The Twins began the season with Shannon Stewart as their regular left fielder. Stewart, who was troubled with a recurring foot problem, was back on the DL by mid season with left manned by the quintet of Jason Kubel, Lew Ford, Jason Tyner, Josh Rabe and Rondell White for the remainder of the season with each except Tyner also dealing with various injuries. Looking to the future, Stewart is a free agent and it is unlikely he will be brought back. Kubel will return with Ford, Tyner, Rabe and White's return likely, however, not definite. During an off season when there aren't a lot of questions offensively, left field is one of the few positions that has questions as to who will be the starter in 2007. Don't look for the Twins however, to bring in someone new as it is likely that left field will be patrolled by some combination of this returning group, however, the recent announcement of Hunter's return could cause the Twins to release or trade either Ford or Tyner who are also capable centerfielders.
The Rochester Red Wings (AAA) began the season with **Josh Rabe, 27, (#3/#17) manning left field. Rabe is a veteran minor league player who has been with the Twins since he was drafted in the eleventh round of the 2000 draft. Rabe led the International League in hitting during the early part of the season, hitting .299Ave with 20 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs, 51 runs scored and 47 rbi in 355 at bats. Rabe is a patient hitter who had nearly as many walks (35) as strikeouts (37) at Rochester prior to his call up. Rabe played an important role for the Twins during their drive for the championship, hitting .286Ave with 1 double, 3 home runs, 8 runs scored and 7 rbi in 49 at bats. After Rabe was called up by the Twins, **Alex Romero, 22, (#4/#3) was recalled by the Red Wings. Romero, who was with the Wings for a few games early in the season, played on a part-time basis until late in the season when he became very productive. Romero finished his AAA season hitting .250Ave with 8 doubles, 2 triples, 20 runs scored and 26 rbi in 236 at bats with 6 stolen bases in 8 attempts. Romero also is a patient hitter striking out only 22 times while taking 15 walks. While at New Britain, Romero hit .281Ave with 11 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, 29 runs scored and 16 rbi in 167 at bats with 15 stolen bases in 22 attempts. He also walked (26) more than he struck out (19) while in AA. Romero, who at 22 years old, was young compared with most AAA players while compiling a solid set of numbers that were the fourth best in the system following a previous season when he was ranked third. Romero is a solid player who isn't spectacular at any aspect of the game, however, his excellent plate discipline combined with reasonable doubles power and good average puts him amongst the top outfield prospects in the system and perhaps the only one who could be available to help the Twins in 2007.
Alex Romero was the regular left fielder for the New Britain Rock Cats (AA) during the first half of the season. When Romero moved up to Rochester, the Twins promoted Garrett Guzman, 23, (#11/DNP) from Ft. Myers. Guzman is both this season's feel good story and the system's likely comeback player of the year following his missing all of 2005 following an auto accident in which he suffered a broken neck. Guzman hit .275Ave with 15 doubles, 1 triple, 7 home runs, 34 runs scored and 26 rbi in 222 at bats at New Britain. He walked 18 times while had only 27 strikeouts to go with 4 stolen bases in 7 attempts. Earlier in the season at Ft. Myers, Guzman hit .274Ave with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 8 home runs, 35 runs scored and 51 rbi in 259 at bats. He walked 15 times while striking out 31 times at Ft. Myers with 1 stolen base in 2 attempts. Guzman is another productive hitter, much like third baseman David Winfree. His 77 rbi at New Britain and Ft. Myers were the second most in the system, behind only Garrett Jones' 92 rbi at Rochester. Jason Grove, 27+, is another outfielder who had signed with the Twins during the off season. Grove hit .235Ave in 34 at bats prior to being released early in the season. Guzman will probably begin next season back at New Britain and is another top prospect for a future outfield position with the Twins, however.
The top left fielder for the Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) was Deacon Burns, 23, (#41/#14) who also played some centerfield. Burns is an exciting small player who set Beloit's franchise record for triples (13) in 2005, however, struggled with his hitting this year finishing with a .228Ave with 17 doubles, 3 triples, 5 home runs, 53 runs scored and 33 rbi in 404 at bats with 19 stolen bases in 23 attempts. Another left fielder who spent part of the season on the disabled list was Erold Andrus, 21+, (#59/-) who was a minor league rule 5 pick up this past off-season. Andrus hit .207Ave with 7 doubles, 3 triples, 5 home runs, 26 runs scored and 30 rbi in 198 at bats.
One of the more unheralded players in the system was the Beloit Snappers (A) left fielder Dwayne White, 23, (#45/#57). White returned to Beloit for a second season, hitting .258Ave with 17 doubles, 2 triples, 8 home runs, 43 runs scored and 43 rbi in 322 at bats. White was one of the Snappers' more reliable hitters late in the season after the team was ravaged with injuries. Mark Robinson, 20, (#84/#44) struggled during his first year with a full season team. Robinson saw limited duty hitting .178Ave with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 14 runs scored and 7 rbi in 135 at bats.
The Elizabethton Twins (Rookie) had two players splitting time in left field. Richard Sojo, 21, (#67/#51) had been one of the Twins better hitters in 2005 in the Gulf Coast League when he hit .318Ave. He struggled at Elizabethton this year, hitting .228Ave with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 20 runs scored and 11 rbi in 114 at bats while stealing 3 bases in 4 attempts. Josh Land, 21, (#60/#73) was a 2004 draft and follow who hit .211Ave with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 18 runs scored and 15 rbi in 101 at bats.
The Gulf Coast League Twins (Rookie) had this year's 15th round pick Mark Dolenc, 21, (#73/-) as their primary left fielder. Dolenc hit .212Ave with 4 doubles, 2 triples, 1 home run, 28 runs scored and 26 rbi in 189 at bats with 10 stolen bases in 14 attempts. Jilmer Arratia, 21+, (#70/#78) saw very limited duty, getting 1 hit in 3 at bats.
The top left fielders in the system were Josh Rabe (#3) and Alex Romero (#4) with the eleven players playing left field having an average ranking of #47 out of 88 position players. The top left field prospects include:
Josh Rabe (#3) - Rochester/Twins
Alex Romero (#4) - New Britain/Rochester
Garrett Guzman (#11) - Ft. Myers/New Britain
The Twins will need to make some decisions regarding left field over the winter. Terry Ryan has indicated he won't be looking for any offensive players this off season, therefore, left field will be manned in 2007 by one of the players seeing playing time this past year, Jason Kubel, Rondell White, Josh Rabe, Jason Tyner or Lew Ford. The other top candidates from the minors, Romero and Guzman, don't appear to be candidates to help the team out of spring training.