USA Today Sports Weekly unveiled their Top 5 prospects for the Minnesota Twins this past week, with Denard Span and Francisco Liriano leading the way. Span and Liriano had breakout seasons in 2005, with Liriano making it all the way to Minnesota. Span, who was leading the Florida State League in batting before being promoted to Double-A New Britain, is the Twins’ top centerfield prospect.
Liriano, the Twins’ top pitching prospect according to USA Today, began the season at Double-A New Britain, and was not having a very dominant season. However, after a call-up to Triple-A Rochester, he began to pop up on everybody’s radar, especially USA Today, who named him their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Span, who was rated the top hitting prospect in the organization by USA Today, is a magician with the glove as well as the bat. He is the prototypical leadoff man, based on his ability to get on base, and score runs. After batting a league-best .339 for the Miracle in 2005, he was promoted to Double-A, and hit a respectable .285 in 68 games with the Rock Cats. This fall, he played in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, and batted .294.
Rounding out the top five were Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak, and Matthew Moses. While Swarzak and Perkins are both pitchers, Moses is a slugging third baseman, and each of the three are more than deserving to be on this list. While our rankings differ somewhat, it is easy to see why these players made the list.
Moses, who was ranked third on this list, came into the 2005 season as the Twins’ top hitting prospect. A former number one pick, Moses was tearing up the Florida State League before being promoted to New Britain. He struggled mightily after the call-up, and should begin the 2006 season with the Rock Cats.
Perkins is another player who struggled in Double-A this past season, and the fourth rated player should anchor the Rock Cats staff in 2006. He only made 10 starts for the Miracle before being called up, and was the most dominating pitcher in the Florida State League. For the Cats, Perkins had an ERA around 5.00, although he made up for it in the Arizona Fall League.
Pitching in one of the most hitter friendly leagues in baseball, Perkins was the best pitcher in the entire league, cementing his place as one of the top pitching prospects in the game. A lefty, Perkins had a 2.53 ERA for the Grand Canyon Rafters, while finishing first in the league with 39 strikeouts.
Anthony Swarzak is the fifth and final prospect on the list, and he had a pretty solid 2005 season. The right-hander made two stops in 2005, beginning the year in Beloit at the Low-A level, before finishing up the campaign with Fort Myers. The young fireballer won a combined 12 games during the season, and his 156 strikeouts were good enough for third in the entire organization. He could possibly make a Nick Blackburn-like rise through the system in 2006, finishing the year at Triple-A.