The Minnesota Twins, long known for their adept scouting have invested much more heavily into international signings in recent years. Add that to a team that has long been known for being one of the better teams in finding talent in the North American draft and you can see why the Twins currently have a minor league system loaded with high end talent.
Here is a look at the top 10 prospects currently in the Twins farm system.
Max Kepler starts the list off at the number 10 spot.
Kepler, a native of Germany, signed with the Twins in July of 2009 at only 16 years of age for $800,000 dollars.
He has been touted as the best prospect ever to come out of Germany. I'll give you an hour to try and think of any other players from Germany, but hey, that's still impressive.
Even at age 17, Kepler has a man's body. He stands at 6'4" and weighs in at 180 pounds. He will fill out as he grows into his body a little more.
Kepler is a five-tool, left handed hitting outfielder. Baseball America's scouting report says Kepler has "a fluid swing, a plus arm and a tick above-average speed -- an average runner and (will) grow into more power once he fills out his frame."
Last season in the Twins' Rookie Gulf Coast League Kepler hit for a .286 average, .346 on base percentage and a .689 on base plus slugging.
Carlos Gutierrez was the Twins' first round draft pick in the 2008 MLB Draft out of the University of Miami.
He was drafted out of college where he was the closer on his Hurricane squad. The Twins converted Gutierrez to a starter once he was signed. During the 2009 season he started very strong for the Fort Myers Miracle, posting a 1.32 ERA in 10 starts.
The Twins were optimistic about his chances as a starting pitcher heading into the 2010 season. He did not respond as well as the Twins had hoped.
After 16 starts last year, he was moved back into the bullpen where he seemed more comfortable.
Gutierrez sports a nasty, 95 MPH sinker ball in the vein of (pre-injury) Brandon Webb. He used that sinker ball to get ground balls on over 60% of balls in play.
The Twins will have him opening the season at Triple-A Rochester in 2011. If he can show progress in the pen, the Twins may bring him up mid season for a team that has lost Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, and Brian Fuentes this off-season.
Estimated Time of Arrival to Majors: Mid/Late 2011
Liam Hendriks signed with Twins as non-drafted free agent on Feb. 25, 2007. He is a right handed starting pitcher who finished the season at Fort Myers with a record of 8-4 and a 1.74 ERA on the season.
Another fruit of the Twins' advanced international scouting, Hendriks hails originally from Australia, where he is currently playing some winter ball.
Hendriks is the epitome of a Twins pitcher. He isn't armed with overwhelming "stuff". He throws a high 80's/low 90's fastball. He can also mix in a curve, slider, and change-up all with plus command. He pounds the strike zone consistently, walking only 12 batters in 108.2 innings in 2010.
Hendriks projects as a number 4 or 5 starter should he make the bigs.
Yet another fruit picked off of the international scouting tree is Adrian Salcedo of the Dominican Republic.
Salcedo is one of the more intriguing arms in the Twins' system. At just 19 years old he stands a 6'4" and 175 pounds and his fastball tops out in the mid-ninties.
His secondary pitches, while solid for 19 years of age, will need to continue to develop. His curveball has tight spiral, and late breaking movement that has buckled a few knees.
He will need to work on a developing change-up in the coming seasons to round out his repertoire.
Salcedo went 5-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 2010. He showed how dominant he could be though. From July 19th-July 25th Salcedo pitched 14 innings while going 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA, and struck out 21 batters to only one walk.
Alex Wimmers is a 23 year old right handed starting pitcher. The Twins took Wimmers in the 2010 MLB Entry Draft with their first round draft pick, 21st overall.
Wimmers, out of Ohio State University, put up great numbers in his career in the big ten, winning back-to-back Big Ten Pitcher of the Year awards.
He is another prototypical Twins pitcher. He has great command of a low 90's fastball, and can locate an above average curve and change-up at any time in the at-bat.
Wimmers only got to participate in class-A this season. In two relief stints and two starts he dominated. Going 2-0 over 15.2 innings and only giving up one earned run for an ERA of 0.57. He also added 23 strikeouts with only five walks.
Wimmers projects as another late rotation starter.