Considering the number of players in the Twins system and the ages and levels of their play, it is a daunting task to rank them in a reasonable order. I've engaged in a number of arguments with Seth, LEN3, Roger and others in which my intuitive ranking differs greatly from theirs.
The most recent one with Seth (privately through e-mail) made me feel guilty. It's easy enough to rip someone else's ranking. The hard part is to stick your neck out and rank prospects yourself. To alleviate my guilt, I better at least give my reasons for ranking my top 20 publicly so others can rip me and we're all square.
Before giving my ranking, a few words about my ranking philosophy. Most prospect hounds rank guys solely on upside, which is all well and good, but I don't do it that way. I rank guys on the basis of how likely I think they are to make a contribution to the major league team, and how big of an impact I think they will have. So the closer they are to the majors, the higher they will rank, all things considered.
Also, unlike most other prospect rankers, I don't pay a lot of attention to age. Guys develop at different rates and there are especially strange factors involved in college guys versus high school guys versus international players. I think it's great when very young guys perform at a high level for their age.
But if an older player performs particularly well at the upper levels, I don't judge him harshly because he's old for his level. I just take him for a late bloomer. There are obvious examples of roster fillers. But if there's a good reason for a guy to get stuck at a level for a couple of years, I don't penalize him too harshly for that. The only time I do penalize is when a guy repeats a level because he needs to for his development. Matt Moses, for example, obviously was not ready for AAA this year, so he had to go back to AA. That's a sign that he's not that great a prospect.
An example of an older prospect is Jason Bartlett, who developed at a typical rate for a college guy until he got stuck at AAA through no fault of his own. A couple of years ago, I ranked Willie Eyre highly even though he was old for AAA. Well, he had battled injuries and, when healthy, he had always put up good numbers. So I rated him highly even though most people thought he wasn't even a prospect.
Finally, I tend to look at numbers more than anything. But if a BA report raises particular questions about a prospect, I factor that in. And if BA has a lot of good things to say about a prospect, I'll factor that in too, with one proviso. If I don't see it in the numbers, I take what BA says with a grain of salt. Luis Rivas was highly regarded by BA but I just never got it. Tools are all well and good, but some baseball skills can't be taught. If I don't see baseball skills (e.g. contact), I don't pay a lot of attention to BA's tools comments.
Click read more for my rankings.
- Brian Duensing: He's a lot like Glenn Perkins, except, unlike Perkins, Duensing got hurt in college and had to battle through TJ surgery, which dropped him off the first-round territory. Since being drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft, he's put up consistently excellent numbers. I expect to see him in a Twins uniform in 2008, though he'll spend most of the year in Rochester.
- Anthony Swarzak: After serving a 50-game suspension for weed at the beginning of the year, Swarzak was arguably the best pitcher in the system. Since being drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft out of high school, he's been the ace of most staffs he's pitched on. By the time he makes it to the Twins in 2009, I expect the 50-game suspension will look more like a speed bump on a long star-studded journey.
- Trevor Plouffe: Always a slow starter, 2007 was the year that answered the question: What would happen if he got a fast start? Prior to this year, the first-round pick epitomized a toolsy player with marginal numbers. This year, his numbers were solid for a 21-year-old in AA. I expect him to play the whole year at Rochester next year. The only question with him is whether or not the Twins make room for him at short or move him to third for the 2009 season.
- Jeff Manship: As he dominated the Midwest League, most people thought the Twins promoted him too slowly. Certainly compared to Baker, Perkins, Slowey, Garza and Duensing they did. The 14th round pick in the 2006 draft still moved up a level after dominating the Midwest League. If he had shown similar dominance in the Florida State League, I would rank him higher. But he will likely be sent back there in 2008 and make it to AA midseason. Sometime in 2009, we could see him in a Twins uniform.
- Jose Morales: He's one of those players I would put in the late bloomer category. Some of that had to do with the transition from Puerto Rico to the US as an 18 year old in 2001. Some of that had to do with converting to catcher from second base. Some of that had to do with injuries. Whatever the reason, he struggled prior to last year and advanced slowly. But he was drafted in the third round out of PR (like being a first rounder in the US) for a reason. And he definitely showed it last year at Rochester, where he was my organizational position player of the year. And it's not like he's an oldster--he's 24 at AAA, which is the median age for that league.
- Eduardo Morlan: Most people would not put a reliever in this slot, but when that reliever gets two out of his three outs on strikeouts, it's deserved. This kid is the real deal and I expect him to be a fixture int he Twins bullpen starting as early as 2009.
- Danny Valencia: Normally I would say Jeff Manship is the steal of the 2006 draft as a 14th rounder. But as a 19th rounder, Valencia is the steal of that draft. Few can figure out why he fell so far, but a lot of teams are wondering why they didn't take a flier on him. He put up great numbers at two levels last year, vaulting the Fort Myers team to a record winning streak after his promotion from Beloit, where he dominated. As the best third base prospect in the organization, he should start the year at AA but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in a Twins uniform next September.
- Dustin Martin: After his acquisition in the Luis Castillo trade last year, he put up the best numbers for a center fielder in the whole system, factoring in league averages. He was another reason why Fort Myers suddenly started winning after the All-Star break.
- Chris Parmalee: Parmalee put up solid numbers for the Midwest League with excellent power numbers for a 19 year old. The former first-round draft pick hit in the middle of an order loaded with college players for most of the year. I expect big things from him in Fort Myers next year, and eventually with the Twins.
- Ben Revere: I don't normally rank 18 year olds in the GCL in my top 20, but Revere is an exception. The 2007 top pick is the rare combination of outstanding tools and baseball skills. If he continues to play at this high level for Beloit next year, he'll be the top center fielder in the organization. He's five years away at least, though.
- Tyler Robertson
- Joe Benson
- Alex Burnett
- Deibenson Romero
- Brock Peterson
- Jose Mijares
- Erik Lis
- Ryan Mullins
- Michael McCardell
- Jay Rainville