Top 10 Minor League 1st Half Stories: #8

Now that the Minor League full-season teams have reached the halfway point of their respective seasons, TwinCitiesDugout.com takes a look at the Top-10 performances of the first half. In our #8 selection, we look at the rise of outfield prospect Trent Oeltjen, who went from relatively unknown, to being picked to participate in the Futures Game this season.

Though their record would not indicate it, the New Britain Rock Cats' roster is filled with big-time prospects. One look at the list and you see names like Perkins, Span, Moses, Slowey, and Garza, which are names that any General Manager in baseball would love to bring up during trade talks. However, this season a new star has emerged for the New Britain Rock Cats, an un-drafted outfielder from Australia named Trent Oeltjen.

Prior to the 2006 season, Oeltjen was not a name that was all over the scout's radar. In fact, we did not even rank him in our Preseason Top-50 Prospects list. Now, as the Minor League season enters it's fourth month, Oeltjen is separating himself from the pack, and is having a good time doing so.

The Twins picked up Oeltjen went he was 17 years old, signing the young outfielder as a non-drafted free agent on February 7, 2001. Since then, Oeltjen has made a steady climb throughout the system, sometimes spending two years at certain stops. He was originally assigned to the Gulf Coast League Twins, but after batting .321 in 45 games, he was promptly promoted to Elizabethton.

For E-Town, Oeltjen batted only .233 in 2001, and the Twins felt he needed more seasoning before being promoted to full-season ball. He began the 2002 season again with Elizabethton, but after hitting .298 in his second go-round, he was given the opportunity to play for Quad Cities of the Midwest League.

Though he would end the 2002 season with Quad Cities, he would be back with the Swing to start the 2003 season, and would spend the entire season there. He began a string of three consecutive seasons with 20 or more stolen bases that season, and would finish the year with a .298 batting average. He also drove in a career-high 44 runs, while finishing the year eighth in the league in triples, with eight.

In 2004, Oeltjen was a member of the Fort Myers Miracle, and put up pretty decent numbers in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. For the Miracle, Trent batted .278, and stole 25 bases in 33 tries. Still, he would remain with the Miracle for the following season, and after batting .287 in his second year with Fort Myers, would finally be given the chance to play in Double-A in 2006.

Prior to the 2006 season, Oeltjen was picked to represent his native Australia in the World Baseball Classic. Though his team did not fare so well in the Classic, Oeltjen's name had finally gotten out there, and he would go into this season with added confidence. That confidence has shown this season, and he has been the most consistent bat in a Rock Cats' lineup that is filled with top prospects.

This season, Oeltjen got off to a slow start in New Britain, batting only .229 in the month of June. Since then, he has been a .300 hitter for the Rock Cats, and was recently named to the Futures Game. Oeltjen will be the only Twins prospect in the game that features the best young players in Minor League Baseball.

The Twins did the right thing with Oeltjen, never allowing added pressure to hinder his development. Only 23-years old, Trent appears to be on the fast track to the Major Leagues, and is now one of the top outfield prospects in the organization. If he finishes strong, he could be in Rochester by the end of the season. He'll start there next year, but fans in Minnesota should remember this name and look for Oeltjen to be a part of the new regime of Twins that will lead them in the future.


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