Minor League Report...October 10, 2009 (Second Basemen)

With the Arizona Fall League beginning play on the 13th, there is little to talk about today.  The Tigres de Aragua roster is set for this Winter's Venezuelan League which begins this weekend.  Twins players on their roster include  pitchers Jhon Garcia, Edgar Ibarra, Frank Mata, Josie Mijares, Miguel MunozOswaldo Sosa and former Twin Yohan PinoWilson Ramos is also on the roster.    Aragua hosted Margarita last night, however, the boxscore isn't posted yet this morning.  Wilson Ramos was also selected by Baseball America as their eighth ranked Eastern League prospect, a move that will move Ramos up to my second ranked player following my final adjustments.

Now on to the ranking of the top ten second basemen in the organization.  Again it is important to mention that these are not prospect rankings, rather based on how they performed in the organization during the 2009 season.

At Number 10 is the GCL Twins second baseman, Hyeong-rok Choi.  Choi was the 91st ranked player in 2008 when he hit .235/.309/.318 in 85 at bats for the GCL Twins.  Choi, who turned 20 this August, returned to the GCL Twins for a second season as a much improved player, hitting .279/.359/.405 in 111 at bats.  Choi, who is one of two players from South Korea who came to the Twins organization a couple years ago, ranked as the 64th best player this year and should move up to Elizabethton next summer.

The ninth ranked second baseman is Beloit's Andrew Thompson who was drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft.  Thompson was my 33rd ranked player in 2006 when he was an all-star for the Beloit Snappers.  Unfortunately, Thompson had a stress fracture in his back late in the 2006 season which caused him to miss all of 2007 and 2008.  Andrew continued to work hard on his rehab and just being able to get back on the field had to be a rewarding accomplishment.  The number that was important for Drew this summer wasn't .242/.325/.364, it was playing in 91 games with 302 at bats back at Beloit.  Ranked as my 59th ranked player, the question is whether or not he will be able to again become a top prospect.  Only time will tell!

The Twins drafted Derek McCallum in the fourth round of this year's draft out of the University of Minnesota.  McCallum, who was one of the nation's best hitting second basemen, began his Twins career at Elizabethton where he hit .241/.310/.382 in 228 at bats with five home runs.  His performance in the Appy League ranked him as the organization's 51st ranked player and eighth best second baseman.

Nick Romero was the 44th ranked player following a 2008 season when he hit .274/.338/.442 in 197 at bats with 7 home runs for the Elizabethton Twins.  The Twins fifth round pick in the 2008 draft moved up a level this year to Beloit with another move to Ft. Myers during the season.  Drafted as a third baseman, Romero played mostly second base for the Miracle where he hit .247/.358/.370 in 235 at bats.  Romero hit .222/.286/.349 in 108 at bats for the Snappers which earned him my #49 ranking and seventh best second baseman.

The sixth ranked second baseman is a 20 year old player from Australia who had an exciting year that began in the WBC and ended in the World Cup.  In between those two tournaments, James Beresford was one of the Beloit Snappers best hitters at .289/.342/.313 in 450 at bats with 15 stolen bases in 26 attempts.  His play at Beloit earned him my #44 ranking which is one of the biggest moves in the rankings following his #85 ranking last season when he hit .246/.345/.285 in 179 at bats for Elizabethton.

We are all very familiar with my fifth ranked second baseman, Matt Tolbert.  Following a 2008 season that began with the Twins before an extended stay on the disabled list, Tolbert spent much of 2009 moving between the Twins and Rochester.  While with the Wings, Tolbert hit .288/.331/.424 in 236 at bats following a terrible start when he hit only .194/.289/.284 in 67 April at bats.  Tolbert hit .307/.336/.457 following the All-Star game to earn his late season callup that led to a starting role in the playoffs.  Tolbert's play with the Red Wings this summer ranked him as my 21st best player in the organization.

The fourth ranked second baseman is Steven Tolleson who began his season with a disappointing return to New Britain for a second season.  After hitting .300/.382/.466 in 343 at bats at New Britain in 2008, Tolleson was one of the top hitters in the AFL last year when he hit .383/.449/.543 in 94 at bats.  Tolleson was my 8th ranked player in 2008, however, his disappointing start at New Britain (hitting .258/.343/.391 in 151 at bats) caused him to move down nine spots to #17 this year.  Tolleson did get a promotion to Rochester in late May where he hit .270/.338/.375 in 352 at bats.  Although he is primarily a second baseman, Rochester's depth of middle infielders caused Stan Cliburn to play Tolleson at second, shortstop, third base, left field and even a few games in centerfield.    

Coming in as the third ranked second baseman in the organization is Steven Singleton.  Singleton, who was ranked #16 overall this season following a #18 ranking last year, moved up to New Britain following a solid start at Ft. Myers where he hit .269/.329/.424 in 297 at bats.  Singleton was one of the Rock Cats top hitters following his promotion, hitting .291/.319/.418 in 158 at bats which earned him an assigment to this fall's AFL.  This year followed the same format as last year when Singleton began at Beloit, hitting .302/.348/.421 in 235 at bats before moving up to Ft. Myers where he hit .295/.371/.452 in 241 at bats.  An eleventh round pick from the 2006 draft, Singleton appears to be only a year or so away from taking that final step all prospects dream of.

The second ranked second baseman this year (ranked #11 overall) is Alexi Casilla who alternated with Matt Tolbert with one up with the Twins while the other was in Rochester.  Casilla put up huge numbers this year at Rochester, hitting .340/.379/.449 in 156 at bats while disappointing the Twins while in Minnesota.  Much has been written about Casilla's strengths and weaknesses, however, his play in Rochester clearly stated that he doesn't need to spend any more time in the minors.  Whether he will be with the Twins is another quesiton that only Ron Gardenhire and Bill Smith can answer.

The top ranked second baseman is New Britain all-star Brian Dinkelman.  Dinkelman was the 20th ranked player in 2008 following a supurb season when he hit .293/.399/.414 in 232 at bats at Ft. Myers followed by hitting .247/.299/.369 in 198 at bats in New Britain.  Brian returned to New Britain this year where he was one of the league's best hitters at .296/.383/.440 in 459 at bats with 8 home runs to move him up 16 spots to my #4 overall ranking.  Equally important was Dinkelman's excellent defensive play as he committed only 7 errors in 129 games.

Whereas catcher and first base are the Twins strongest two positions manned by MVP caliber players with future stars a couple levels away in the minors, second base has been a headache that has plagued the big league club for years.  After his solid late season play, Nick Punto likely is penciled in as the regular next season.  There are several candidates who can compete with Punto or serve as backups, including Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla.  The bigger question is whether or not there is a long-term replacement to Punto in 2011 or beyond?  Another question is whether or not that prospect can become a better than average major league second baseman?  Dinkelman appears to have the most potential of eventually becoming that player, however, several others could take a big step next year to put their names into the mix in 2011.  Although he won't be ready in spring, 2011, keep your eyes on James Beresford who just may develop into that second baseman the Twins have been searching for all these years!      

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