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2008 Minor League Wrap: Twins Top Outfielders

I actually debated on making this a list of seven, since it's really as arbitrary as five, but in the end five is really enough.  There'll be a couple of honorable mentions at the end.

There were a number of stellar performances by rookie outfielders for Twins minor leaguers this year.  As we've seen with Ozzie Lewis, having a great rookie campaign doesn't easily translate to success at the next level of the farm system, but combining that with disappointing or stagnant years from popular guys like Joe Benson and Brandon Roberts, the talent of a couple of these rookies can't be ignored.

The only guys who are exempt from this list are, plain and simply, guys who have logged major league service time this season.  So no Carlos Gomez, no Denard Span and, yes, there will be no Jason Pridie.

Number 5:  Evan Bigley, Elizabethton (R)

Born:  03/1987    Bats/Throws:  R/R
300/360/587, .296 ISO, 5.7% BB, 17.9% K, 47% GB, 17% LD, .331 BABIP

Evan Bigley was drafted in the tenth round of the 2008 draft, as the 306th overall draft pick.  Over-shadowed by the squad's top pick in the draft, who was also an outfielder, Bigley quietly put together a solid season with Elizabethton in the Rookie Appalachian League.  Even though the 21-year old out of Dallas Baptist isn't the youngest, he's a collegiate draft pick who dominated a young league.  Picking up where he'd left off in college, he powered his way to a .300/.360/.587 line.  He didn't strike out too much, and he walked even less, but he made good contact.  Combine that with a .296 ISO, and Bigley punished rookie league pitchers.  His 14 home runs were second on the team.

Number 4:  Aaron Hicks, GCL (R)

Born:  10/1989    Bats/Throws:  S/R
318/409/491, .177 ISO, 14.9% BB, 15.3% K, 53% GB, 8% LD, .366 BABIP

Aaron Hicks was the Twins' first overall pick in June's draft, an athletic and "toolsy" outfielder who could have been drafted as a pitcher.  At 18, the high-schooler from Long Beach took Gulf Coast League pitchers by storm, destroying rookie league pitching to the tune of .318/.409/.491.  He nabbed 12 bags in 14 attempts (in 45 games), and legged out a number of extra-base hits.  The hour homers aren't bad, but it's the four triples and 10 doubles that truly impress and help give Hicks more power than I expected.  He's a string bean right now, but like all developing men before him will fill out, and if he can continue to grow he'll become a unique threat at the plate and on the bases.  His patience and pitch selection make him a prime candidate for a top-of-the-order role, walking in nearly 15% of his plate appearances.  In the field he's raw, like most 18-year old outfielders not named Ken Griffey Jr., but at this stage it's nothing to lose any sleep over.

Number 3:  Rene Tosoni, Fort Myers (A+)

Born:  07/1986    Bats/Throws:  L/R
300/408/414, .114 ISO, 12.9% BB, 17.6% K, 56% GB, 15% LD, .376 BABIP

Rene Tosoni, as a 36th round selection in 2005, has really blossomed with the Twins after coming over from Chipola College.  In hi-A Fort Myers after a great rookie campaign with Elizabethton last year, the 22-year old (in his age-21 campaign, by the way) is fast moving up radars focused on Minnesota's farm system outfielders.  He followed up a wicked '07 campaign with an equally impressive '08, hitting .300/.408/.414, with very little power but excellent plate discipline.  The unfortunate thing, for Tosoni, was that it all could have been so much better.  He broke his leg on May 16th, returning for just six games at the end of August.  While his return was naturally unimpressive (1-for-14, three walks, two strikeouts), the fact that he was able to return at all IS impressive.  With the potential to be a good all-around outfielder, hopefully Tosoni can pick up in 2009 where it looked like he was headed in 2008.

Number 2:  Angel Morales, Elizabethton (R)

Born:  11/1989    Bats/Throws:  R/R
301/413/623, .328 ISO, 10.8% BB, 33.0%K, 26% GB, 17% LD, .411 BABIP

In 54 games with Elizabethton this summer, Angel Morales made a name for himself.  For his size and age, Morales has a powerful swing, hitting 15 homers to lead the team and flashing an imposing .328 ISO.  He spent 38 games with the GCL Twins in 2007 as a 17-year old, where he struck out in 31% of his plate appearances.  This year, while he increased his walk rate nearly 30% (up to 10.8% of plate appearances), he's still a strikeout machine, going down on an entire third of his trips to the dish.  Considering that, the trigger-happy Morales is still a great hitter, proving it by belting a .301/.413/.623 line in 183 at-bats.  In the field he's got a good arm, an accurate arm, and if you're someone who likes to listen to scouting reports you'll also like his "five-tool prospect" status, as well as his comparisons to Carlos Beltran.  After a full season and change in the minors, Morales will be ready to leave the rookie leagues in 2009.  At just 18, Morales has a pretty high ceiling, so I'm looking forward to him seeing better pitching next summer.

Number 1:  Ben Revere, Beloit (A)

Born:  05/1988    Bats/Throws:  L/R
379/433/497, .118 ISO, 7.7% BB, 8.3% K, 62% GB, 15% LD, .414 BABIP

Was this a no-brainer?  No, but Ben Revere still gets the obvious spot.  After hitting nearly .400 on the season in Beloit, the 20-year old center fielder finished his second year in the system with a .379/.433/.497 line.  A shockingly fast center fielder, Revere stole 44 bases in 2008, giving him 65 in just 133 minor league games.  His plate discipline and strike zone judgement both improved this season, and while he doesn't walk as often as you'd like a player of his profile to, there are two things that currently help off-set that fact.  First, he's a difficult player to strike out, getting sent down on strikes in just 8.3% of his plate appearances this season.  Second, he's a speedy contact hitter.  15% of his balls in play were line drives, and in spite of 62% of his balls in play being ground balls he still managed a .414 BABIP.  Right now his speed hels off-set the low walk rate, but hopefully as he develops he'll be able to augment the speed with better strike zone judgement as well.  In spite of nearly slugging .500 he doesn't have much power, and considering his profile an ISO of .118 (like he posted with Beloit) could very well be a constant.  In the field he's growing, still adjusting to better hitters and getting good reads off wooden bats, but as long as he continues to develop his very impressive skills he'll be just fine.  Revere has a nice arm, and with his speed should continue to cover some very impressive ground in the outfield.

Runners-up:  Dustin Martin (24, AA), Michael Harrington (22, R)