Scouting Twin Prospect #35: Steven Tolleson

The Twins took Tolleson with their fifth round selection this past season, and the middle infielder from the University of South Carolina put together a nice first season in professional baseball. The son of former Major Leaguer Wayne Tolleson, Steven should begin the 2006 season right where he left off, in Beloit.

Vital Statistics:
Name:Steven Tolleson
Position: Middle Infielder
DOB: November 1, 1983
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 180
Bats:: Right
Throws: Right

Steven Tolleson has been around professional baseball his whole life, so it was not a surprise when he was able to start his pro career off on the right foot. His father, Wayne, was a Major League baseball player with the Rangers, White Sox, and Yankees, playing eight seasons in the big leagues. If his first season of ball is any indication, Tolleson may one day share that in common with his old man.

After batting .425 during his high school days at Dorman High School, Tolleson decided to continue his baseball career at the University of South Carolina. He chose USC because he thought they were the best college program in the nation, and he wanted to go to a College World Series.

During his freshman year, Tolleson broke into the lineup as the team's starting right-fielder, and wound up appearing in 50 games for the Gamecocks. As he did with his pro career, Tolly got off to a blistering start to his collegiate career, batting .302 for the season. He was also named to the All-Tournament Team at the NCAA Regional in Atlanta, and hit a home run against Stanford in the College World Series.

For his sophomore season, Tolleson moved back into the infield. Although he missed 18 games due to a leg injury, he did bat .316, and was one of the best players on the team. Named a team captain for the 2005 season, Tolly finished off the year by blasting another College World Series home run, this time against the University of Miami.

His junior year would be his last year as a member of the Gamecocks, and he left school after picking up All-SEC honors as a shortstop. He played in every game that season, batted .296, and was second of the team with 43 runs batted in. For his efforts, the Twins made him their fifth round selection, and Tolleson signed shortly after.

He was originally assigned to Elizabethton of the Appalachian League, and quickly went on a hitting spree. It only took him 16 games to warrant a promotion, as the slick-fielding middle infielder batted .321 for E-Town. He recorded a base hit in 12 of his 16 games, and finished his Apply League season with a six-game hitting streak.

Tolleson was promoted to Beloit of the Midwest League, and made his full-season debut on July 30. He was mired in a slump the entire time he was in Beloit, but showed the ability to field both shortstop, and second base. The batting slump could have been due to his switch to second base, and the pressures of learning a new position. One sign of that is his .286 batting average as a shortstop, and his .159 average as a second baseman.

Batting and Power. Tolleson can hit, and his .176 average in the Midwest League was an aberration. He has hit on every level he has played at, and should bat close to .300 in 2006. He does not have a lot of power, but he does have good gap power, which allows him to hit for extra-bases. He also has a tremendous batting eye, which allowed him to walk 28 times this past season. He did rack up some strikeouts once he was promoted to full-season, but with more seasoning next year, those numbers should go down.

Base running and Speed. Tolleson is pretty quick, but he is not a guy that possesses blazing speed. Over the course of a full season, he is probably good for around 20 stolen bases, and he rarely makes a mistake on the base paths. During his junior year at SC, he stole 20 bags, so when given the green light, Tolly can make some things happen on the base paths. So while he isn't going to make a pitcher balk by taking a lead, he is no liability once he gets on.

Defense. Tolleson can pick it, and he also has the ability to play both middle infield positions. He was one of the best fielders in the SEC during his collegiate years, and it was his maturity as an infielder that attributed to his call-up this past season. He will most likely be moved to second base permanently in 2006, because a man named Plouffe currently mans the shortstop duties at the A level. Look for he, and Paul Kelly to be up the middle in Beloit next season.

ETA. 2009.Tolly will be 22 when the 2006 season opens up, so the Twins will be looking for him to at least finish the year in High-A Fort Myers. If he can accomplish that, he should be right on track to make his New Britain debut in 2007. From there, it will all depend on how much he progresses, and what the Twins' needs are. If Plouffe has another bad season, Tolleson may make it to Minnesota before him. However, it is looking like 2009 is the logical choice of when Tolly gets to Minnesota.

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