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Minor League Report...February 25, 2012

I will be using this report the next three weeks to select the Twinkie Town pre-season selections for Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Relief Pitcher of the Year.

We will begin this week with the Player of the Year. I will briefly discuss several good candidates today. You can make an argument for any player you like that I haven't included in the comments section. I will then post a poll on Tuesday so that you can vote on the pre-season Player of the Year.

The player we are selecting is the player we believe the Twins will name as their Player of the Year, which is different than who is the top prospect. Although someone from our Top Five could be that player, history has shown that the Player of the Year won't be from amongst this group. Last year Brian Dozier had a great year after being ranked low on most Top 50s. The year before, Joe Benson was a good prospect but not in some Top 10s.

Based on history, it is unlikely that a player playing his entire year in rookie ball will be selected as their Player of the Year. Therefore, I won't include any player who will likely spend his year with the GCL Twins or Elizabethton. I will discuss those I believe should be included after the jump. Let me know who I am missing and why.

Miguel Sano and Joe Benson were included in BA's Top 100 and at or near the top of most prospect rankings. Sano, who won't turn 19 until after the Midwest League season begins, hit a respectable .292 average with 20 home runs in a short season league. Sano can maintain a .290 average at Beloit where he could also hit more than 30 home runs. If he does, he can be both the top prospect and Player of the Year.

Joe Benson showed us how exciting he can be while with the Twins last September. We also saw that he needs experience and to cut down on his strikeouts. Can reduce his strikeouts to a rate of less than 20%? If he maintains a .285 average at Rochester with more than 20 home runs, he could be the Player of the Year for the second time in three years.

Aaron Hicks has all the physical talent anyone could ask for. Unfortunately, he hasn't put it together on the field. Baseball America ranked him fourth in the organization while dropping him out of their Top 100. Hitting for only a .242 average at Fort Myers with five home runs isn't exciting, especially for a top prospect. Some will argue that his 78 walks are a positive, while others will counter that he is too passive at the plate. Striking out 110 times (roughly 25%) is a concern as is his lack of progress from the left side of the plate. What was encouraging was his .294 average, including .258 left handed, in the Arizona Fall League where he cut his strikeout rate to 20%. He also hit three home runs in 102 at bats. If he plays at New Britain as he did in Arizona he will be a strong contender for a year end award.

Perhaps the most likely highly ranked candidates to win post-season awards are two exciting Latin outfielders, Eddie Rosario and Oswaldo Arcia. Rosario, who may be moved to second base, needs to continue hitting at Beloit as he did at Elizabethton. Look for him to hit well over .300 average with 20+ home runs and more than 30 stolen bases. After a torrid April at Beloit where he hit .352/1.124 OPS with five home runs, Arcia was shut down for over two months with an elbow injury. When he returned he was promoted to Fort Myers where his average was down (.263), however, he led the Miracle with eight home runs while playing less than half the season. Whether he begins 2012 back at Fort Myers or in New Britain, Arcia should get his average back above .300 while hitting 20 or more home runs. Both of these exciting young prospects are capable of putting up eye popping numbers.

Other strong candidates for this award include Levi Michael, Chris Parmelee, Brian Dozier and Chris Herrmann. Many believe that Michael should not have been available when drafted by the Twins with the thirtieth overall selection. He played through various injuries at North Carolina, injuries so severe that he wasn't 100% in the Fall Instructional League. Look for Michael to put up numbers similar to what Brian Dozier did this past year. Chris Parmelee seemed to put it all together after joining the Twins last fall. After hitting for a .287 average with 13 home runs in 530 at bats at New Britain, Parmelee hit four home runs in 76 at bats with the Twins while posting a .355 average. No one expects him to go back to Rochester this spring and hit .355, however, more than 20 home runs and a .300 average should solidify Parmelee as a future starter for the Twins.

What does Dozier need to do to repeat? Just continue doing what he has done the past two years. Should Dozier hit .320/.890 OPS next year at Rochester or at New Britain and Rochester combined, he will likely make his debut with the Twins by September at the latest. Herrmann had a tremendous year moving from off most prospect rankings to a consensus Top 10 pick this winter. If Herrmann continues to play as he did in 2011 at New Britain or Rochester, does he deserve to be the Twins Player of the Year?

Other long shots that could play their way to post-season recognition include JaDamion Williams and Niko Goodrum. With Rosario and Sano as teammates, it is easy to understand why we didn't hear much about Williams. All he did was hit around .400 average as Elizabethton's leading hitter much of the year. He also is considered the fastest player in the organization, a player who could have a season at Beloit similar to what Ben Revere had in 2008. If he does, he will open a lot of eyes.

When drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, the Twins described Niko Goodrum as a gifted athlete who is very raw. After a rough rookie season in the GCL in 2010 (.161 average in 118 at bats), the 6'4" shortstop took a huge step forward at Elizabethton where he hit .275 in 204 at bats. Unlike Hicks, who continues to struggle from the left side of the plate, Goodwin improved his average to .261 against right handed pitchers. He also has good speed, stealing eight bases in nine attempts.

Who do you think will be the Twins 2012 Player of the Year? Should players such as Angel Morales or Jairo Perez also be included? We will begin voting on Tuesday.