Twinkie Town Top 50 Review...36 thru 40

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone at Twinkie Town an enjoyable Thanksgiving. Hopefully, Y'all will be with friends and family on this special day. Also, please jump over to Seth's site to see my sixth annual "Organization All-Star Team."

Prospects 36 through 40 includes a player who was out of the organization within a few weeks of our selections. That isn't likely to happen this year, however, Kyle Waldrop could be gone by the time we will begin our selection of the 2011 prospects.

Our 36th through 40th prospects last year were: Kyle Waldrop (36), Jorge Polanco (37), Steve Tolleson (38), Blayne Weller (39), and Brad Tippett (40).

36 - Kyle Waldrop

Waldrop is a former starter who was on the fast track towards Minnesota, when shoulder surgery put him on the disabled list for the entire 2008 season. When he returned, the Twins moved Waldrop to the bullpen where he has become one of the best relievers in the organization.

Waldrop spent last season at AAA Rochester, where he was one of the best relievers in the league before the all-star break. He wasn't as effective towards the seasons end and although his numbers were excellent, they do not reflect how dominant he was for the first three months. Waldrop finished with a 5-3 record and a 2.57 ERA on a team that was within a few losses of having the worst season in their 100+ year history. Waldrop walked only 20 batters in 87.2 innings with 60 strikeouts. Following the season, Waldrop joined the Twins contingent with the Peoria Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. He didn't put up good numbers in Arizona, finishing with a 16.05 ERA in only 12.1 innings.

With all the uncertainties in the Twins bullpen this winter and Waldrop being close to being big league ready, most thought he would be added to the 40 man roster. That didn't happen, however, Kyle was assigned to the Twins. I expect that move was done to protect him from being selected in the minor league segment of the Rule V draft. If Waldrop makes it through the draft, look for him to compete for a spot in the Twins bullpen next spring.

37 - Jorge Polanco

We all remember all the hype surrounding the 2009 signings of Miguel Sano and Max Kepler-Rozycki. Although he signed for similar money as Kepler-Rozycki, we didn't hear as much about the sixteen year old Polanco. When signed, reports said that Polanco was a youngster with a phenominal glove, however, was thought to be a light hitting prospect.

It isn't easy to put much faith in fielding numbers in the DSL and GCL, however, the few reports available suggest Polanco is a gifted defensive player. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that his offensive production wasn't as weak as many thought when we heard of his signing a year earlier. Polanco played only 18 games for the DSL Twins. While in the DSL, Polanco hit .250/.309/.283 in 60 at bats which is respectable for a young man who didn't celebrate his seventeenth birthday until early July when he returned to Florida. Polanco would go on to hit .223/.299/.301 in 103 at bats for the GCL Twins. On the surgace, those numbers aren't great. Yet, when one considers that the league average was .247/.321/.349 they don't look terrible, especially considering Polanco was two and a half years younger than the average GCL player.

Polanco could return to the GCL next year or a strong spring could see him moving up to Elizabethton. All indications are that all of these big signings from 2009 could be very special, including Jorge Polanco.

38 - Steve Tolleson

Tolleson was one of those prospects who may have been under appreciated by us in last year's voting. He also may have been underappreciated by the Twins, who lost him to Oakland last December.

This season, Tolleson hit .332/.412/.503 in 292 at bats in the AAA Pacific Coast League. He also made several appearances with the A's, hitting .286/.340/.408 in 49 at bats. There is a belief that the Twins viewed him as another utility player, similar to Matt Tolbert and several players at Rochester and New Britain. His performance this year may indicate that he is better than that and could be a future starter.

39 - Blayne Weller

Together with B. J. Hermsen and Michael Tonkin, Weller was one of a trio of highly touted high school pitchers drafted in 2008. After putting up a 5-1 record with a 1.58 ERA in the GCL in 2009, expectations were high that he would excel in the Appalachian League this season.

With more experienced college players in the Appy League, Weller couldn't match the performance of his 2009 season. He would make thirteen starts for Elizabethton, winning three of nine decisions with a 4.57 ERA. The Twins counted on him as his 65.0 innings were only an inning less than the staff leader. Although he struck out 55 batters while walking only 16, he couldn't match the 3.81 league average ERA.

Weller will turn 21 shortly after the first of the year and should be ready to move up another level next spring. Depending on how he pitches in spring training, I look for the Twins to push him up to Beloit where he will have another opportunity of pitching as he did in the GCL in 2009.

40 - Brad Tippett

Tippett's career has been one of many disappointments, all related to his health. Since coming to America from Australia as an 18 year old in 2006, Tippett has given us glimpses of being special. In 2007, he compiled a 7-1 record with a 0.93 ERA in 21 games of relief (38.2 innings) for Elizabethton. He would make 24 starts for Beloit in 2009 with a 9-8 record and 3.21 ERA.

This past season however, he missed a lot of time with injuries. Pitching in only ten games for Ft. Myers, including five starts, Tippett wouldn't impress as he lost both of his decisions with a disappointing 6.28 ERA in 28.2 innings. We need to disregard the numbers as he was battling an injury much of the summer after posting an excellent 3.60 ERA in 15.0 April innings.

Next season will be Tippett's sixth in the Twins organization. If he can stay healthy, he can be a solid pitcher as either a starter or out of the bullpen. The question is...will he be healthy? If so, look for him to begin back at Ft. Myers. If not, he is approaching a time in his career when his relationship with the Twins could end.

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