Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Truth about the Twins minor league system

I get asked this question quite a bit and I feel like it is about time I hit people with some truth on the subject. The question that I am asked repeatedly is has the Twins minor league slipped and if so why. I know everyone likes to blame Bill Smith for all the problems with talent as the Twins had a good farm system when Terry Ryan was the General Manager of the Twins. I have even heard Deron Johnson being blamed as he is head of the draft after Mike Radcliff was promoted when Bill Smith took over as General Manager. Some of the criticism is founded, but a great part of it is unfounded.


There is merit for criticism of the lack of top level prospects in the upper levels of the organization. You had misses like not signing Travis Lee, and busts such as Matt Moses, Ryan Mills, Jay Rainville, and Henry Sanchez. That left a vacuum that led to a watering down of the system. Some of these picks were earlier than would be in system right now. Also the Twins have been downright unlucky with some of these guys as former first round picks Matt Fox, Kyle Waldrop, and Matt Bashore were injured. You have had control issues with former first round picks Shooter Hunt and Alex Wimmers that you could not have see coming.


The bottom line is the Twins had a 2-3 year stretch were they did not do well in the draft as guys like Moses, Rainville, and Sanchez were taken early and did not turn out. That left a void as some of those guys would be in the higher levels right now. When you miss on three or four first round picks that will set your organization back a few years. The percentage of early round picks that make it to the pro’s is so small that I feel that Twins fans were spoiled when they went through a stretch when guys like Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer, Denard Span, Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins and Matt Garza became contributers. Twins fans after seeing all those guys come up and contribute forget about guys like Henry Sanchez, Matt Moses, Adam Johnson, B.J. Garbe, Ryan Mills who never even made the big leagues. Then you have guys that even the most adamant Twins fan has never heard of in Kelcey Mucker, Marc Borcelo, Dan Serifini, Scott Stahoviak, Midre Cummings, and Todd Ritchie. What I am trying to say is the draft is such an inaccurate science on who is going to make it and who is not that it is not an easy job for evaluaters. You hear all the time that in every draft you may have 1-2 players make it to the big leagues. So I don’t think it is fair for the evaluaters to get blamed for the lack of talent in the upper levels.


Another reason that expectations for the Twins minor league system are a little bit too much is the Twins in the 90’s were a bad team. From 1994 to 2001 a eight year stretch the Twins picked in the top ten 7 times. Fair or not most draftst have 5-10 blue chip prospects that are considered a high probibilty of making it to the big leagues. So when they were losing 90-100 games per year the odds of getting one of those top prospects was pretty high. Believe it or not that stretch is when the Twins farm system was considered the best in baseball. It is much like how the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals are considered the best farm systems in baseball right now as they have had some bad teams so they got high draft picks. From 2002-2011 the highest the Twins have drafted is 14th in 2008 with Aaron Hicks. I don’t know if its coincidence or not but Aaron Hicks is the number one prospect on my June prospect list. A big thing is when you draft late you need to be smart about who you take and you have to be willing to spend the money to get the guys signed as there is such competition for signing bonuses so the Twins have had to up the ante and they have done just that.


I also take exception that the Twins don’t have a very good farm system because I think the last 2-3 years the Twins have taken the bull by the horns and improved it immensely. It started in 2009 when they went way over slot to sign pitcher Kyle Gibson a starting pitcher who dropped down to the Twins due to a stress fracture in his forearm. The Twins could have sat and said he was too expensive, but they did what was necessary. They spent way over slot to sign BJ Hermsen. Then in 09 they spent over 3 million to sign the top Dominican prospect in years in Miguel Sano for over 3.15 million. This year they doubled slot to sign Corey Williams a hard throwing lefty from Vanderbilit. I know there is not a lot of talent in Rochester, but look at New Britain and below and there are tons of top end talent such as David Bromberg, Joe Benson, Brian Dozier, Chris Parmelee, and Deolis Guerra who has flourished as a reliever this year. In Fort Myers you have big prospects in James Beresford, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales, Alex Wimmers, and BJ Hermsen. Then in Beloit you have huge upside guys like Adrian Salcedo, and Madison Boer. Then in Elizabethton you got guys like Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and Niko Goodrum. If anything I would say the Twins minor league system is loaded not the contrary.


Bill Smith gets a lot of guff for not having a lot of top end talent in AAA and I think the Twins need to take responsibility for a few bad drafts that did not produce the type of prospects thatother teams did. However the last 3-4 years have been phenomenal for the Twins minor league system. I believe in the next 2-3 years the Twins will be known as having one of the finest minor league systems in baseball as the lower levels are just loaded with top end prospects. I feel like the Twins should be commended for seeing a problem and fixing it the last few years. For those that feel Bill Smith, Deron Johnson and the whole Twins front office have not done their job producing prospects well I feel you are wrong and the contrary is true as I feel the Twins have just as many top prospects than any other team it is just the Twins do a good job at letting these guys go at their own speed and develop in a way that not only will they make the Twins when they are ready, but will remain with the team for years to come.

15 comments:

Jack Steal said...

Travis,

Not sure if you wrote this article in response to my most recent post about failed #1 draft picks. However your reasons for being optimistic is probably because you a very positive person. Not sure how you could feel positive about the minor league system. We have not drafted a everyday starting shortstop since Twins were in Washington, actually we have no good middle infield prospects at all, the last ace we drafted was Frank Viola, we draft nothing but #3 pitchers who have no ceilings, the majority of our good prospects are outfiedlers, and the best prospect in the system needs T.J. surgery.

Now I'm seriously not being negative here. I really believe our minor league system is in shambles. How else do you explain the minor league teams being so bad for the last three years. They lose because all the prospects are really not very good. Now the guys who you are excited about are Hendriks (another #3 pitcher at best), Hicks (way too inconsistent for a 5-tool talent), Adrian Salcedo (In Beloit), Arcia (In Fort Myers). The bottom line is our minor system has no depth at all and no real top level talent. If you want to get excited about some mediocre players because it makes you feel better about a terrible organization than great no big deal. I just can't but what you are selling.

Jack Steal said...

Travis,

My last point is that we are about to lose out on 3 number one draft picks because of money. These guys have not signed yet and I don't believe they will. How do you explain losing out on 3 number one picks. Those picks are how get depth in your organization. I can almost gurantee 2 or 3 of them won't sign. Just watch me be right but hope I'm wrong. I honestly believe nobody wants to come to Minnesota even with the new balpark. It's like the 90's all over again. Thanks Smith, Johnson, Gardy!!

Travis Aune said...

Jack- First you are entitled to your opinion first of all and just because i don't agree with you doesnt mean your wrong I just have a different spin thats whats great about blogging. If the Twins can develop a bunch of 2's and 3's pitchers I would be estatic as thats how you win division championships. How many true aces are really out there. I believe that Salcedo can be an ace and Gibson, Hendriks, Bromberg, Hermsen, Boer, Summers have the ability to be very solid 2's and 3's. You can't draft to need as most prospects will take 3-4 years to be ready so the draft this year is not going to get you a starter next year. I believe Brian Dozier, James Beresford, Niko Goodrum, Nick Lockwood, and Jorge Polanco have the ability to be solid middle infielders going forward. So Jack I am not buying what you are selling because I see a bright future.

SethSpeaks said...

"Now I'm seriously not being negative here."

Do you know the definition of the word "negative?"

Jack Steal said...

Seth,

I really believe the minor league system is garbage. It happens to be a negative view point and what I believe to be true. It comes off negative because it is me.

SethSpeaks said...

It comes across as negative because it is negative. I'm pretty sure that if I wrote that exact same thing, it would be perceived as negative by most readers.

Maybe it isn't negative... how about pessamistic?

SethSpeaks said...

Alright, my quick thoughts on the Twins minor league system:

1.) The upper levels weren't strong. The organization made the decision to grab veterans for Rochester, which was the right decision so that the prospects didn't need to be rushed.
2.) In terms of prospects, Ben Revere and Rene Tosoni is really all we got to see this year. Other minor leaguers promoted (Swarzak/James/Dumatrait) aren't really prospects, just depth)
3.) In previous years, the Twins typically only needed one, maybe two, players to come up and contribute. Last year it was Valencia. A few years back, it was Brian Buscher. It's been guys like Michael Ryan, Lew Ford, etc. This year, they needed anywhere from 6-10 such players at one time. Most important, Revere and Tosoni showed that they could be solid in the future.
4.) I agree with Travis on the middle infielders. I think that Dozier may be closer than we think. Guys like Beresford, Danny Santana, Jorge Polanco, etc.
5.) Gibson and Gutierrez are two guys we thought we might see. Both got hurt. That happens. It's OK to hope for the best with both. If Gibson has Tommy John, he'll be ready in 2013.
6.) Again, sometimes #3s become #2s or even #1s. I guess I don't know where people think that these so called "Aces" come from. I mean, there are about 10 of them in baseball right now, and many of them were not viewed as Aces coming up. In fact, look at Johan Santana. Was he projected as an Ace when he was in the minor leagues?
7.) Regarding the draft, the Twins focus a lot on getting their top 10 rounds worth of picks signed. I'm not worried about what happens before tomorrow's deadline. Like I blogged yesterday, they'll get Michael signed. He is the idiot for not signing by now. However, of the 32 first-round picks take this year, 7 have signed. They'll wait. As for Harrison and Boyd, the Twins will have to go over-slot, and there's no question that they will. I've been told that if the Twins go to $1 million, Boyd will sign. I think that'll happen, or something close to it. Harrison is the guy I would much rather them sign than Michael, but it would take him 5-6 years to be close to the big leagues, so then people would complain about the upper levels. Let's let it play out before bashing the team. They have proven many times that they are willing to go above slot.
8.) The system is not a top system (but still easily in the upper half). It can't be based on where they typically draft in the first round. There's a reason that the Royals have such a strong system. They need to continue to work to improve the minor leagues, but they have been very aggressive in the last 3-4 years and that's clear with some of the talent in the low levels.

Jack Steal said...

Seth,

Name the last everyday shortstop or Ace #1 pitcher we drafted? The answer is Zolio Versalles in 1959 (are you kidding me) and Frank Viola in 1981. However, we have drafted plenty of outfielders and #3 or #4 pitchers. The bottom line is we need to change the overall thinking of how we draft. How do you do this? How do you accomplish this? The answer is you gut this organization from the top on down. When something is not working you have to make changes to get to the next level. The Rays, Red Sox, and now Texas understand it. The Minnesota Nice philosophy is not working. You perceive this as being negative but it's what I believe. Let's win a world series not a division title. I honestly can say The Pohlad Family is just fine with being mediocre. It fills the stands, the profits are great, but can't beat a team in the A.l. East.

Anonymous said...

Travis, I must disagree with several of your initial assumptions. First, Jay Rainville was not a bust. He was on the fast track when shoulder surgery ended his career. Second, Hunt dropped because of a concern with his control coming out of college. So his problem should have been anticipated, yet they wasted a high pick.

I have a very close source who knows more about baseball than most of us combined and is as close to the organization as you can get. He said when they made the changes at the time Mr. Ryan stepped down that the scouting dept took a big hit and is not the same as it was.

Now I believe they have done a very good job Internationally the past few years, but all those kids are still a long way off. I find it difficult to understand how anyone can defend the organization when nearly every team is under .500 and several have had seasons the past few years as bad as any in their hundred plus year histories.

But most frustrating, the Twins and their system has lost what it means to be a Twin. This organization is supposed to be be strong on fundamentals and defense with top pitching. Yet the number of unearned runs throughout the organization is shocking. Something is lacking from what the Twins were doing from the turn of the century through several years ago.

Roger

Travis Aune said...

I stand by my comments that in 2-3 years the Twins farm system will be back to being one of the best in baseball. Lets just be patient as there is ton's of talent in the system we just need to let them develop at their own speed.
As for Shooter Hunt he started out on fire in Beloit before losing control. He was doing fine before he lost his control and guys like Shooter Hunt are what people want in that they are high risk but also high reward.

SethSpeaks said...

Roger... I agree with you on Hunt, and especially on Rainville.

I guess I'm curious if your source commented on what has changed in the scouting since Terry Ryan quit. Mike Radcliff moved up and Deron Johnson took over the drafting. But Johnson has been around a long time, and Radcliff is still involved. Also, Ryan himself is now doing more of the scouting.

Also, the same people who drafted Matt Moses and Adam Johnson drafted Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Morneau, Kubel, and many more. So, I guess I'm not understanding the differences. I'd be curious your thoughts.

I'm agreeing that the minor league system isn't great. Clearly the losses in Rochester this year are not good. But by bringing in those veterans, New Britain is better because prospects are developing where they should be.

You probably have the numbers right in front of you, Roger, but I'd be surprised if there are a LOT more unearned runs this year than in previous years. That's normal in the minors, especially in the lower levels.

I think it's too early to give up on guys like Hicks, Gibson and Wimmers and Gutierrez, for sure. i'd add that the TWins have done well still in later rounds with guys like Dozier, Gonzales, Darnell, Ray and many others. And, the international signings are exciting.

As for player development, I don't think anything has changed. Honestly, I think there's been a lot of injuries at all levels, and it compounds... Also, those efforts the last 2-3 years... we NEED to see that come to fruition next year at New Britain and in Rochester! And, I am an optimist, but I think we will.

Travis Aune said...

i just think people are being too impatient with the system. The Twins have top prospects at every level of the organization and that creates depth. I would put these guys up against anybody
1. Rochester- Rene Tosoni, Liam Hendriks, Kyle Gibson, Carlos Gutierrez

2. New Britain- Chris Parmelee, Brian Dozier, Joe Benson

3. James Beresford, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales, Alex Wimmers, Tom Stuifbergen, BJ Hermsen

4. Beloit- Lance Ray, Jairo Perez, Danny Ortiz, Tyler Grimes, Madison Boer, Adrian Salcedo

5. E-town- Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Niko Goodrum, Max Kepler, Summers

6. GCL- Jorge Polanco, Josh Hendriks, Jakob Younis

I am not saying that all are going to be superstars but i truly believe they all could make a major league roster. That is what you are hoping for is players at every level that possibly can help your major league team and thats what I think they have found. I havent found a downgrade in level of prospect, but the contrary I feel the Twins system is better than it is been in the last 2-3 years and is on the upswing and in a couple years will rival what it was in its hayday.

Anonymous said...

I am just a fan, so more than a comment I will ask a couple of questions: 1)For what you guys are saying, it is probable that the Twins can't fill internally the holes of this year (infield, relief pitching) but some help (Dozier, Hendricks) could be coming in 2012. Is that right? 2) When I look at the rosters of AA and AAA I see a couple of names that show good stats but are seldom named as possibilities for the future. Two names that come to my head are Bates (AAA) and Solarte (AA), Are they so bad defensively that they cannot be trusted at the majors? Thanks for your answers

lew said...

Travis,
Our minor league middle infielders continue to be a target of many out there. Since pitching and defense are what truly win at all levels, could someone please perform a 2011 defensive analysis of this group of players? Looks like there are a couple of great defenders in E-Town and Beloit.

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