While most fans are looking at their Major League team and wondering what the future holds, they should really be looking to their farm systems. Many teams feel the need to raffle off their top prospects for a quick fix, but for Twins fans, it is easy to see that their organization likes to groom their prospects for success in the Twin Cities. The Twins have possibly the strongest farm system in all of baseball, and many questions will be answered this season.
One of the most important questions that 2006 will answer is if Jason Kubel is ready to become the Twins' everyday right fielder. He was on the fast track to stardom before an injury in the Arizona Fall League robbed him of the 2005 season. Still, most scouts feel he is 100 percent, although he should begin the 2006 season in Rochester. If all goes well, he could be back in Minnesota for the start of May, adding tremendous pop to the Twins' lineup.
Also on the mind of Twins' fans is if Francisco Liriano can turn into a Johan Santana-type impact pitcher. Liriano caught the attention of baseball fans last season, as he made the jump from Double-A New Britain, to the Major Leagues in one season. Possessing a filthy arsenal of pitches, if he can improve on his command, he could give the Twins an incomparable set of lefty starters. However, if he cannot lock up the fifth starter spot this Spring, he is going to anchor the rotation in Rochester.
Based on their success in the Midwest League in 2005, the Twins have a core of young starters that should make the Fort Myers Miracle the favorite in the Florida State League this season. Jay Rainville, Anthony Swarzak, Justin Jones, Matt Garza, and Kevin Slowey should all don the Miracle uniform in 2006, and there is a lot of expectations coming out of the Twins' camp. Some feel that Slowey is the closest to the Majors of the bunch, but all five are young, and full of potential.
Joining these young aces in Fort Myers this season will be David Winfree and Trevor Plouffe, who are coming off their worst defensive seasons as professionals. While both are highly touted prospects, with Winfree making huge strides at the plate in 2005, they both need to put up incredibly better numbers defensively in 2006. Some feel that last season was a fluke for them, as they combined to commit over 70 errors, mostly because Plouffe still rates as the best defensive infielder in the organization.
When you think Twins' prospects, two names seem to always come up: Denard Span, and Matthew Moses. While both made the rise from High-A Fort Myers to Double-A New Britain in 2005, most feel that Span is the one who is ready to open the season at Triple-A in 2006. Moses struggled after his call up to the Eastern League, while Span did not miss a beat. They both had pretty good seasons in the Arizona Fall League, and when all is said and done this season, will both have appeared in a Rochester Red Wings uniform.
One prospect that is starting to get a lot of attention is outfielder Danny Santiesteban. The young slugger got off to a hot start for the Gulf Coast League Twins in 2005, but a broken pinky sidelined him for most of the season. Even after missing most of the season, he still led the team in home runs and runs batted in. Recently, Baseball America ranked him in their top 30 prospects in the Twins' organization list, and ranked him as having the best outfield arm in the organization. Very speedy, he could be pushed by the Twins in 2006, and should start the season with full-season Beloit.
Probably the most underrated player in the Twins organization is outfielder Doug Deeds. Deeds was one of the best all-around players in the Eastern League in 2005, and will be a catalyst for the Rochester lineup this season. A sweet-swinging lefty, Deeds was at the top of the Eastern League leaderboard in several categories. He may have to move to leftfield until Kubel is promoted back to Minnesota.
Another key name to look for this summer is Henry Sanchez, the Twins' supplemental pick this past season, who most feel is the best power hitting prospect in the organization. Sanchez is built like a young Andres Galarraga, and is only going to be 19-years old at the start of next season. He will probably be in extended Spring Training to start the year, and then moved to Elizabethton.
Overall, the Twins will most likely be over the .500 mark as an organization once again. They have tremendous pitching depth, and received a boat load of draft picks last season. On each level there are players that will be impact players in their respective leagues, and it should make for a fun and exciting summer.