With all the positions reviewed to date, there aren't many more than ten players in the organization playing at each position. Doing the corner outfielders together means that the top ten will include more prospects that have a legitimate chance of someday playing with the Twins. As with all the previous reviews this isn't meant to be a prospect ranking, rather, it is a ranking of the top ten corner outfielders based on their play this past season.
The Tenth ranked corner outfielder is a former first round pick, Matt Moses. Since being the 21st overall pick in 2003, Matt moved through the system the first few years at a pace expected of a first round selection. His best year was 2005 when he hit .306/.376/.453 with 7 home runs in 265 at bats for the Ft. Myers Miracle. That excellent start earned Moses a promotion to New Britain where he hit .210/.275/.366 in 186 at bats. With the exception of a brief move up to Rochester in 2007 when he hit .224 Average in 174 at bats, Matt has been in New Britain for the past four plus years. This season Moses hit .224/.274/.353 in 255 at bats to be the 47th ranked player in the organization after ranking 45th in 2008. Moses is again a six year minor league free agent and with several outfielders moving up from Ft. Myers, it is unlikely that he will return to the Twins next year.
The ninth ranked outfielder has a name Twins fans are very familiar with, Steve Liddle. Steve was the Twins 15th round selection in this year's draft out of Vanderbilt University. The nephew of the Twins bench coach with the same name, Liddle was the Elizabethton Twins leading hitter following his signing the last month of their season at .360/.441/.520 in 50 at bats with 2 home runs. Liddle's excellent short season earned him my #38 ranking in his first year of professional ball.
The eighth ranked outfielder is a young man who attended college in Mankato, Mark Dolenc. Dolenc, who was the Twins 15th round selection in 2006, began his career in the GCL with promotions of one level each year. Last season Dolenc hit .260/.338/.347 in 389 at bats for Beloit to rank as my 46th best position player. This season Mark moved up another level to Ft. Myers where he had his best season, hitting .288/.332/.394 in 386 at bats with 27 stolen bases in 33 attempts. Dolenc, who moved up 12 spots in this year's ranking to #34, should move up another level next year to New Britain and if he again shows improvement he is someone the Twins will begin to consider as a player who just might join the major league club some time a few years in the future.
The seventh best corner outfielder is a young man who was with the DSL Twins in 2008, Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia was one of the top two hitters for the DSL Twins last year, hitting .293/.343/.432 in 229 at bats. This season Arcia came to the U.S. in late March and went on to be one of the GCL top hitters. Arcia hit .275/.337/.455 in 167 at bats with a team best 11 doubles and 5 home runs which also tied for ninth best in the league. This young man, who turned 18 this past May, ranked as my 30th best player and is another name we will hear a lot of over the next few years when talking about all the top outfield prospects in the organization.
The sixth best corner outfielder was the Twins tenth round pick in 2008 out of Dallas Baptist University, Evan Bigley. Bigley had an excellent rookie season at Elizabethton where he hit .300/.360/.587 in 213 at bats with a league second best 14 home runs and 47 RBI. That perofrmance for the championship Elizabethton Twins earned Bigley my 28th ranking. This season Bigley moved up a level to Beloit where he hit .307/.340/.446 in 101 at bats, earning a mid-season promotion to Ft. Myers. Bigley continued to hit very well for the Miracle, .280/.336/.405 in 328 at bats to move up a spot to #29 this year. Look for Bigley to return to Ft. Myers next spring, however, any improvement should earn him another mid-season promotion to AA.
The fifth best outfielder is a young man the Twins obtained from the Mets in the Luis Castillo trade, Dustin Martin. Martin had an excellent season in 2008 at New Britain, hitting .290/.355/.447 in 510 at bats with 34 doubles, 8 triples, 10 home runs, 72 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 33 attempts. Martin went on to play for the AFL champion Phoenix Desert Dogs where he hit .314/.397/.449 in 118 at bats. Martin's excellent 2008 was rewarded by the Twins with an invitation to join them in spring training. Martin had an excellent spring with the Twins, yet, didn't have the season many expected with Rochester where he hit .254/.319/.351 in 422 at bats. Martin, who did have a team high 26 stolen bases in 34 attempts, finished his season as my 25th ranked player after being ranked 12th best last year. Martin is playing winter ball with the Aragua Tigres in the VWL, where he is off to an excellent start at .311/.419/.525 in 61 at bats.
Ranking fourth best is the Twins second round pick in 2006, Joe Benson. A young man who could also be a center fielder, Benson was a highly recruited running back out of Joliet Catholic with all indications that he would now be at Purdue if he hadn't signed with the Twins. Benson hadn't played a lot of baseball when drafted and has always been considered a "raw" prospect who many believe has the physical ability to develop into a "five tool" player. After solid but unspectacular seasons at Beloit in 2007 and 2008, some were surprised that the Twins promoted Benson to Ft. Myers this year. Last season Benson missed nearly half of his season at Beloit with a back injury after hitting .248/.326/.382 in 254 at bats with 16 doubles and 17 stolen bases in 28 attempts to rank as my 48th player. Benson was off to a tremendous start this season when he broke his hand hitting the dugout following an at bat in a game that he already had multi hits. Even though Benson missed about two months, he finished his season hitting .285/.414/.403 in 263 at bats with 5 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 21 attempts. Benson took a big step forward this years towards becomming the type of player the Twins have always believed he could be. Moving up 25 spots in this year's ranking to #23, I look for Benson to move up to New Britain next year where he will continue his development so that he is ready to join the Twins sometime in 2011.
The third best outfielder is a young man who was also very raw when drafted by the Twins in the 15th round of the 2004 draft (what is it about drafting outfielders in the 15th round?). Juan Portes was selected out of a Boston area high school as a middle infielder. He played a lot of second and third base, however, with questions about his defense he moved to the outfield in 2008 at Ft. Myers. After hitting .327 Average for the GCL Twins in 2004, Portes had several solid seasons at Elizabethton, Beloit and Ft. Myers in 2005-2007. Portes repeated at Ft. Myers in 2008 where he hit .270/.319/.395 in 456 at bats with 21 doubles, 12 home runs and 54 RBI, finishing as my 29th ranked player. Portes was promoted to New Britain this year and rewarded the Twins by being the Rock Cats second best hitter. Portes hit .297/.366/.434 in 327 at bats with 21 doubles, 3 triples, 6 home runs and 7 stolen bases in 10 attempts...moving up 10 spots to #19 this year. Portes, who is playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic this winter with Aguilas, has played six years in the minor leagues and will be a free agent. Although it is unlikely that Portes will be added to the 40-man roster, it is likely that the Twins will be interested in bringing him back for another season.
The second best corner outfielder is a young man who has also been an outfielder for only the past two seasons. David Winfree was drafted as a third baseman in the 13th round of the 2003 draft. Winfree had several lows in his Twins career including a period in 2006 when he left the team for personal reasons with the high being named the Twins Minor League Player of the year in 2005 when he hit .294 Average at Beloit with 16 home runs and an organization high 101 RBI. Winfree moved to right field in 2008 at New Britain where he hit .252/.319/.450 in 453 at bats with 27 doubles, 19 home runs and 87 RBI. Winfree was invited to spring training this year where he played very well. Winfree was promoted to Rochester this year where he was one of the best players on a team that had a disappointing season. Winfree hit .273/.317/.460 in 422 at bats with a team high 31 doubles, 14 home runs and 61 RBI. After finishing 2008 as my 13th ranked player, Winfree's excellent season at Rochester moved him up five spots to #8. Winfree is another player that likely is on the bubble of those being considered for the 40-man roster. Will he be gone if not added is the question? If not, look for Winfree to return to Rochester next season with a callup to the Twins likely when a powerful right handed bat is needed.
The top ranked corner outfielder is a young man who has played a lot of baseball this year, Rene Tosoni. This young Canadian began his season in New Britain following a year at Ft. Myers where he was the Miracle's leading hitter when he broke his foot and missed nearly two-thirds of the season. Even though Tosoni had played less than half a season of baseball beyond Elizabethton (2007), Tosoni's promotion from a Twins organization that does not rush players tells us a lot about what they think of his abilities. Their evaluation was confirmed when Tosoni was selected as the Twins lone representative in this summer's Futures All-Star game.
Tosoni, who turned 23 this July, hit .300/.408/.414 in 140 at bats for Ft. Myers in 2008 to rank as my 17th ranked player. Tosoni began this season at New Britain in a much publicized slump, yet, made the necessary adjustments to finish at .271/.360/.454 with 25 doubles, 4 triples, 15 home runs and 71 RBI in 425 at bats. Tosoni left the Rock Cats a few days before their play-offs to join Team Canada in the World Cup where he was one of his teams top hitters. Tosoni then joined the Mesa Solar Sox where he is now playing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Ranking as the #3 player this season, Rene Tosoni appears to be a prospect who will have an excellent career with the Minnesota Twins beginning some time after September, 2010.