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Minor League Report...2011 All-Star Team

In previous years, my all-star team has been posted over Thanksgiving at Seth Stohs' site. This year we decided it should be posted here at Twinkie Town. Because of the holiday, I am posting this on Wednesday rather than Saturday.

The 2011 Twins All-Star Team includes the players who I believe were the top players at their position from all seven teams in the organization. This team includes eight position players, a designated hitter, right and left handed starting and set-up pitchers, a long reliever and closer. The fifteen players call six different nations home. Eight were acquired in the annual draft, five signed as international free agents, one an undrafted college signing and one minor league free agent. Four of the fifteen spent their entire season at New Britain with another seven also with the Rock Cats for part of their season. Although 2011 was disappointing in the win-loss column for the organization, this team includes a very good group of players. Will most of them play for the Twins someday?

I will return on December 3rd with my review of the Gulf Coast League Twins season. We also will begin voting for the annual Twinkie Town Top 50 immediately following the winter meetings.

The 2011 All-Star team follows the jump. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!

Catcher - Chris Herrmann

Although Herrmann is also an excellent defensive corner outfielder, he played 60 of his 83 games at New Britain behind the plate. Chris began his season in Ft. Myers where he hit for a .310 batting average with a .829 OPS in 87 at bats. With the Rock Cats, he hit a respectable .258 average with a .771 OPS in 337 at bats with fourteen doubles, five triples, seven home runs and nine stolen bases. Herrmann ended his year playing for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League. He was one of their top hitters with a .380 average in 50 at bats with a 1.076 OPS, six doubles, two home runs and three stolen bases. He was also one of six players nominated for the AFL's prestigious Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, given annually to the player who best demonstrates unselfishness, hard work and leadership.

First Base - Chris Parmelee

Parmelee played in every one of New Britain's 142 games before joining the Twins for an impressive September. Chris finished with the Eastern League's fifteenth best average (.287) and OPS (.801), seventeenth most doubles (30), sixth most runs scored (76), and third most runs driven in (83). In 530 at bats, he had three triples and thirteen home runs as he was a major force in New Britain's season long battle to make the playoffs. He also worked hard to improve defensively as he was charged with only five errors. When the Twins needed players in September, Chris got the call. While with the Twins he opened a lot of eyes, hitting .355 average with four home runs in 21 games (76 at bats).

Second Base - Yangervis Solarte

Solarte was another Rock Cat who had an excellent season, leading the team in hitting with the league's second best average (.329) in 459 at bats. Solarte also had the league's fifth most doubles (36) and tenth best slugging percentage (.466). He was one of the most consistent players in the league as he did not hit under .300 average any month of the season. After spending several years playing all over the diamond, Solarte played 89 games at second and only sixteen games in the outfield. Solarte elected to become a six year free agent after the Twins failed to add him to their 40-man roster last month.

Shortstop - Brian Dozier

The Twins believe that Dozier had the best season of any player in the organization, selecting him as their Player of the Year. Dozier spent his first 49 games in Ft. Myers where he hit for a .322 average in 180 at bats with a .895 OPS and thirteen stolen bases. Whereas most players have a significant drop in their performance when they move up to AA, Dozier's numbers with New Britain were nearly identical to his performance at Hi-A. With the Rock Cats, Dozier hit for a .318 average in 311 at basts with a .885 OPS and eleven stolen bases. He scored 60 runs while hitting 22 doubles, seven triples and seven home runs. Dozier played primarily shortstop, where he had only four errors in 60 games. Dozier took another important step following the season, hitting for a .296 average with a .811 OPS in 108 at bats with three home runs in the AFL. Having been an all-star selection in the Appalachian League and twice in the Florida State League, Dozier was selected to play in the AFL Rising Stars game. Although it is unlikely he will make the Twins roster on opening day, don't be surprised if he is the Twins shortstop at the end of the 2012 season.

Third Base - Miguel Sano

The lone infielder not from New Britain is Miguel Sano, who many fans believe is the Twins top prospect. We have heard a lot about him since he signed with the Twins for a $3.15mm bonus as a sixteen year old in 2009. Most eighteen year olds from the Dominican Republic are playing either in the DSL or Gulf Coast League. But not the special players, players like Sano. Playing in the advanced rookie Appalachian League where the average player was 20.4 years old, Sano was a teenager who played better than young men. He hit for a .292 average in 267 at bats with the league's third best slugging percentage (.637), third best OPS (.988), second most runs scored (58), third most runs driven in (59), eighth most doubles (18), and second most triples (7). Whereas most of the power hitting Elizabethton Twins in previous years hit fifteen home runs or less, Sano hit twenty. That would have been the most in the Appy League since 2004 (Mitch Einertson is the all-time Appy League home run champ with 24 in 2004), had his roommate not hit one more. Yes, Sano made fifteen errors in 48 games at third and another eleven in sixteen games at short. As his manager has pointed out he has a lot of work ahead of him, but he has a lot of talent and a very high ceiling.

Left Field - Joe Benson

The Twins 2010 Player of the Year didn't disappoint in his second season in New Britain. After hitting an organization best 27 home runs in 2010, Benson hit only sixteen in 2011. But that is the only category that was down as he hit for a .285 average with the league's fourth best OPS (.883). Although he missed several weeks on the disabled list and had only 400 at bats, he had the league's twelfth most runs driven in (67), twentieth most runs scored (69) and doubles (28). One aspect of his game needing work has been too many strikeouts and too few walks. He reduced the number of strikeouts a bit, from .296 per at bat in 2010 to .271. Equally important, his walk rate went up from 9.2% at New Britain in 2010 to 11.9% this year. Benson has been playing alongside Parmelee since they were drafted in the first two rounds of the 2006 draft. That held when both joined the Twins in September. Benson hit for only a .239 average in 71 at basts with the Twins with his inexperience evident in many at bats, striking out 21 times. What was also evident is his tremendous athleticism, both defensively and on the bases. Benson certainly needs time in AAA, however, he clearly has the ability to become a star with the Twins within a few years.

Center Field - Eddie Rosario

Many have been high on Rosario since the Twins selected him out of Puerto Rico in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. After leading the GCL with 22 stolen bases in 2010, he went on to be the Appalachian League co-MVP this year. At the plate, Rosario and Sano were a force unseen in the Appy league for some time. Rosario finished his season with the league's third best average (.337), top slugging percentage (.670) and second best OPS (1.068). He had the second most hits (91) and runs driven in (60), most runs scored (71), triples (9) and home runs (21). The speedy centerfielder also stole seventeen bases while being thrown out six times. He and his roommate will likely move up to Beloit together next year where the Twins are toying with the idea of moving him to second base. A speedy second baseman who is also a dominant power hitter doesn't come along often. I can remember only one and he moved to right field when he got to the big leagues in Milwaukee fifty some years ago.

Right Field - Oswaldo Arcia

Arcia followed up his MVP season in the Appy League with a tremendous start with Beloit. Although limited to designated hitter by an elbow injury, Arcia hit for a .352 average with five home runs and a 1.124 OPS in 71 at bats in April. The Twins placed him on the disabled list on May 1st. Following elbow surgery, he returned in early July. He didn't return to Beloit however, as the Twins promoted him to Ft. Myers. After having the benefit of only a month at Beloit and missing two months, his numbers were down at Ft. Myers where he hit for a .263 average with a .760 OPS in 213 at bats. He continued to hit for power as nearly half of his 56 hits went for extra bases, including fourteen doubles, two triples and a team high eight home runs. Like most minor league power hitters, Arcia needs to cut down on his strikeouts and take more walks. Fan excitement about this young Venezuelan was confirmed by the Twins last week when Arcia was added to their 40-man roster.

Designated Hitter - Jairo Perez

Perez missed all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery. He began this year in extended spring training and no one in the Midwest League hit better than he did after he joined the Snappers in May. Perez, who played mostly third base for Beloit, hit for a league best .337 average with a .992 OPS including a team second best fifteen home runs, twenty doubles, 60 runs driven in and eleven stolen bases. Unfortunately, his 276 at bats weren't enough to qualify for the league title. Because he has missed so much time to injury, the 23 year old Perez was old for low A ball. His play in 2012 will tell us a lot about what type of prospect he is and what his future may hold.

Right Handed Starting Pitcher - Liam Hendriks

Hendriks was selected as the Twins Pitcher of the Year for a year that began in New Britain and ended on the mound at Target Field. Although it is likely he will begin 2012 in Rochester, Hendriks demonstrated he just may be a front of the rotation starter similar to former Twins Ace Brad Radke. He began 2011 dominating hitters in the Eastern League where he had a 8-2 record with a 2.70 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 81 strikeouts and 18 walks in fifteen starts (90.0 innings). Hendriks moved up to Rochester in mid-July, starting nine games (49.1 innings) with a 4-4 record, 4.56 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 30 strikeouts and only three walks. When the Twins were desperate for starters in September, Hendriks joined the parent club where he made four starts. He was 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA in 23.1 innings for the Twins. For those of us who watched him for the first time we saw a pitcher who has excellent control and a big future, albeit a pitcher who probably needs another half season at Rochester.

Left Handed Starting Pitcher - Logan Darnell

Darnell was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Kentucky. He began this year in Beloit where he had a 2-2 record with a 3.78 ERA in six starts (33.1 innings). He moved on to Ft. Myers where he was the Miracle's winningest pitcher with a 8-3 record in fifteen starts. In 86.1 innings, he had a 4.17 ERA, 46 strikeouts and 25 walks. Darnell earned a late season promotion to New Britain, where he made five starts (30.2 innings) with a 1-1 record, 5.58 ERA and 20 strikeouts. After issuing too many free passes in Ft. Myers, it was great to see him walk only four batters at New Britain. Moving up two levels together with eight wins in eleven decisions for the Miracle where the highlights of his excellent first full professional season.

Right Handed Set-up Reliever - Cole DeVries

The former Gopher from Eden Prairie began his season as the organization's Pitcher of the Month for April. His stay in New Britain wouldn't last long as a 2.28 ERA in fifteen games (27.2 innings) with 33 strikeouts and five walks demanded a promotion. It came in May when he moved on to Rochester where he was one of their most successful pitchers. Cole appeared in 30 games (62.1 innings) for the Red Wings including two late season starts. He finished with a 4-2 record, 3.90 ERA, 42 strikeouts and 18 walks. After the season was over, DeVries joined Mesa in the Arizona Fall League. He was one of the Solar Sox top starters with a 2-1 record in eight starts (26.0 innings) with a 3.12 ERA, nineteen strikeouts and only three walks. DeVries was not added to the Twins 40-man roster meaning he is subject to next month's Rule 5 draft. He isn't a hard throwing reliever, thus, the Twins are betting he won't be selected. Fifty-eight percent of the readers at Twinkie Town disagree.

Left Handed Set-up Reliever - Tyler Robertson

Prior to this season, Robertson had made 95 starts and three relief appearances. Thus, everything about the game was new for him when he began the season as a short reliever at New Britain. It didn't take long for Robertson to earn his manager's trust as the Red Wings' closer. As he became familiar with his new role, his ERA was nearly cut in half the second half fo the season (4.47 to 2.29). Robertson finished with sixteen saves, the Rock Cats most wins (10-3), a 3.61 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 88 strikeouts and 29 walks in 55 games (89.2 innings). Although he isn't a hard thrower, he is known as a gound ball machine. The Twins recognize what he accomplished this past year as they recently added him to their 40-man roster.

Long Relief - Andrew Albers

Could the Twins have expected that one of their least publicized signings last winter would be a pitcher who would pitch as well as anyone in the organization? A former draft pick of the San Diego Padres, Albers is a Canadian who played his college ball at the University of Kentucky. He worked mostly out of the bullpen at Ft. Myers, appearing in 22 games (52.1 innings) with a 4-1 record, 1.55 ERA, 46 strikeouts and seven walks. He moved on to New Britain where he had an identical record in thirteen games with five starts. In 43.1 innings, Albers had a 2.91 ERA with 34 strikeouts and seven walks. In 35 games, he had a combined record of 8-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 95.2 innings. Like DeVries, Albers is another valuable reliever who could be at some risk of loss in the Rule 5 draft.

Closer - Matt Hauser

Hauser was the Twins seventh round selection of the 2010 draft out of the University of San Diego. He began his season in Beloit where he appeared in seventeen games (19.1 innings) with a 3-0 record, five saves, 1.40 ERA, 27 strikeouts and thirteen walks. He earned an early summer promotion to Ft. Myers where he appeared in 24 games (41.2 innings). Although he had a losing record (2-6), he picked up another seven saves with an excellent 2.16 ERA, 44 strikeouts and sixteen walks. Like Darnell, Hauser earned a second promotion to New Britain late in the year where he made one appearance. His combined ERA at three stops was 1.98 in 42 games (63.2 innings) with 75 strikeouts (10.6 per 9 innings).