Twins' 2010 organization preview
Club emerging as leader in international signings
The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, each preseason, MLB.com takes a comprehensive look at the farm systems of all 30 organizations, from top prospects to recent Draft picks.
The Minnesota Twins are one of the few organizations in our preseason series who can boast that all 10 players on the Twins' 10 Prospects to Watch list are homegrown, either via Draft or international signing. The latter is an area where the club has really emerged as among the best in the game in terms of quantity, quality and diversity.
Included in that crop is new addition Dominican shortstop Miguel Sano -- for whom the Twins paid the highest bonus they ever have for an international signee -- and German-born outfield talent, teenager Max Kepler, who received the highest signing bonus in history for a European position player. Four of the top 10 are former first-rounders, including the team's last three No. 1 picks.
The list -- and the system itself -- sports a balanced mix of starters, relievers, infielders, outfielders and catchers, and they are scattered up and down the line in terms of readiness for the big leagues, though if there is any quibble it may be that the talent is weighted at the lower end of the readiness spectrum.
This is a deep enough system where it was very tough to narrow the list down to 10, and even after that to pick a few additional "under the radar" players to single out as bonus picks. The Twins added even more to their pitching depth in the 2009 Draft, with their first four picks coming on college pitchers who could be quick movers.
Rob Delaney, RHP
The loss of closer Joe Nathan will open the door for a new closer, causing a domino effect in the Twins' big league bullpen picture, and a sleeper candidate to benefit from that could be "Big Daddy," the non-drafted free agent out of St. John's who has been one of the club's most effective late-innings relievers since signing in 2006. Last year he posted a 2.00 ERA in 26 games at Double-A New Britain before moving up to Triple-A Rochester in early June, where he went 7-3 with seven saves and a 4.53 ERA. He was MLB.com's Minor League Reliever of the Year in 2008, with a 1.23 ERA and 18 saves.
Jeff Manship, RHP
The 14th-round pick in 2006 out of Notre Dame made his big league debut in 2009 after putting up fine numbers at New Britain and Rochester earlier in the season. He posted a 5.68 ERA in 11 games with the Twins, five of them starts, and could factor into the big league picture in either role in 2010.
Danny Valencia, 3B
The Twins' biggest need in the Majors is a power-hitting third baseman, and Valencia is one of the club's top potential candidates for that job. The 19th-round pick in 2006 out of Miami has a booming bat and power to all fields, as well as a strong arm. He hit .285 with 14 homers and 38 doubles between New Britain and Rochester last summer, boasting quick wrists and good bat speed.
Max Kepler, OF
Having turned just 17 in February, Kepler is considered the best European position-player prospect in the game and received an $800,000 signing bonus, a record for that category of player. The son of a Polish father and American mother, who were both ballet dancers, he lives in and attends high school in Florida. Considered a raw but outstanding talent with all five tools, he will work out with the club while he finishes school, on target to graduate high school in 2011.
Tyler Robertson, LHP
The third-round pick from 2006 is the son of longtime scout Jay Robertson, now in the Washington Nationals' front office. Despite an unorthodox delivery, Robertson has put up consistently good numbers, with a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts at Advanced A Fort Myers last summer after missing time with shoulder trouble down the stretch there in 2008. Though he missed the top 10 cut in a loaded system, he will be one to keep a close eye on if he continues to succeed up the ladder, thanks to his poise and his nasty slider.
Adrian Salcedo, RHP
Salcedo's 1.46 ERA at age 18 in the Gulf Coast League ranked seventh in the Minors, coming on the heels of a Dominican Summer League campaign in 2008, when he posted a 1.65 ERA in 12 starts, striking out 58 while walking three in 62 innings. He is learning to "pitch" and has a fluid delivery with a fastball in the low 90s with late sink, a hard curve and a changeup he's working on. He has a deceptive delivery as well.
Rene Tosoni, OF
The draft-and-follow taken in the 36th round of 2005 out of Chipola Junior College in Florida made a huge leap in the system's eyes in 2009, as he hit .271 with 15 homers and earned Eastern League All-Star honors after missing most of 2008 with a broken ankle. The Canadian-born Tosoni can play all three outfield spots and is solid across the board.
RHP Kyle Gibson (1) slipped to the Twins at No. 22 due to a stress fracture in his pitching forearm diagnosed right before the Draft, but their faith in the Missouri ace looks to be paying off. Gibson was healthy in instructionals and could move very very quickly through the ranks with his sinking fastball, plus slider and tremendous makeup. ... LHP Matt Bashore (1S) was taken at No. 46 out of Indiana and has a plus curveball and solid fastball, but he pitched in only one game at short-season Elizabethton after signing late. ... RHP Billy Bullock (2) was converted by the Florida Gators from starting to relief, and between Elizabethton (1.23) and Class A Beloit (2.73) he combined to go 4-0 with a 2.41 ERA in 33 games, striking out 45 while walking just 13 in 33 2/3 innings. ... RHP Ben Tootle (3) was drafted out of Jacksonville State. He'd been clocked in the high 90s in the Cape Cod League in 2008, but an illness during his junior year caused him to lose a lot of weight and strength which affected his performance. Healthy now, he tossed 6 1/3 shutout innings down the stretch at Elizabethton after signing late and limited hitters to a .190 average. ... 2B Derek McCallum (4) is a local signee out of Minnesota who can also fill in at shortstop if needed. ... SS Brian Dozier (8), out of Southern Mississippi, was an Appalachian League All-Star, combining to hit .349 between Elizabethton and a handful of games in the Gulf Coast League. ... LHP Matt Tone (14), out of SUNY Cortland, ranked among the Minor League leaders when it came to average against in relief at .119, with a 1.31 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings at Elizabethton.
Hitter of the Year -- Ben Revere, OF
The 5-foot-9 left-handed hitter, the club's top pick in 2007 with the 28th overall pick, has won the organization's Player of the Year award the last two years, only the second time a player has earned the honors in back-to-back seasons (the first to do so was LaTroy Hawkins). We're picking him for the trifecta. After hitting .325 with 21 steals in his Gulf Coast League debut, he won the Minor League batting title in his first full season, 2008, batting .379 at Class A Beloit, and last summer at Advanced A Fort Myers, he hit .311 with 45 steals. A line-drive hitter with game-changing speed, he is one of the best pure hitters in the Minors and has a .337 average in three pro seasons.
Pitcher of the Year -- Kyle Gibson, RHP
The Missouri ace dropped to the 22nd pick overall because of a stress fracture in his pitching forearm that was diagnosed shortly before the Draft. Before that, he was well known for his sinking fastball around 90 mph, his plus slider and change, his command and his good mechanics, and he was a projected top 10 pick. What he showed in instructional league is enough to suggest that it was a smart gamble and that he could be the fastest-tracked pitcher in the system. He repeats his delivery well, has a 6-foot-6, 200-pound pitcher's physique and commands his lively fastball well.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.