24. Trevor Plouffe, Shortstop
Since being selected in the first round of the 2004 draft and being awarded a $1.5 million signing bonus, Plouffe has struggled to distinguish himself in a system completely devoid of middle infield talent.
But despite his struggles, Plouffe is still the most advanced middle infield prospect in the entirety of the Twins' system. In fact, one of the primary reasons for the Twins' big push on signing Miguel Angel Sano was their lack of young talent in that area.
While the Twins' management believes that he could one day demonstrate plus power for a shortstop, he has yet to show that thus far in his five-year minor league career. Plouffe spent all of last season in Triple A, struggling to a .313 OBP, with a mere 10 home runs and three stolen bases.
However, what Plouffe lacks in offense, he makes up for in defense. Plouffe possesses a cannon of an arm and can play above-average defense at second base, shortstop, and third base.
The Twins have faith that he can play a significant role on their team, evidenced by the fact that they added him to their 40-man roster last year.
Look for Plouffe to start off the season in triple A, with a promotion to the majors midseason depending on his performance, as well as the play of Brendan Harris, J.J. Hardy, and Matt Tolbert.
Plouffe should make it to the majors at some point in 2010 or 2011 as an infield utility man, but is unlikely to lock down a starting job with the Twins.
23. Shooter Hunt, Pitcher
No player hurt his stock more in 2009 than pitcher Shooter Hunt.
Hunt entered last season as the Twins' best starting pitching prospect, but quickly played himself out of that role.
Shooter was drafted in 2006 in the first round supplemental and signed for $1.08 million.
The Twins' were very intrigued by his plus fastball as well as an excellent curve. In fact, by the end of 2008, Hunt was considered to have the best breaking ball in the entire system.
Unfortunately, all that goodwill Hunt had garnered disappeared during the 2009 season.
Hunt started off the year in Class A ball but floundered to a 10.70 ERA. He was demoted midseason but fared little better, posting a 9.60 ERA.
Hunt has premium pitching talent, but has struggled with command his entire career. When it looked like he finally put those issues behind him, they came back with a vengeance in 2009.
In 33 innings across two levels, Hunt gave up an astonishing 58 walks.
But the Twins won't be willing to give up on the 23-year-old Hunt just yet—he possesses a truly dynamic set of pitches.
However, if he wants to have any significant impact at the Major League level, Hunt will have to seriously improve his command. With the disastrous 2009 season over, look for the Twins to be very patient with Hunt as he progresses through the system.
22. Loek Van Mil, Pitcher
Van Mil is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing prospects not only in the Twins' system, but in the entire league.
Van Mil is just about as atypical a prospect as you can find in the minor leagues: He was signed out of the Netherlands at age 20 and is over 7 feet tall.
The last three years have seen the Twins try to work with Van Mil to get him to reach his undeniable potential.
Although he progressed slowly, he has proven his skill at every level of the minors that he has reached thus far.
Van Mil can throw lights-out pitches, but his size and inexperience contribute to random and severe bouts of wildness.
Despite his size, Van Mil has managed to work his way through the minors virtually unnoticed, evidenced by his passing through the Rule Five draft in 2008.
2009 was his best year to date, as he proved that he could consistently perform at the upper reaches of the minors, posting a 2.79 ERA across two levels.
Van Mil is likely to start 2010 at Double A with promotions to Triple A and the majors to come depending on his performance. The Twins believe Van Mil could ultimately be an important set-up man in the future as well as matchup hell for many major league hitters.
21. Jeff Manship, Pitcher
Manship is a solid, yet unspectacular, pitching prospect who should have an impact on the Twins' Major League roster at some point in 2010.
Manship was selected in the 14th round of the 2006 draft out of Notre Dame. More significantly, he is one of the few upper-level pitching prospects in the Twins' organization.
Manship lacks electric pitches and is not much of a strikeout pitcher, but he has put up good numbers in the minors. He started in Double A, but was promoted to Triple A and ultimately the majors during the season.
Despite decent numbers in the minors and a 3.86 ERA across two levels, Manship really struggled in his first taste of the major leagues.
In 11 games with the Twins, he had a 5.86 ERA, while allowing opposing hitters to bat .310 against him. Manship has a dominant curveball, but lacks the complete repertoire to make it a true out pitch.
Going in to 2010, Manship will be in competition for the fifth rotation spot, but will realistically begin the year in Triple A. Given the injuries that the Twins' rotation endured last season, don't be surprised to see Manship up in Minnesota sooner in 2010 rather than later.
20. Ben Tootle, Pitcher
Tootle is the first on this list of the four highly-regarded pitching prospects who the Twins selected in the first three rounds of the 2009 draft.
The 2009 draft represented a return to fostering high upside pitching talent for the Twins, and Tootle is a perfect example of this philosophy.
Tootle doesn't have imposing size, but has a live arm with two already plus pitches. His curveball is probably the best in his repertoire, but he also has a good fastball that sits at 94-95 mph and can reach 99 mph.
Tootle is relatively small in stature but has a crazy leg kick, from which he is able to generate much of his power. He went to Jacksonville State, and while his numbers weren't dominant, he was picked in the third round due to his potential and projectability.
Tootle's biggest issue throughout his college career has been with his command, and the Twins hope that they can tame his wildness and harness his talent.
While Tootle has dynamic skill, it is difficult to rank him because he has only pitched six innings at the professional level. Albeit, those six innings were quite impressive, netting zero earned runs in six relief appearances.
Tootle is also an enigma because it is unclear how the Twins plan to use him. A closer in college, there have been rumblings that the Twins might try to turn him into a starter in the minors. Whatever the case, Tootle is a very intriguing arm in the lower levels of the Twins' organization to keep an eye on.
19. B.J. Hermsen, Pitcher
While not all that touted coming in to 2009, Hermsen exploded onto everyone's radar with a truly dominant season.
A sixth-round pick in the 2008 draft, Hermsen was mostly an afterthought as it was widely believed he would go to Oregon State. However, the Twins offered him a $650,000 signing bonus just before the deadline and, much to everyone's surprise—he signed.
Hermsen was considered one of the top high school arms in the draft but slipped all the way to the sixth round because teams believed he would be almost impossible to sign. As a result, the Twins were able to grab a steal for a relatively cheap price.
2009 was his professional debut, and he certainly didn't disappoint. He had one of the best seasons for a Twins prospect last year, posting a 1.35 ERA in 10 starts at rookie ball. He has caught the Twins' attention with a superb command of his fastball and curveball.
While probably not destined to be overpowering, Hermsen is an excellent mix of pitchability and life. Hermsen only just turned 20 but is very advanced for a pitching prospect his age, so he is expected to move quickly through the Twins' system.
He demonstrated his talent with his great performance at rookie ball, but he's still inexperienced and the Twins will look for him to continue similar levels of success as he rises through the organization.
Look for Hermsen to start 2010 in low Class A ball, with potential promotions to High A and Double A to follow.
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