Top 5 fantasy baseball prospects
1- Miguel Sano, 3B
Sano's raw power may only be bested in the minors by Bryce Harper. With power down across baseball, that fact alone makes Sano an intriguing prospect. The most impressive part of Sano's power potential is that he already began showing it off in games as an 18 year old last year. He ripped 20 home runs, along with another 25 extra base hits, in 267 at-bats in the Rookie level Appalachian League. He strikes out a lot, and he could stand to show a bit more patience at the dish, but neither rate is alarmingly high.
Already a big young man, 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, there is some concern he'll fill out to the point of being unable to play third base. If he's able to stick at the hot corner as he moves up the minor league ladder, he'll be one of the most desirable prospects to own in dynasty and keeper formats. Even if he is forced to move across the diamond, or to the corner outfield, his power will make him an alluring prospect. Expect Sano to open the year in Low-A.
2- Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF
The Twins nabbed Rosario in the fourth round of the 2010 amateur draft. He signed quickly enough to play in 51 games in the Rookie level Gulf Coast League. His play there was good, but it did little to foreshadow the dominant performance that would come in 2011. Rosario played with Sano in the Rookie level Appalachian league, and actually outplayed him. He crushed 21 home runs, nine doubles, and nine triples in 270 at-bats. His .337/.397/.670 line was jaw dropping. Don't be fooled by the power output, his power tool is not in the same class as that of Sano. That said, he should provide above average power in his major league future.
He played all year in the outfield, but the Twins plan on transitioning him to second base, where his fantasy value will soar. He has above average speed, and could use that to be a positive contributor to fantasy owners stolen base bottom line. He'll join Sano in Low-A to begin the 2012 season.
3- Oswaldo Arcia, OF
After crushing the ball while playing in Rookie level ball, and Low-A, Arcia found the sledding a bit tougher in 213 at-bats at the High-A level. He wasn't totally over matched, but he went from posting super human numbers, to looking mortal. Arcia isn't an impressive athlete, and he'll be carried as far as his bat takes him. That's not a problem in the world of fake baseball, as the bat is what counts. Arcia has plus raw power, and projects to hit for a high batting average as well. His plate discipline is lacking, as he walked in just four percent of his High-A plate appearances. Upper minors pitchers will likely exploit his impatience, but at just 20 years of age, he has time to learn to be more selective. Arcia should open the year in High-A, with a chance at an in season promotion to Double-A.
4- Joe Benson, OF
On September 6, Benson made his Twins debut and went 0-3 with one walk and two strikeouts. The line itself isn't important, the fact he was able to reach the majors last year is. In total, Benson played in 21 games, receiving 74 plate appearances in which he hit .239/.270/.352 and had walk and strikeout rates of 4.1 percent, and 28.4 percent, respectively. Benson is an above average athlete that has enough power and speed to suggest he could post 20/20 seasons in the majors. The fly in the ointment with Benson is his poor contact rate. In over 2,000 minor league at-bats, he has just a .265 average. He did hit .285 in Double-A last year, so there is hope he won't be a total drain on fantasy batting averages, but it's unlikely he'll be an asset there.
Benson is probably the odd man out in the Twins outfield to begin the year, with Josh Willingham, Denard Span, and Ben Revere looking like the starting trio. He could begin the year as the fourth outfielder, serving as a reserve to all three outfield positions. It's also possible he'll open the year in Triple-A, a minor league level he never played plate.
5- Aaron Hicks, OF
The tools are tantalizing, the production, or lack thereof, is frustrating. Hicks was drafted in the first round of the of the 2008 amateur draft. In spite of all his tools, they haven't translated to in game skills. He has plus speed, but is an inefficient base stealer (66.7 percent stolen base rate in his professional career). Hicks is a switch hitter who has been more productive as a right-handed batter than a left-handed batter. His walk rate looks tremendous, but scouting reports suggest he is more passive than patient. Hicks was at his best in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) this past fall hitting .294/.400/.559 with a 15.0 percent walk rate, and an 17.5 percent strikeout rate in 120 plate appearances. He flashed some pop, but was still an inefficient base stealer getting caught stealing four times in nine attempts.
The Twins have to hope that his strong play in the fall carries over to Double-A to begin 2012. If it all comes together, Hicks could be a fantasy friendly outfield option. The onus is on him to go from outstanding athlete to outstanding baseball player.
Bonus- Travis Harrison, 3B
Harrison's calling card is his power, and that power was enough to convince the Twins to draft him in the supplemental first round of this past June's amateur draft. The organization hopes he'll develop enough defensively to play third base, where he'll begin his pro career, but there is a shot he'll require a move across the diamond to first base. He isn't strictly a slugger, and there is hope he can be a complete hitter that works walks and hits for a solid batting average. As a high school draftee, and just 19 years old, Harrison is a few years from knocking on the major league door.
Top 5 in 2012
1- Liam Hendriks, SP
Hendriks isn't a flashy starting pitcher, and he fits the profile of classic Twins strike throwers. He throws four pitches for strikes, an upper-80s to low-90s fastball that averaged roughly 90 mph in four major league starts, a slider, curveball, and change-up. His 6.17 ERA in 23.1 innings with the Twins was ugly, but his 4.10 FIP, and 3.66 xFIP suggests bad luck played a big part. He induced groundballs at a 46.2 percent clip, pounded the strike zone (2.31 BB/9), but didn't miss many bats (6.17 K/9). Target Field has played slightly pitcher friendly, and should help Hendriks keep the ball in the yard. Hendriks has yet to allow a run in spring training, throwing seven scoreless innings. It's unclear what the Twins projected rotation is, but Hendriks should get an extended look at some point even if he doesn't break camp as a member of the starting five.
2- Joe Benson, OF
Though he'll begin the year in a reserve role, or in the minors, Benson figures to see some regular playing time at some point in 2012.
3- Brian Dozier, SS
The Twins middle infield is a mess. They signed Jamey Carroll this offseason to join Alexi Casilla, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. If that group doesn't inspire much confidence in you, you're not alone. Dozier hit the ball with authority in Double-A last year, .318/.384/.502, and could press for a look in the majors if he stings the ball in Triple-A. He lacks star potential, but could offer a bit of power, speed, and hit for a decent average if he adjusts quickly. The bar is set low enough offensively at both middle infield positions that Dozier could be a plug and play option in AL-only formats or large mixed leagues if he finds his way into regular playing time.
4- Chris Parmele, 1B/OF
Parmele made a splash in 88 plate appearances for the Twins last year. His minor league track record indicates he was probably playing above his head. His power has historical come more in the form of doubles than homers, and his .266 career minor league average is a far cry from his .355 average with the parent club last year. He hit .287 in 610 Double-A plate appearances in 2011, so he has made progress as a hitter, but don't expect him to be a .300 hitter in the majors. Parmele has played very well in the spring, and could be the first name the club calls if Justin Morneua is unable to conquer his concussion demons. His value is unlikely to extend beyond AL-only formats, or a hot streak waiver addition in large mixed leagues that use a corner infield position.
5- Deolis Guerra, RP
Guerra is a long shot to make waves in fantasy this year, but he broke out after the Twins moved him to the bullpen last year. He struck out better than a batter per-inning in the pen, kept the walks down, and kept the ball on the ground. His fastball added a couple ticks of velocity, and his change-up remained a devastating offering. He also throws a curveball that is inconsistent, but that will be less of a problem out of the bullpen. If the team continues his development in the bullpen, he could reach the majors over the summer. The back of the Twins bullpen lacks a dominant presence, so there is an outside shot Guerra could vulture a few saves if everything broke perfectly for him.