This team was selected somewhat different than last season as it is made up of the top prospects, which isn't necessarily the same as those players who had the best performances at their position during 2006. It also may not include the best known or highest drafted prospects, rather the players who in my opinion have the best potential to become a starter or key reserve for the Twins two, three or five years in the future. Each player will be listed with their last minor league team of the season.
The twenty-five man team will be presented with a starting lineup, five position reserves, five starting pitchers and a six man bullpen. This year's starting lineup, including their comparative ranking in 2006 indicated in red:
2B - Alexi Casilla (#1-New Britain Rock Cats)
CF - Denard Span (#2-New Britain Rock Cats)
DH - Erik Lis (#5-Beloit Snappers)
3B - David Winfree (#17-Ft. Myers Miracle)
RF - Alex Romero (#4-Rochester Red Wings)
1B - Brock Peterson (#12-Ft. Myers Miracle)
SS - Paul Kelly (#18-Beloit Snappers)
C - Caleb Moore (#30-Ft. Myers Miracle)
LF - Trent Oeltjen (#6-New Britain Rock Cats)
Leading off is the Twins top ranked position player, Alexi Casilla, 21+, who was recently selected as the 2006 Player of the Year. Casilla, who was obtained last off season from the Angels organization for J.C. Romero, began his season in Ft. Myers prior to promotions to New Britain and the Twins as a September callup. Alexi was the regular second baseman for the Miracle and regular shortstop while in New Britain. With Jason Bartlett penciled in as the Twins' shortstop, Casilla is the leading candidate to replace Luis Castillo sometime during the next few seasons. In addition to being the top rated player in the system, Casilla is one of the fastest players the Twins have had in some time as evidenced by his successfully stealing 50 bases in 60 attempts for the Miracle and Rock Cats. Because of his speed and plate discipline, 48 walks and 56 strikeouts, Casilla is likely to be the Twins' future lead off hitter. Casilla, who was a Florida State League mid and post-season all star, is playing in the DWL for Gigantes del Cibao.
2006 Ft. Myers 323ab 56r 12-2B 6-3B 0-HR 33rbi .331Ave .390OBP
2006 New Britain 170ab 28r 10-2B 1-3B 1-HR 13rbi .294Ave .375OBP
2006 Twins 4ab 0r 0-2B 0-3B 0-HR 0rbi .250Ave .500OBP
Hitting second is centerfielder Denard Span, 22, who returned to the New Britain Rock Cats for a second season. Span is another player blessed with tremendous speed, however, Span is still a work in process as far as his base running is concerned stealing 24 bases in 35 attempts. Span, who is a fine defensive centerfielder, is the leading candidate from within the system to replace Torii Hunter if he leaves as a free agent following the 2007 season. Although Span is a slap hitter who doesn't hit for any power, a lineup featuring the speed of Casilla and Span in the top two spots of the order would put tremendous pressure on the opposing pitcher and defense. Span, who was an Eastern League mid-season all star, is playing winter ball for the first time in Venezuela for the Tigres de Aragua and needs to work very hard the next eighteen months so he is ready to replace Hunter in 2008.
2006 New Britain 536ab 80r 16-2B 6-3B 2-HR 45rbi .285Ave .340OBP
Hitting third is Erik Lis, 22, who was the top hitter in the system this season at Beloit. A 2005 ninth round pick out of the University of Evansville, Lis was the leading hitter in the Midwest League although he struggled defensively with 19 errors. In addition to having the second highest average in the minor league system (trailed Jason Tyner's .329Ave at Rochester), Lis led the system with 37 doubles, was fourth with 16 home runs and his 70 rbi were seventh. Had he not missed the last month of the season with a wrist injury, he may have led the system in all four categories. He has recently been compared to Lyle Overby, who had similar success in his first few years as a professional. Because he joined the Twins out of college he is not a young prospect, however, if he continues to hit like this year he should move rapidly through the system all the way to Minnesota.
2006 Beloit 411ab 69r 37-2B 3-3B 16-HR 70rbi .326Ave .402OBP
The cleanup hitter is the 2005 Minor League Player of the Year, David Winfree, 20+. Winfree had an up and down year during which he was injured early and later left the Club for personal reasons before performing very well late in the season, thus earning a spot in the Arizona Fall League. Considering that the AFL is for top prospects from AA and AAA leagues, having played for only Hi-A Ft. Myers meant Winfree was at a disadvantage. Although he finished his AFL season with a disappointing .176Ave, he accomplished a lot with 7 of his 12 hits going for extra bases and having the third most rbi (17) on his team while having 25-45 less at bats than most of Mesa's top hitters. More important than his average, playing in the AFL gives him the experience he will need to be successful next season in the Eastern League. Winfree has the potential to become the best major league hitter of any player in the system, someone who could annually hit for a .300Ave with 30 home runs and more than 100 rbi.
2006 Ft. Myers 261ab 43r 13-2B 2-3B 13-HR 48rbi .276Ave .328OBP
2006 Mesa (AFL) 68ab 8r 3-2B 1-3B 3-HR 17rbi .176Ave .272OBP
Hitting fifth is right fielder, Alex Romero, 22. Romero began the season with a short stay at Rochester until Jason Kubel was sent down by the Twins. While he had struggled at Rochester, Romero hit well for the Rock Cats much as he had in 2005 when he had a .301Ave. Romero has yet to develop the power that the Twins have been expecting, however, his 15 stolen bases in 22 attempts and only 19 strikeouts in 167 at bats at New Britain (compared with 26 walks) makes him an asset to any roster. He returned to Rochester in summer where he finished with 6 stolen bases in 8 attempts and 15 walks and 22 strikeouts in 236 at bats. Romero was noticed as a potential star while playing in the Venezuela Winter League two years ago. This winter Romero is again playing for Tigres de Aragua where he is hitting .364Ave with a .440OBP in 99 at bats.
2006 New Britain 167ab 29r 11-2B 2-3B 5-HR 16rbi .281Ave .384OBP
2006 Rochester 236ab 20r 8-2B 2-3B 0-HR 26rbi .250Ave .300OBP
Perhaps the most improved hitter in the system this season was Brock Peterson, 22. Peterson's 21 home runs tied Garrett Jones for the most in the system, while also setting a Miracle franchise record previously held by Matt LeCroy. Peterson was also one of the system rbi leaders with 75 while gaining recognition by the Twins as a big right handed bat they will definitely be watching. Peterson needs to work hard on his defense, however, he should move up to New Britain next year and could be with the Twins by September, 2008.
2006 Ft. Myers 447ab 65r 21-2B 4-3B 21-HR 75ab .291Ave .356OBP
Paul Kelly, 19, made his mark at Beloit this season as the system's top shortstop. Although Kelly missed the last month of the season, his 22 doubles and .280Ave while striking out only 60 times in 378 at bats (16%) made him one of the most productive hitters on the Snappers' roster. Defensively, Kelly is the best shortstop prospect in the system as evidenced by his committing only 10 errors in 95 games compared with Plouffe (29 errors in 125 games at Ft. Myers), Tolbert (16 errors in 112 games at Ft. Myers and New Britain, not all at shortstop), and Bartlett (8 errors in 58 games at Rochester). Kelly participated in the Fall Instructional League and should be 100% next spring when he will likely move up to Ft. Myers.
2006 Beloit 378ab 58r 22-2B 4-3B 3-HR 48rbi .280Ave .352OBP
With Rob Bowen lost on waivers last spring, the Twins don't have any catchers who are close to being ready to move up to the major league roster. Fortunately, they have Joe Mauer and Mike Redmond who is signed for another two years. Their top rated catcher in the minors is Caleb Moore, 22+, who is a fine defensive catcher who once was the top hitter in college baseball and will hit eighth in this lineup. Moore was one of the Snappers' top hitters before moving up to Ft. Myers where he was challenged by the better pitching of the Florida State League. Look for Moore to begin next season with the Miracle.
2006 Beloit 245ab 25r 12-2B 5-3B 2-HR 27rbi .286Ave .336OBP
2006 Ft. Myers 82ab 8r 5-2B 0-3B 1-HR 7rbi .220Ave .289OBP
Batting ninth in this lineup is the only player from the Twins organization to participate in this years Future's Game, leftfielder Trent Oeltjen, 23. Oeltjen is an Australian who has had the benefit of participating annually in various International Tournaments including last springs World Baseball Classic. His 2005 season was marred by an eye injury during spring training when he got a sliver in his eye from a broken bat while standing near the batting cage. He is a speedy outfielder (23 stolen bases in 34 attempts) who tied for the system lead with 10 triples and led the Rock Cats with a .299Ave. Oeltjen is a top of the order type hitter who doesn't strike out very often (58 strikeouts-14.5%) and is comfortable playing all three outfield positions. Oeltjen should move up to Rochester next season and could make his first appearance in a Twins uniform next September. Oeltjen is playing for Aguillas del Zulia in the VWL where he is hitting .294Ave early in their season.
2006 New Britain 401ab 61r 16-2B 10-3B 3-HR 44rbi .299Ave .378OBP
The reserves on this year's All-Prospect team include a catcher, middle infielder, third baseman who can also DH, an outfielder and an outfielder who also plays first base.
C - Greg Yersich (#40-Elizabethton Twins)
2B/SS - Matt Tolbert (#15-New Britain Rock Cats)
3B/DH - Matt Moses (#14-New Britain Rock Cats)
OF - Brandon Roberts (#10-Ft. Myers Miracle)
OF/1B - Doug Deeds (#7-New Britain Rock Cats)
Catcher Greg Yersich, 19 may be the top catching prospect in the system, although he is very young and has yet to play in a full season league. An excellent defensive catcher, Yersich was one of the Elizabethton Twins' best clutch hitters as they battled their way to another championship series. Look for Yersich to move up to Beloit next season where he could share catching duties with Allan de San Miguel who was in Beloit this past season at the age of 18.
2006 Elizabethton 197ab 28r 12-2B 1-3B 4-HR 21rbi .244Ave .281OBP
Middle infielder Matt Tolbert, 23+ may have put himself into contention for a future starting position in the Twins infield with his play this season. Tolbert had played well for the Miracle in 2005 when he hit .266Ave, however, everything seemed to come together this season. After his excellent play for the Miracle and Rock Cats, Tolbert was assigned to Mesa of the AFL where he was one of their top hitters. Tolbert is a disciplined hitter who collected 44 walks compared to only 60 strikeouts in 403 at bats for the Miracle and Rock Cats. Tolbert is also exciting on the bases, stealing 12 bases in 15 attempts for the Miracle and Cats. While in the prospect rich AFL, Tolbert had 15 walks and 15 strikeouts while stealing 6 bases in 6 attempts.
2006 Ft. Myers 155ab 20r 6-2B 3-3B 4-HR 24rbi .303Ave .360OBP
2006 New Britain 248ab 33r 15-2B 1-3B 3-HR 35rbi .258Ave .341OBP
2006 Mesa (AFL) 96ab 16r 6-2B 0-3B 1-HR 11rbi .313Ave .402OBP
Matt Moses, 21, has been one of the Twins top hitting prospects since he was their top pick in the 2003 draft. After putting up great numbers at Ft. Myers during the first half of 2005, Moses moved up to New Britain where he struggled with a .210Ave. Moses was still very young for AA ball this year and although he hit better, he hasn't adjusted as well as the Twins had expected. Moses participated in the AFL for a second season where he performed better against many of the top pitchers in minor league baseball. Next season will be an important year for Moses to prove that his advancement hasn't stalled. With Winfree likely moving up to New Britain, Moses needs to have a good spring to justify a move to AAA Rochester.
2006 New Britain 474ab 47r 16-2B 2-3B 15-HR 72rbi .249Ave .303OBP
2006 Mesa (AFL) 74ab 9r 4-2B 0-3B 1-HR 13rbi .297Ave .346OBP
The Twins traded Juan Castro to the Reds for Brandon Roberts, 23 during the FSL All-Star break. Roberts is a speedy centerfielder who earned all-star status with Sarasota, then stepped up to another level with the Miracle where he hit .316Ave and .370OBP. Roberts was slated to play in the Fall Instructional League, however, he broke his ankle during the first hour of workouts. Roberts equaled Casilla for the organization lead with 50 stolen bases in 64 attempts while playing for the Miracle and Sarasota.
2006 Ft. Myers/Sarasota 532ab 80r 17-2B 2-3B 4-HR 49rbi .293Ave .349OBP
Doug Deeds, 24+, was again one of the more productive hitters in the organization. Deeds led the Rock Cats in 2005 with a .304Ave, yet didn't receive a deserved promotion to Rochester this year. Returning to New Britain, Deeds played a number of games at first base making him more valuable to the Twins as he will be able to fill in as both an outfielder and at first base. Although Deeds struck out 107 times this season, he also led the system with 70 walks. Look for Deeds to move up to Rochester in 2007 with an eye on battling for a reserve outfield spot with the Twins in 2008. Deeds was also added to the Mesa roster late in their season.
2006 New Britain 440ab 71r 35-2B 3-3B 14-HR 72rbi .282Ave .383OBP
2006 Mesa (AFL) 37ab 6r 0-2B 1-3B 2-HR 6rbi .216Ave .256OBP
Choosing a starting five from amongst the many young arms in the Twins system deserving of this honor is difficult, however, the following appear to be the five best who all should have excellent major league careers:
SP - Matt Garza (#1-Rochester Red Wings)
SP - Kevin Slowey (#2-Rochester Red Wings)
SP - Glen Perkins (#15-Rochester Red Wings)
SP - Anthony Swarzak (#13-Ft. Myers Miracle)
SP - Oswaldo Sosa (#6-Ft. Myers Miracle)
Matt Garza, 22, had a year that saw him rocket through the system from Ft. Myers to a starting role with the Twins. Garza, who was the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year, had a combined 14-4 record with a 1.99era and 0.877WHIP in 23 games with 135.2 innings. The debate will rage all winter whether or not Garza is ready for a regular role as part of the Twins starting staff next spring, however, his numbers with the Twins in 2006 were similar to the performances in 2005 of Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander. Garza will earn a regular spot in the Twins rotation in 2007, if not out of spring training he will certainly join the starting rotation during the season.
2006 Ft. Myers 5W-1L 44.1ip 1.42era 0.86WHIP 53K/11BB
2006 New Britain 6W-2L 57.1ip 2.51era 0.94WHIP 68K/14BB
2006 Rochester 3W-1L 34.0ip 1.85era 0.79WHIP 33K/7BB
2006 Minnesota 3W-6L 50.0ip 5.76era 1.70WHIP 38K/23BB
With the year Garza had, one wouldn't think that anyone could be close as the system's top pitcher. That was not the case however, as Kevin Slowey, 21+, was nearly Garza's equal compiling 148.509 points in my rating system compared with Garza's 149.887. By comparison, the next best starter was J. D. Durbin who accumulated 119.957 points. Slowey is deserving of the second spot in this rotation because of a year where he began in Ft. Myers where he was the MVP of the FSL All-Star game and finished by returning from Havana as the winning pitcher of the Olympic Qualifiers Championship game against Cuba to join Rochester where he won game two of their championship series with Toledo. Kevin continued pitching this fall as one of the better pitchers in the AFL. Slowey, who is another Twins pitcher who walks very few batters (24 walks in 167.2ip), will be watched closely next spring and has a real chance of joining the Twins starting rotation at some point during the 2007 season.
2006 Ft. Myers 4W-2L 89.1ip 1.01era 0.68WHIP 99K/9BB
2006 New Britain 4W-3L 59.1ip 3.19era 1.06WHIP 52K/13BB
2006 Mesa (AFL) 0W-1L 19.0ip 2.37era 1.11WHIP 12K/2BB
Glen Perkins, 23, had a an up and down year at New Britain, although his 4-11 record was not reflective of how well he pitched. He moved on to Rochester late in the season where he made one start during the last week of the season and several excellent starts in the playoffs. His final move was a call up to the Twins after the Red Wing playoff run was over, pitching very well out of the bullpen and earning a spot on the Twins' playoff roster. Look for Perkins to compete in spring training for a spot in the Twins starting rotation, although it is likely that he will return to Rochester for at least part of the season.
2006 New Britain 4W-11L 117.1ip 3.91era 1.31WHIP 131K/45BB
2006 Rochester 0W-1L 4.1ip 2.08era 2.54WHIP 3K/5BB
2006 Minnesota 0W-0L 5.2ip 1.59era 0.53WHIP 6K/0BB
After Garza and Slowey moved up to New Britain, Anthony Swarzak, 20, assumed the role of Miracle staff ace and he did not disappoint. Swarzak was one of the top pitchers in the Florida State League as he solidified his position as one of the top starting prospects in the system. Look for Swarzak to begin next season with the Rock Cats and he could be pitching for the Twins by late in the 2008 season, at the age of 22.
2006 Ft. Myers 11W-7L 145.2ip 3.27era 1.31WHIP 131K/60BB
The final starting spot on the All-Prospect team goes to Oswaldo Sosa, 20. Sosa split his season between Beloit and Ft. Myers, pitching well enough to be the sixth ranked pitcher in the system behind only Garza, Slowey, Neshek, Durbin and DePaula. After pitching very well in Beloit early in the season, Sosa moved up to Ft. Myers where he was a key member of their starting rotation as the Miracle drove to their second half championship and a spot in the FSL playoffs. Sosa will likely begin 2007 back at Ft. Myers with a move up to New Britain possible during the season.
2006 Beloit 9W-7L 117.2ip 2.75era 1.17WHIP 95K/36BB
2006 Ft. Myers 4W-1L 34.2ip 2.08era 1.18WHIP 27K/18B
The bullpen includes several of the top pitchers in the system and may be an equal to the excellent group of starters.
RP - Alexander Smit (#25-Beloit Snappers)
RP - Yohan Pino (#10-Beloit Snappers)
RP - Jose Mijares (#31-Ft. Myers)
RP - Eduardo Morlan (#12-Beloit Snappers)
RP - Julio DePaula (#5-New Britain Rock Cats)
CL - Danny Hernandez (#45-Elizabethton Twins)
Alexander Smit, 20, pitched out of the bullpen early in the season, however, it was after he was inserted into the starting rotation that he pitched as well as anyone in the organization. Smit, who was signed out of his native Holland at the age of 16, had always been a pitcher who accumulates a lot of strikeouts and 2006 was no different (1.30K/ip). Although Smit will likely remain a starter, because he was used both as a starter and reliever last year he is an excellent pitcher to include on the All-Prospect Team as the left handed long reliever.
2006 Beloit 7W-2L 108.1ip 2.99era 1.20WHIP 141K/53BB
The right handed long reliever is the most successful pitcher in the system, Yohan Pino, 22, who has accumulated a record of 33-5 over the past three years. Pitching out of the bullpen at Beloit for much of last year (7 starts in 42 games), Pino continued his winning way earning 14 wins in 16 decisions. Pino should move up to Ft. Myers next season where he will likely continue to be used out of the Miracle bullpen.
2006 Beloit 14W-2L 94.0ip 1.91era 0.95WHIP 99K/20BB
The left handed short-reliever is Jose Mijares, 21, who is a member of the Twins 40-man roster who dealt with nagging arm problems this season. He did not pitch well in his 5 starts, however, was excellent out of the bullpen with a 3-1 record, 1.80era, 1.02WHIP and 57K/15BB (1.27K/IP) in 45.0 innings of relief. Look for Mijares to move up to New Britain next season, unless he is not healthy in spring training.
2006 Ft. Myers 3W-5L 63.0ip 3.57era 1.25WHIP 77K/27BB
The right handed short-reliever is Beloit's hard throwing Eduardo Morlan, 20, who reportedly throws nearly 100mph. Like many of the members of this bullpen, Morlan split last season between the bullpen and starting rotation (18 starts in 28 games). Morlan also dealt with a sore arm while accumulating well over one strike out per inning (1.17K/IP). The Twins need Morlan to stay healthy for an entire season because if he can, he has the talent to be on the fast track to Minnesota.
2006 Beloit 5W-5L 106.1ip 2.29era 1.09WHIP 125K/38BB
The set-up man is the system's highest ranked reliever now that Pat Neshek has permanently moved up to the Twins, Julio DePaula, 23. After a short stay at Ft. Myers where he did not allow an earned run, DePaula moved up to New Britain where he pitched so well that he was the fifth ranked pitcher in the system. DePaula needs to reduce the number of walks he issues so he can take that last step to Minnesota.
2006 Ft. Myers 1W-1L 15.1ip 0.00era 0.91WHIP 10K/6BB
2006 New Britain 2W-2L 66.2ip 2.57era 1.28WHIP 43K/27BB
The All-Prospect closer is a young man who accumulated more saves than any pitcher in the system while pitching for the short season Elizabethton Twins, Danny Hernandez, 20. Hernandez accumulated 18 saves while appearing in only 28 games with nearly a strikeout and a half (1.41K/IP) per inning pitched. Hernandez will begin next season at either Beloit or Ft. Myers and should move rapidly through the system if he continues to pitch as he did this season.
2006 Elizabethton 1W-1L 28.1ip 3.81era 1.02WHIP 40K/9BB
So that concludes the 25-man 2006 All-Prospect Team. Give this group five years and we could see many of these young men playing for the Twins as they enter a second season in their new ballpark. Add most of this group to a half dozen or so players from the current squad, Mauer, Morneau, Kubel or Cuddyer, maybe Bartlett, Santana, Liriano (if healthy) and Neshek…and the Twins should have the talent needed to annually compete for championships.