping and is very unlikely to reach the Majors.
Next year, when I make this list, I’m checking it twice like another giant fat man with a huge, white beard. I missed Slegers initially, which is a shame because he’s very much worth writing about. Slegers was the Twins’ 5th-round selection and waited until the last minute to sign, likely because he loves drama. He had a very solid pro debut with Elizabethton, pitching 19 innings with 18 strikeouts and just 2 walks. His ERA was 0.47, which would be an MLB record. Slegers was not known as a big strikeout pitcher in college, and these are Rookie Ball numbers. That said, a good debut is a good debut and I’ll be interested to see how he adjusts to Low-A in 2014.
Thomas is a 27-year-old right-hander who the Twins selected in the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft. He was a 33rd round selection by the Cardinals back in 2008 and he’s been pretty impressive since making a conversion to relief in 2012. In 2012, he only posted a 4.30 ERA, but his strikeout rate jumped significantly and his walk rate dipped. Then, his strikeout rate jumped even more in 2013 as he repeated AA. He had 75 strikeouts in just under 60 innings. That said, he was 26 and repeating AA. If he can continue to strike out nearly 30% of the batters he faces, his age won’t mean anything. For the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft, Thomas is clearly a good gamble.
Waring will be 28 next season and has played just 76 games at AAA. He was drafted in the 7th round, way back in 2007. In his pro career, he has demonstrated some truly impressive power. He has 159 career home runs and a career slugging percentage of .488. With AA and AAA, that percentage dips a bit, down to .464. His OBP in 1650 AA plate appearances is just .327 and his batting average is a putrid .234. So, he’s basically all power and likely just a AAA depth signing. He can play both corner infield positions, so that’s nice.
Ziegler is built from the same mold as Chris Colabello. He’s an Independent Ball star and he has some big-time power. Ziegler hit .318/.408/.645 for the Wichita Wingnuts last season. He hit 30 bombs and drove in 99 runs in just 100 games. Ziegler was drafted way back in 2008, in the 16th round by the Cardinals. Ziegler didn’t develop any power until he left an MLB organization. He’s an Independent sensation and perhaps he’ll become the next Colabello and make a late-career MLB debut.
Remember this guy? As we turn the page from 2013 to 2014, I would like to write one final time about my favorite Twins prospect, Mr. Joe Benson. I loved Joe Benson for all the things that he could have been. He was fast, powerful, graceful in the outfield and possessed a cannon for an arm. He also couldn’t hit and didn’t develop as anyone could have hoped. Benson washed out after just a handful of MLB games and based on his 2013 season, those may be his only MLB games. The Twins released him in late May of 2013. The Rangers claimed him, moved him down to AA and the designated him for assignment on September 1. Benson is not on a 40-man roster although still really talented. He is unlikely to reach even a modest ceiling at this point. He is a great example of just how badly prospects can hurt the ones who love them the most. Best wishes Joe, I hope you get just one more chance in 2014.
That’s it! 17,000 words on Twins Minor League players in 16 hardbound volumes. Next week, we start to look to 2014 as we start the list of the Twins’ top 30 prospects. The list is just loaded because the farm system is loaded. The first five form an impressive list on their own, and it won’t take long to see just how much talent the Twins have on the farm. See you then; have a nice week!