Minnesota Twins Top Ten Prospects Retro: 1994


Mar 7, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder

Torii Hunter

(48) works out prior to the game against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we looked at the Twins’ top ten prospects way back in 1984.  It was really fun.  Today, we’ll jump forward 10 years and investigate the 1994 top ten.  This list is relatively loaded, with many of the ten reaching the Twins at one point.  In addition, one of the greatest Twins of the last few decades is surprisingly low.  Intrigue!  Let’s start.

10.  Carlos Pulido

Who was he?  The Twins signed Pulido as an amateur free agent in 1989.  The left-handed pitcher made his pro debut at age 17.  Pulido had a super weird career, but he made his MLB debut in 1994 at age 22.

Highest level reached?  MLB, twice (see below)

Why was he a prospect?  Pulido was pretty dominant prior to reaching AA, dominating at a young age to boot.  His 1992 and 1993 seasons were less impressive, but he was still very young.

Fun Fact!  He made his MLB debut in 1994, as I stated earlier.  However, he was awful in that debut and then pretty awful in the Minors the following few seasons.  He shuffled around the Minors for awhile before heading to the Mexican leagues.  Surprisingly, he returned to the Twins’ organization in 2003, joining the MLB team for parts of the 2003 and 2004 seasons.  What a voyage!

Why didn’t he turn out?  He walked more batters than he struck out in his 1994 MLB debut.  His AAA career strikeouts per nine is 5.0.  He gave up a boatload of hits.  Other than that, he was pretty solid.

9.  Marty Cordova

Who was he?  The Twins drafted Cordova in the 10th round of the 1989 MLB draft.  He is an alumni of Orange Coast College, the Harvard of that neighborhood.  Cordova was awful in his first few professional seasons, but he turned things around in 1992 with High-A Visalia.

Highest level reached?  MLB, Rookie of the Year in 1995.

Why was he a prospect?  That ’92 season.  He hit .341/.431/.589 with 31 doubles, 28 home runs and 131 RBI.  He was a monster that season, but he wasn’t great in 1993.  This is a 1994 list, so it didn’t factor in his even more impressive 1994 season with AAA Salt Lake – .358/.426/.592.  Not surprisingly, Cordova was 4th on the Twins’ 1995 prospect list.

Fun Fact!  Marty Cordovelociraptor

Why did he turn out?  Early in his career, Cordova was a power/speed guy, hitting 40 home runs and stealing 31 bases in his first two seasons with the Twins.  He didn’t make enough consistent contact to flex that power regularly, but he did have another 20 home run season in 2001 with the Indians.  He was out of the Majors after his age 33 season.    

8.  Chad Roper

Who was he?  Roper was the Twins’ second-round pick in the 1992 draft.  Roper was drafted out of high school and made his pro debut at age 18.  He was a third baseman when drafted, but the Twins tried to convert him to a pitcher during the 1997 season.

Highest level reached?  AA

Why was he a prospect?  Second-round pedigree?  He never really hit at all.  He had a .755 OPS in his pro debut and didn’t hit that figure again until 1998 when he was playing independent ball.

Fun Fact!  This isn’t really about Roper, but the New Britain Rock Cats used to be known as the Hardware City Rock Cats, which I greatly prefer.

Why didn’t he turn out?  He didn’t make good contact.  He didn’t draw a lot of walks.  He didn’t have much power.  He made a lot of errors.  He wasn’t a very good pitcher either.  I really hope he never reads this.  He was much better at baseball than I ever was.

7.  Torii Hunter

Who was he?  The Twins drafted Hunter in the first round back in 1993.  He absolutely flopped in his pro debut, hitting .190/.283/.220 in 1993, which likely explains his low ranking on this list despite his first-round pedigree.  He was just 17.  Perspective.

Highest level reached?  MLB, and he’s still there.

Why was he a prospect?  At this point, it was based entirely on the fact that he was worthy of a first-round pick.  He didn’t really hit well as a Minor Leaguer until 1998, after he had already made his MLB debut.  Of course, Hunter was also a toolshed and while it took a long time for those tools to manifest, he was clearly worthy of prospect status.

Fun Fact!  Of all players drafted in the first round in 1993, only Alex Rodriguez has a higher career WAR than Hunter.  And A-Rod is a filthy cheater.

Why did he turn out?  He’s really good at baseball.  He had some contact issues early on, but even when he couldn’t hit, he was a dynamic outfielder.  He learned how to use his speed on the bases and he added just enough walks to get his batting average and OBPs to respectable levels.  Plus, that smile! 

6.  Dave Stevens

Who was he?  Stevens was drafted by the Cubs in the 20th round of the 1989 draft.  The Twins acquired Stevens and Matt Walbeck (more on him shortly) in exchange for starter/dancer Willie Banks.

Highest level reached?  MLB from 1994-2000

Why was he a prospect?  I’ll be honest, I can’t really tell.  He didn’t rack up strikeouts.  He didn’t limit walks.  He was a reliever by the time this list was created.  He didn’t have a high-round pedigree.  He was 10 and 1 in 1993, split between two levels.  That can’t be why, can it?

Fun Fact!  Dave Stevens is referenced in like half of the trade articles I wrote back in July and August.  That’s an exaggeration, but if you can calculate his actual reference percentage, I’ll give you a million points.  Here’s a link to the archive, to give you a head start.

Why didn’t he turn out?  It’s hard to say he didn’t turn out, considering he pitched in seven MLB seasons.  However, his career ERA was 6.02.  In 251 career innings, he struck out 170 and walked 132.  He pitched for four different MLB teams, but it’s really hard to know why.  He was either really nice or he threw really hard.  I refuse to research either of those options.

5.  Dan Serafini

Who was he?  The Twins selected Serafini in the first round of the 1992 draft.  That year, Serafini made his pro debut in the GCL at age 18.  In 1993, Serafini moved to the Midwest League and went 10 and 8 with a 3.65 ERA in 27 starts.  He struck out 147 batters in 140.2 innings.

Highest level reached?  MLB from 1996-200, 2002-2003 and 2007

Why was he a prospect?  Check out those numbers from 1993 again.  He did all of that at age 19.  He walked a lot of batters that season, but his potential was evident.  He slipped a bit in 1994, but rebounded for a very solid 1995 season split between AA and AAA.  Not surprisingly, he was with the Twins in 1996.

Fun Fact!  Serafini went to Serra High School in San Mateo, California.  Barry Bonds, Jim Fregosi and Gregg Jefferies all went to that same high school.

Why didn’t he turn out?  He did pitch 263.2 innings in the Majors, but finished his career with a 6.04 ERA.  He never really got the walks under control and he didn’t strike out many MLB hitters, finishing his career with a 4.3 K/9 and a 4.0 BB/9.

4.  Matt Walbeck

Who was he?  Walbeck was the other player acquired in the aforementioned Willie Banks trade.  Walbeck had been drafted by the Cubs in the 8th round of the 1987 draft.  He made his MLB debut in April of 1993, but spent nearly all of that season with AAA Iowa.

Highest level reached?  MLB from 1993-2003

Why was he a prospect?  Well, he was a catcher, so that’s nice.  I guess he was a pretty decent Minor League hitter as well.  In 1992, he hit .301/.358/.418 for AA Charlotte.  In 1993, he hit .281/.320/.402 for AAA Iowa.

Fun Fact!  Walbeck played his final game on my 12th birthday.  Yeah, I think that’s pretty fun.  And yeah, I’m older than you thought I was.

Why did he turn out?  Walbeck wasn’t great, but he was a serviceable back-up catcher for a number of years.  He never really hit, finishing with a career batting average of .233.  He didn’t walk much either.  He had almost no power.  He did post a 428 OPS+ in 2001, which was completely overshadowed by Barry Bonds’ 73 home runs.  True, Walbeck had just one at-bat that season, but 428 is very high.

3.  LaTroy Hawkins

Who was he?  Yeah, now you’re in The Hawk’s Nest!  The Twins drafted Hawkins in the 7th round of the 1991 draft.  He threw hard, he was super young, and he had great results in the Minors.

Highest level reached?  MLB, and he’s still active!

Why was he a prospect?  Look at his 1993 season.  Hawkins went 15 and 5 with a 2.06 ERA for Class A For Wayne.  He started 23 games, threw 157.1 innings, struck out 179 and walked just 41.  Yowzers.  It’s easy to remember the ineffective Hawkins, but he was a prospect for a reason.

Fun Fact!  No one drafted in the 1st round of the 1991 draft is still active today.  LaTroy outlasted all of them!

Why did he turn out?  At first, he didn’t.  As a starter in his early career, Hawkins was terrible.  He didn’t get strikeouts, he walked too many guys and he was just generally ineffective.  In 2000, the Twins converted him to relief and his career took off.  He’s been up and down, but he’s been up more than down and he’s about to pitch in his 20th MLB season!  Back in 1999, who would have thought that LaTroy Hawkins would still be pitching in 2014 at age 41?

2.  Todd Ritchie

Who was he?  The Twins selected Ritchie with the 12th overall selection in the 1990 draft.  He made his pro debut in 1990 at age 18.  He made it all the way to AA in 1993, but stalled out there.

Highest level reached?  MLB from 1997-2004

Why was he a prospect?  First-round pedigree, but also results to an extent.  in 1992, Ritchie threw 172.2 innings, but he had an ERA of 5.06.  He was just 20.  In 1993, he only made 10 starts, but he posted a solid 3.66 ERA in his AA debut.  He was never really good and durable in a Minor League season though.

Fun Fact!  The Twins released Ritchie after the 1998 season.  He signed with the Pirates and immediately had a career year.  in 1999, he made 26 starts and had a 132 ERA+.  That’s actually not as fun as it is maddening.  He was never that good again though.  

Why didn’t he turn out?  He didn’t strike many batters out.  He didn’t limit walks enough.  He didn’t hold runners very well.  He gave up a lot of home runs.  He just wasn’t very effective.

1.  Rich Becker

Who was he?  The Twins took Becker in the third round of the 1990 draft.  He made his pro debut at age 18 that year, hitting .289/.448/.418 in 56 games.  That OBP would become his calling card, as he consistently showed the ability to take walks.  He was also adept at stealing bases, swiping 18 that season.

Highest level reached?  MLB from 1993-2000

Why was he a prospect?  Becker was a really balanced Minor Leaguer.  He stole bases.  He added power as he got older.  He consistently posted OBPs in the .400 or better range.  In 1993 he played 138 games with AA Nashville, hitting .287/.398/.450, with 25 doubles, 15 home runs and 29 stolen bases.  He looked like a potential monster player.

Fun Fact!  By WAR, Becker was the best player drafted in the 3rd round of the 1990 draft.  In fact, you can add up the rest of the round and their WAR is lower than Becker’s.

Why didn’t he turn out? Becker was outstanding in 1996.  At age 24, he hit .291/.372/.434, with 31 doubles, 12 home runs, 19 steals and 68 walks.  His defense in center was really good and he posted a 4.3 WAR.  He had a 4.0 combined WAR the rest of his career.  He peaked at 24 and while he kept on walking, he didn’t make good contact, he lost his power, lost his speed and couldn’t play center.  It’s hard to remember, but Becker was a great, albeit underrated player for one glorious season.

Only one guy on this list failed to reach the Majors.  Two are still active today.  The Twins got good seasons from Hawkins, Becker, Walbeck (to some extent), Cordova and obviously Hunter.  Ritchie had a couple of good seasons in Pittsburgh too.  If the current Twins top ten hits at a 60% clip, we’ll be both disappointed and really lucky.  Next week, we’ll look at the 2004 list.  It’s the best one yet.  Have a great week, everyone!