30. Rob Delaney, Pitcher
Delaney, 25, signed with the Twins in 2006 for a mere $500 after not being selected in the draft. In four years in the system, he has certainly earned that much and more.
Delaney emerged as one of the Twins' top relief pitching prospects after terrific years in 2007 and 2008. Delaney tore up both levels of A ball and Double-A before experiencing his first real troubles in Triple-A in 2009.
After 2007 and 2008, when he posted a 1.03 ERA and 1.23 ERA, respectively, Delaney was not quite as lights out in 2009.
While he started off the year well with a 2.00 ERA in Double-A, the promotion to Triple-A did not agree with Delaney, as he struggled down the stretch to a 4.53 ERA.
Delaney projects as a reliable middle reliever who will pound the strike zone and be murder on right-handed batters.
Without overwhelming stuff, Delaney has to rely on savvy and control to get batters out. While Delaney's numbers in the minors have been impressive, he lacks a dominant out pitch with his slider merely ranking as mediocre.
Delaney should get his chance to become a permanent fixture in the Twins' bullpen at some point in the 2010 season.
29. Luke Hughes
Hughes is a perfect example of the Twins' aggressive efforts in the international markets. While most teams choose to focus their efforts on Latin America and possibly Japan, Minnesota has looked to more unconventional areas in their search for young talent.
Hughes, 25, was signed out of Australia in 2002 at the age of 18. Hughes has struggled to make a significant impact on the farm system as constant injuries and an inability to secure playing time have combined to derail his career.
Despite these struggles, Hughes is still one of the Twins most promising power hitters, and the team demonstrated this by protecting him on the 40-man roster.
Hughes had a terrific year in 2008, hitting 18 home runs with a .309 batting average and effectively worked himself back into the Twins' plans for the future.
Unfortunately, 2009 saw Hughes crash right back down to earth, as he was only able to muster 12 home runs and a .254 batting average.
Hughes is at a point in his career in which it is time for him to prove he actually belongs in the majors. The Twins will give him every opportunity to succeed, as he represents serious power potential in a seriously power-starved system.
28. Mike McCardell, Pitcher
McCardell is an excellent microcosm for the Twins' farm system as a whole. He's a pitchability right-hander who doesn't have electric stuff, but projects as a Quadruple-A or bullpen-type pitcher.
The Twins' system is full of these guys, and as a result, I have purposefully kept many of them off of this list, instead choosing to go with higher-risk and higher-reward players.
McCardell is one of the few that I deemed good enough to sneak his way onto the bottom of this list.
McCardell was a fifth-round pick in the 2007 draft, and will probably start next season in Double-A. While McCardell lacks an above-average fastball, his curveball ranks as one of the best in the system.
McCardell is one of these guys who is loved by scouts, not because of his projectability or pitching arsenal, but rather because of his savvy and toughness.
McCardell experienced his first real struggles of his professional career in 2009 posting a 3.98 ERA across two levels of the minors.
The Twins will look for McCardell's numbers to improve as he becomes more accustomed to the upper levels of the minor leagues. Don't expect McCardell to be anything better than average, but come 2011 he could be useful to the Twins organization as a spot starter or a long reliever.
27. Deolis Guerra, Pitcher
In five years, people will look back on the Johan Santana trade and rank it at, or near, the top on the list of worst trades of all time. The Twins received four minor league players—Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Guerra—in return for their ace.
Mulvey scuffled through a season-and-a-half in the Twins minor league system and was eventually traded midway through the 2009 season to the Arizona Diamondbacks for reliever Jon Rauch.
Gomez, who was considered the gem of the deal, really struggled at the major league level. While he demonstrated that he was one of the fastest players in the game, his hitting was so erratic and inconsistent that he was unable to utilize his speed on the base paths.
The Twins realized that they had better internal options, including Denard Span, and dealt Gomez this offseason to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy.
Humber, once a first-round pick for the Mets, was an absolute disaster when given a chance to claim one of the relief spots for the Twins this past season.
Despite being out of options, Humber was still designated for assignment and removed from the 40-man roster.
No team chose to claim him so he will continue to try to improve his play in Triple-A and attempt to make it back to the majors, though his numbers since his demotion suggest that this is a long shot.
The final player acquired in the deal was young pitcher Deolis Guerra. Guerra, like the others, has really suffered in his time with the Twins. Guerra entered the 2008 season at High-A ball with big time expectations, after hitting 95 mph on a gun in New York and showing a plus change-up.
Unfortunately, Guerra completely lost his command, posting a 5.47 ERA. The 2009 season was not much of an improvement for Deolis as he floundered down the stretch to a 4.89 ERA across two levels.
Guerra is still only 20 years old, and is still highly regarded due to his potential and electric arm. Guerra is the last chance for the Twins to make the Johan Santana deal look validated so they will give him every opportunity to succeed.
No. 26 Max Kepler-Rozycki, Outfielder
Kepler-Rozycki is perhaps the greatest enigma in the Twins' organization right now. He is a 16-year-old outfielder who the Twins signed out of Germany for an $800,000 signing bonus.
That bonus is a record for an amateur player from outside of the United States and Latin America, but the Twins believed enough in his talent to make the huge offer.
KR is as raw as they get, but has the potential to one day excel in all five tools—speed, arm strength, glove work, hitting average and power. In fact, one scout declared that "Kepler is the toolsiest kid we've ever had in Europe. No question."
The Twins' signing of Miguel Angel Sano could have a positive effect on KR's development as the spotlight will be shifted to the more heralded of the 16-year-olds.
It is very difficult to project how KR will actually perform in American professional baseball, and that is a large reason why he is not higher up on this list.
KR is the ultimate unknown quantity. He is blessed with dynamic tools and big-time talent, but he is still extremely young and lacks any semblance of professional experience.
KR is certainly a guy for Twins fans to keep an eye on, but don't expect to see him in the majors anytime soon.
25. Michael Tonkin, Pitcher
Tonkin was a more significant part of the Twins' farm system before the 2009 draft. Prior to that draft, the Twins were very thin on organizational starting pitching depth, and Tonkin ranked as one of the more promising pitchers.
However, the Twins addressed their need by drafting big starting pitching arms with their first four picks in the 2009 draft, knocking Tonkin down a few levels.
Tonkin was selected in the 30th round of the 2008 draft due in part to issues with his signability, but the Twins were able to lock him down for a bonus of $230,000.
Tonkin hasn't wowed management with the year-and-a-half he has spent so far in the minors, but he has been solid and consistent.
Tonkin has shown a surprising penchant for striking out batters—60 in 54 innings in 2009—despite not having overpowering stuff.
Now that the Twins' system has been restocked with promising pitching talent, management can afford to be more patient with Tonkin as he progresses and grows into his 6-6 frame.
Tonkin has posted solid numbers at rookie level ball, and the Twins will look for him to continue that success at Class A ball next season.