Although the top prospect in the organization probably is a catcher and the best power prospect a first baseman/corner outfielder, center field is clearly the top position in the organization. Not only are the following Top Ten the strongest group of any position, the organization has two very good players capable of playing center field who were included with the corner outfielders...Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni.
The tenth ranked center fielder is a young man taken on the thirty-third round of this year's draft, Nick Freitas. Freitas is a college selection who began his career with the GCL Twins where he hit a respectable .246/.336/.347 in 118 at bats. Freitas, who stole 6 bases in 6 attempts, is my 70th ranked player.
Ranked ninth is Herbert Lara. Lara moved up 15 spots in this year's ranking to 57th following a season at Elizabethton where he hit .218/.288/.240 in 147 at bats following his rookie season in 2008 with the GCL Twins where he hit .281/.329/.349 in 146 at bats.
The eighth ranked center fielder is a young man who shared playing time with Lara, Jonathan Goncalves. Goncalves also moved up from the GCL Twins where he hit .261/.385/.330 in 88 at bats to rank #68 in 2008. This season, Goncalves hit .256/.303/.366 in 172 at bats to move up 12 spots to #56.
The seventh ranked center fielder was this year's DSL Twins lone position player who was an all-star. Romy Trinidad would have been my 52nd ranked player had I included DSL players in the ranking. Trinidad hit .312/.443/.363 in 157 at bats with 1 home run and 15 stolen bases in 20 attempts. Trinidad, who turned 18 shortly before the DSL season began, should move up to the GCL next spring.
The top hitter early this season for the GCL Twins was Wang-Wei Lin who was hitting .364/.432/.545 in 33 at bats when he went down with a season ending injury. After getting only 10 at bats in 2008, Lin's work to improve appeared to have paid dividends when his season came to a sudden end. Lin had 3 doubles and a home run amongst his 12 hits with 2 stolen bases. Lin was my sixth ranked centerfielder and ranked 32nd overall based on only 33 at bats.
The fifth ranked center fielder is a young player many consider to have the highest ceiling of any player in the organization. Aaron Hicks, who was the Twins first round pick in 2008, went on to to hit .318/.409/.491 in 173 GCL at bats. Hicks had 10 doubles, 4 triples, 4 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 14 attempts to rank as my 25th best player with Baseball America ranking him as the Top Prospect in the GCL. Baseball America again ranked him as the Top Prospect in the MidWest League this year following a season that began in EST before hitting .251/.353/.382 in 251 at bats at Beloit. Hicks, who is a disciplined hitter with 40 walks and 55 strikeouts, had 15 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 18 attempts for the Snappers. A 5-tool player most believe can become a superstar, Hicks moved up one spot in my ranking to #24.
Fourth ranked is a player the Twins received from Cincinnati in a trade a few years ago for Juan Castro. Brandon Roberts hit .316/.370/.396 with 27 steals (stole 50 bases for the entire season) in 71 games following his 2006 all-star break trade. The following year he moved up to AA where he hit .293/.355/.374 in 389 at bats with only 14 steals in 21 attempts. In 2008 Roberts returned to New Britain where he was my 50th ranked player mostly because he missed much of the season with an injury which limited him to only 95 at bats, hitting .200/.269/.253. Roberts was healthy for most of 2009 and responded by hitting .287/.352/.365 in 397 at bats with 21 steals in 28 attempts to be ranked as my 22nd best player. If he is with the Twins next year, Roberts should move up to Rochester where he will be one plane ride away from making his major league debut.
Third ranked is a center fielder some believe has a higher ceiling than Hicks, Angel Morales. Although Morales was drafted in the third round a year earlier out of Puerto Rico, he is about two months younger than Hicks and won't turn 20 until later this month. Morales opened eyes with his phenominal season at Elizabethton in 2008 where he hit .301/.413/.623 in 183 at bats with 12 doubles, 1 triple, a league high 15 home runs and 28 RBI. Morales also stole 7 bases in 9 attempts to rank as my 19th best player. This season began very slowly for Morales at Beloit, yet he made the necessary adjustments and played like the star many believe he will become during the second half. Morales, who played through an injury during much of June, finished his first full-season hitting .266/.329/.455 in 376 at bats with 22 doubles, 5 triples, a team high 13 home runs and 62 RBI with 19 stolen bases in 25 attempts. The only knock against Morales are his struggles to hit some breaking balls and that he strikes out to often. He did make progress this season, however, with 104 strikeouts (27.7%) against better pitching versus a 39.3% strike out rate last year in the Appy League. People who have seen him play comment that the ball explodes off his bat and that Morales could become a superstar at the major league level. Morales was my 20th ranked player this season, however, played as well as anyone in the organization post all-star break. I look for him to blossom as a star next year in the FSL by reducing his strikeout rate to around 20%, hit 20 home runs with an average approaching .300. He should move up to AA as a 21 year old the following year and don't be surprised if you see him called up in September, 2011.
The second ranked center fielder and my 18th ranked player this year is Jason Pridie. Pridie, who was part of the Bartlett/Garza/Young trade, has been up with the Twins several times and certainly is in the mix to battle for the fifth outfield spot on the roster next spring. Pridie was my 15th ranked player in 2008 when he hit .270/.305/.435 in 559 at bats at Rochester with 21 doubles, a league best 16 triples, 13 home runs and 61 RBI. Pridie also stole 25 bases in 34 attempts and was named the International League's best defensive outfielder. Like the entire Red Wing team, Pridie's production dropped off this year. In 513 at bats he hit .265/.295/.382 with 23 doubles, 5 triples, 9 home runs, 53 RBI and 25 stolen bases in 32 attempts. After making his first appearance with the Twins in 2008, Pridie didn't appear in any games for the Twins during this season and wasn't a September callup. Whether or not that is an indication of what Twins plans are for him in 2010 isn't known, however, he appears to be a candidate to claim that last roster spot.
The top ranked center fielder and my #1 ranked player this year has taken almost as much criticism since being drafted as the Twins current center fielder. A common reaction to his selection in the first round was that many believed he should have been a second or third round pick and the Twins were being cheap when they drafted Ben Revere. He doesn't play good defense and doesn't hit for power are other common criticisms. Even though Revere hit .325/.388/.481 in 191 at bats in his rookie season with the GCL Twins the criticism continued. Last year Revere remained in EST to work on his defense before moving up to Beloit. And if he hadn't been injured in late July, wouldn't it have been fun for Beloit fans to watch him try to become the first minor league player in a long time to flirt with a .400 Average? Unfortunately, his leg injury limited his play until the Twins eventually shut him down with minor knee surgery. He didn't have enough at bats to qualify for the league batting championship which he would have easily won at .379/.433/.497 in 340 at bats with 17 doubles, 10 triples, 51 runs scored and 44 stolen bases in 57 attempts to rank #12 in my post season ranking.
Some still weren't believers. What would it take for Revere to earn their respect in the pitcher friendly FSL? After missing the FSL batting championship by two points.....Revere has impressed me and should have quieted many of his critics. Reports that I have read indicate that Revere has made progress in his defensive game. At the plate, he hit .311/.372/.369 in 466 at bats with the league's most hits (145), third most runs scored (75), third most steals (45 in 62 attempts) and fourth best OBP (.372). Revere, who took more walks (40) than strikeouts (34), still has some aspects of his game that needs work, however, I believe my top ranked player in 2009 is a special player who will be an exciting addition to the Twins beginning sometime in 2011.
Ben Revere, Angel Morales, Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni are all solid or better center fielders. Perhaps the biggest problem the Twins will have in a couple years is deciding which has the highest upside as they certainly won't be able to keep all five in the organization.....or can they?