Major League Baseball teams need to draft well and develop that talent to remain competitive. Even the Yankees focus on player development these days, and nobody will ever have a higher payroll than that organization. For a few years, the Twins were baseball's darlings for player development.
Who could blame them? They won division titles with, largely, talent they cultivated, so who could blame baseball for falling all over themselves for a team who not only fought off contraction but was able to win, year after year, on a smaller budget with mostly home-grown talent? Between 1999 and 2004, the Twins introduced (more than a cup of coffee) an impressive list of impact players (products who would eventually post at least one 3+ WAR season with the Twins, per BaseballReference.com):
That's a pretty good list, even if a few of them (Ford, Redman, Mays) had most of their value tied up in one season. But over the next seven years, from 2005 through 2011, the Twins introduced a much smaller list of impact players. Check it out after the jump.
Minnesota hasn't produced an impact player since Duensing in 2009, and it's dubious as to whether he'd be able to post another 3-win season. Span was the last position player introduced (2008), and the first since '04 (Mauer, Kubel) who is still with the team.
The Twins have players who could be stars in their system. I believe that Liam Hendriks
, Chris Parmelee
, and Joe Benson
all have the ability to post a three-win season or two, although perhaps not in the next couple of years. Does Ben Revere
have that kind of ceiling? He was just 0.8 wins above replacement in 2011, in spite of his stellar defense. Everyone else, from Kyle Gibson
to Aaron Hicks
to Miguel Sano, is at least two years away.
Competitive teams stay competitive because they find ways to bring fresh blood into the mix. For the Twins this has always been through the draft, because they couldn't be big bidders in free agency. But now, with the lack of impact player development, they're in a position where they don't just need their established players to perform as expected, they need to hope for a diamond in the rough (or three) to help them bridge the gap of the next two years or so.
Once again I'll say the Twins are at a crossroads. How they move this winter will tell us everything we need to know about their future plans. They'll attempt to patch together a roster that they hope will compete, or they're going to put together a plan that sets them up to re-take the AL Central circa 2014. Either way, the front office has their work cut out for them, because piecing together a good roster which has introduced one impact bat through the system since 2004 is not an easy thing to do.