2010 Twinkie Town Top 50 Review...1 thru 5

We will begin our review of the 2010 Twinkie Town Top 50 with the Top Five, Miguel Sano, Aaron Hicks, Wilson Ramos, Kyle Gibson and Ben Revere. Did they perform as expected? Will they again head our Top 50 when we begin voting next month?

1 - Miguel Sano

For much of last summer we followed the story surrounding Angel Miguel Sano. Major League Baseball was looking into his age. Was he really 16? If he was, could the Twins compete with the deep pocket teams and sign the top International prospect of 2009? To complicate matters further, it was unclear whether his first name was Angel or Miguel and was his last name Sano or Jean.

Finally September came and Major League Baseball issued a statement saying that they had been unable to determine that he wasn't 16. And then came the biggest surprise of all, the Twins announced that they had signed Sano to a contract with a $3,150,000 bonus, subject to a physical and his obtaining the appropriate visa. Shorty after that announcement the readers of Twinkie Town selected Sano as their Top prospect prior to his taking his first professional at bat.

What would Sano need to accomplish in his first professional season to confirm his lofty status and repeat as our Top prospect? And more important, did he do it?

Sano began his career in Ft. Myers this past March, as part of a small group of prospects working on fundamentals on a back field every morning with a single coach. He would return to his native Dominican Republc in June when the Dominican Summer League began. Sano, who had just turned 17, found himself playing in a league where the average age was 18.4 years old and the average hitter hit for a .235 average.

What would Sano need to do to confirm his lofty expectations? Although he only played in 20 games (64 at bats) before moving back to Ft. Myers, Sano hit .344/.463/.547 with a team leading three home runs. In a league that had an average OPS of .645, Sano's 1.009 OPS confirmed that he just may be as good as all the hype surrounding his signing suggested.

Sano returned to Ft. Myers and the GCL Twins in July. The average age of the GCL was 19.6 with the average hitter hitting .247/.321/.349. Sano played in 41 games for the Twins, getting 148 at bats with a hitting line of .291/.338/.466. Had he had enough at bats to qualify, Sano would have had the league's eleventh best average, sixth best slugging percentage and his .804 OPS would have been eighth best. Accomplishing all of this at the age of 17 suggests that the Twins may have known what they were doing when they opened their checkbook to sign this special prospect. Baseball America agreed when they recently selected Miguel Sano as their second ranked prospect in the Gulf Coast League.

2 - Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks has been thought of by many as a player with the highest ceiling of anyone in the organization. A player who would blossom into that special player who a future championship Twins team could be built around. Thus, when Hicks returned to Beloit this year for a second season it was a surprise to most fans. Afther all, hadn't Baseball America named Hicks the top prospect in the Midwest League the prior season?

Most assumed that Hicks stay in Beloit would be a short one and he would move on to Ft. Myers where his star would continue to brighten. That progress was not to be as Hicks spent his entire season in Beloit, hitting .279/.401/.428 in 423 at bats with 27 doubles, 6 triples, and 8 home runs. Yes, Hicks would hit over 50 points better (.308 average vs. .256 average) following the all-star break. But at year end, Hicks found himself amongst league leaders in only two categories. His 88 walks were fifth in the league and his .401 OBP was sixth. While 88 walks were a positive aspect of his play, 112 strikeouts (26.4%) was an area of his game that he needs to improve.

Hicks is a young prospect who continues to have all the tools that earned him a lofty ranking from Baseball America. However, not dominating while repeating at a low-A league caused Baseball America to drop Hicks to their fifth ranked prospect this year. Will he slide out of the Twinkie Town Top five when we begin voting next month?

3 - Wilson Ramos

Wilson Ramos began his season battling for the Twins backup catcher job when it was learned that Jose Morales' recovery from wrist surgery would keep him off the opening day roster. Whether Drew Butera won the spot or the Twins preferred to have Ramos play every day, Ramos began his season in Rochester.

While with the Red Wings, Ramos did not hit like the top prospect many believed him to be as he began the season in a slump and would go on to hit only .241/.280/.345 in 278 at bats. Yes, he would have his brief stay with the Twins where he seemed to hit everything hard and got on base nearly every at bat in his first two games. After starting several games when Mauer was injured, Ramos returned to Rochester with eight hits in his first twenty-seven major league at bats (.296/.321/.407).

Then came the biggest surprise of the summer, Ramos was traded to Washington for closer Matt Capps. He appeared to be a different hitter after moving ninety miles down the New York Thruway to Syracuse, where he hit .316/.341/.494 in 79 at bats with three home runs. Late in the season the Nationals called up Ramos, who would hit .269/.296/.404 in 52 at bats with his first major league home run.

4 - Kyle Gibson

Kyle Gibson is another player who received a lofty ranking from the readers of Twinkie Town without having thrown his first professional pitch. This former first round pick had injured his arm (a stress fracture in his forearm) late in his college season and didn't pitch for the Twins following his signing literally at the eleventh hour of the final day that players from the 2009 draft where eligible to sign.

Based on his 2008 college season and summer ball, Gibson was considered by many to be a top five draft pick. He had made all of the medical information from his injury (which was not considerd career threatening) available to all teams interested, yet, teams continued to pass on him as he fell to the Twins late in the first round. In another move unlike the Twins of the past, they jumped on the opportunity to draft him knowing that it would likely take an above slot bonus to get his signature on a contract. That turned out to be true as they signed him for $1,800,000+ which was about 50% above the suggested slot from where he was drafted.

Gibson began his career with the Twins in last fall's Instructional League. The few people to comment about him glowed as to what we could expect in the future. In another move unusual for the Twins, Gibson began his career in the Florida State League where he was a mid-season all-star. After posting a 4-1 record with a 1.87 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in seven starts (43.1 innings), Gibson moved on to New Britain. While in New Britain, Gibson pitched so well that he earned recognition from Baseball America as their seventh ranked Eastern League prospect. On a team that was one of the worst in franchise history, Gibson posted a 7-5 record with a 3.68 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 16 starts (93.0 innings). The Twins kept Gibson on a fast track as he finished his first professional season in Rochester where he had an excellent 1.72 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in three starts (15.2 innings).

Gibson is not the hard throwing Ace that many fans would like to see at the front of the Twins rotation. He is however, an excellent pitcher who just may have the ability to be the front of the rotation Ace the Twins are looking for. Although it would be a long shot to consider him to win a spot in the Twins starting rotation in the spring, it is likely we will see him before the summer is over.

5 - Ben Revere

Ben Revere has had to battle the skeptics since the moment the Twins selected him late in the first round of the 2007 draft. None of the experts wanted to listen to the Twins scouts who had fallen in love with this young man and were certain he would be gone when they next drafted some sixty picks later. All the draft experts were certain that Revere didn't merit a first round selection and the Twins were just being cheap. After all, he was to small, lacked power or for whatever other reason they believed he would be a failure.

Like a certain Twins centerfielder a few years ahead of thim, Revere took all the lack of respect as a challenge. When he hit for a .325 Average in the GCL, well, it was a rookie league and he had a weak arm. He skipped the Appy League the following year and nearly hit .400 in Beloit. When the Twins named him their Player of the Year, the skeptics believed he couldn't be successful with his lack of power, he was thrown out stealing to often and he certainly couldn't repeat that performance in Ft. Myers. And they were right, Revere didn't flirt with .400 but he did repeat as the Twins Player of the Year by hitting for a .311 average with a .372 OBP and 45 stolen bases.

Revere spent this year at New Britain where he seemed to be out with an injury every couple weeks. Revere played through five different injuries including what was thought to be a season ending beaning when he was hit with a pitch in early August that broke the orbital bone surrounding his right eye in two places. In between all the injuries, Revere hit for an excellent .305 average which was second best in the league. His .371 on base percentage was ninth best and his 36 stolen bases (in 49 attempts) where third best in the league.

As the disappointing Rock Cats season ended, Revere was thrilled to have gotten back on the field following his beaning so that he would be able to play in the Arizona Fall League. But before heading out to Arizona, the Twins had a big surprise as they added him to the 40-man roster and called him up when they were in need of an extra outfielder. Revere's play was limited while with the Twins as he hit only .179 (5-28). But what an experience to be with the Twins throughout their September drive for the playoffs. After the Twins season ended, Ben reported to the Peoria Saguaros where he is one of the top hitters in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Revere is hitting .391/.443/.453 in 64 at basts with the league's sixth best average, most hits (25), and is tied for the most stolen bases (8) without being thrown out a single time.

His experience with the Twins will be huge as Revere works to earn a spot with the 2011 Twins. His being called up also tells us a lot about what the Twins see in this young man who is on the verge of exploding onto the Minnesota sports scene with a smile we haven't seen since the days when Kirby patrolled centerfield.

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