The Twins have young stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, players who should be fixtures at catcher and first base for many years. Their starting second baseman, Luis Castillo, has a contract that has vested for 2007. It is likely he will return for 2007 and probable that he may not return in 2008. The Twins have the option of moving Nick Punto to second, however, based on his stellar play this season they may prefer to keep him at third base. They also have Luis Rodriguez on the roster, however, he is viewed more as a utility player. Therefore, the Twins need to develop a young player next year who will be a capable stepping in as their second baseman in 2008.
The Rochester Red Wings (AAA) had several players at second base during this season, including Luis Maza, 25+, (#52/#10). Following an excellent 2005 when he hit .291Ave with 11 home runs in 275 at bats at Rochester and a very good spring training, Maza had one of the more disappointing seasons in the organization hitting .207Ave with 10 doubles, 6 triples and 3 home runs with 35 rbi in 305 at bats. Another utility player who played some games at second was Glen Williams, 28+, (#31/DL) who had an excellent short stay with the Twins in 2005 prior to missing much of last year on the disabled list. Williams also struggled this year following his recovery from the injury, hitting .257Ave with 20 doubles, 4 triples, 7 home runs and 36 rbi in 370 at bats. It is unlikely that the Twins will consider either Maza or Williams in their plans for the future although either could return to Rochester for the 2007 season.
The New Britain Rock Cats (AA) had a pleasant surprise at second with the play of Felix Molina, 22+, (#16/#38) who was an Eastern League All-Star second baseman. Molina was amongst those players who improved their play significantly, batting .270Ave with 16 doubles, 4 triples, 9 home runs, 39 runs scored and 50 rbi in 385 at bats. Matt Tolbert, 23+, (#15/#35) is another player who improved significantly this season. Tolbert split his season between New Britain, where he hit .258Ave with 15 doubles, 3 home runs and 35 rbi in 248 at bats with 30 walks and 43 strikeouts, and Ft. Myers where he was one of their leading hitters with a .303Ave with 6 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs and 24 rbi in 155 at bats with 14 walks and only 17 strikeouts. Tolbert's play this season earned him a spot in this fall's Arizona Fall League. Tolbert and Molina will be options the Twins look at for second base or future utility players.
Until his promotion to New Britain at mid-season, the starting second baseman for the Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) was **Alexi Casilla, 21+, (#1/-) who was obtained from the Angels in the J.C. Romero trade. Casilla, who played shortstop at New Britain, performed at a level matched by no other player this season earning him a spot on the 40-man roster and a September call up. While at Ft. Myers, Casilla hit .331Ave with 12 doubles, 6 triples, 0 home runs, 56 runs scored and 33 rbi in 323 at bats. Casilla is the ideal lead-off hitter as he walked 30 times versus only 36 strikeouts and stole 31 bases in 37 attempts. After Casilla moved on to AA, Luke Hughes, 21+, (#61/#30) played mostly at second with a .231Ave, 15 doubles, 4 home runs and 37 rbi in 333 at bats. Late in the season following a stint on the disabled list at Beloit, Steven Tolleson, 22, (#25/#45) joined the Miracle and was solid at second. Tolleson hit .268Ave with 8 doubles, 4 home runs and 23 rbi in 157 at bats with 22 walks and only 24 strikeouts for the Miracle. While at Beloit, Tolleson hit a strong .287Ave with 8 doubles, 2 home runs and 16 rbi in 171 at bats with 27 walks and 34 strikeouts. Casilla, who has many similarities to Luis Castillo, is the leading candidate to take over for Castillo whenever he leaves. Tolleson is another player who has played very well since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2005 draft.
The Beloit Snappers (A) were a team that was decimated by injuries this season with their infield taking a hit at each position. Their second basemen at the beginning of the year were Tolleson and fellow 2005 pick who also is the son of a former major leaguer, Andrew Thompson, 19, (#33/#31). Thompson played very well, however, a series of injuries (blind sided in a bench clearing brawl, hit in the head with a pitch upon his return to action and a back injury that ended his season) affected his ranking as he was limited to 74 games and 283 at bats. He played very well when able, hitting .261Ave, 11 doubles, 7 triples and 3 home runs with 40 runs scored and 23 rbi. Juan Portes, 20, (#66/#8) played some second, third and left field, however, spent much of the season on the disabled list and when playing was battling injuries and never got his bat going which had earned him recognition as one of the top prospects in the Appalachian League in 2005. Portes, who is in the Fall Instructional League as an outfielder, hit .231Ave, 9 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs with 33 rbi in 268 at bats. Thompson, who is definitely a solid prospect at second base, was only 19 and will likely move up the system a step at a time with his double play partner and co-2005 second round pick, Paul Kelly. Portes has always struggled defensively in the infield and is being converted to an outfielder in this fall's Instructional League as the Twins want to see him advance in the system because when healthy, he can be an electric offensive player.
The Elizabethton Twins (Rookie) were solid at second with their eighth round pick and NAIA Player of the Year, Brian Dinkelman, 22, (#35/-) who was one of their top hitters with a .298Ave, 11 doubles, 4 home runs with 32 rbi in 188 at bats. Dinkelman was also solid defensively as evidenced by his having only 3 errors in 46 games. Another second baseman who saw limited action for the Twins was Michael Lysaught, 20, (#85/#79) who hit .160Ave with 5 doubles and 4 rbi in 81 at bats. Dinkelman appears to have the talent needed to advance in the system.
The Gulf Coast League Twins (Rookie) had two players share second this season. Matt Lawman, 18+, (#82/-) is a young Australian who played well hitting .256Ave with 2 doubles and 4 rbi in 86 at bats. This season's 40th round pick, Thomas Cowgill, 22+, (#78/-) hit only .185Ave with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and 13 rbi in 119 at bats. Lawman is a very young player who was playing his first baseball in America, a player whom many believe could develop into an excellent prospect.
The second basemen in the system included the highest ranked player in the system, Alexi Casilla. The thirteen players playing second base this season had an average ranking of #44 out of 88 position players. The top prospects in the system at second base include:
Alexi Casilla #1 New Britain
Matt Tolbert #15 New Britain
Felix Molina #16 New Britain
Steve Tolleson #25 Ft. Myers
Drew Thompson #33 Beloit
Brian Dinkelman #35 Elizabethton
Unlike catcher and first base, the Twins may very well be looking for a starting second baseman as early as 2008. Considering that Alexi Casilla was the top ranked player in the system this past season and is now being exposed to major league baseball as a September call up, there is no question that he is the leading candidate to replace Luis Castillo whenever he leaves. Casilla is a disciplined hitter with tremendous speed that would also be an ideal replacement for Castillo at the top of the order. Matt Tolbert had a great season at Ft. Myers and New Britain, especially with his bat. Tolbert will be playing in the Arizona Fall League which is an indication that the Twins are also very high on his potential. Molina had a breakout year as an All-Star at New Britain. Although they won't be ready for the major leagues in 2008, Steven Tolleson, Andrew Thompson and Brian Dinkelman all have the potential of reaching the major leagues.