Name: Denard Span
DOB: February 27, 1984
The Twins selected Denard Span with the 20th pick in the 2002 draft, after he spurned an offer from the Colorado Rockies to sign a pre-draft deal and go ninth to them. It is a good thing for the Twins that he made that decision, as he is now on the brink of being a Major League outfielder. Possessing blazing speed and great all-around baseball tools, Span also turned down Division-1A football offers, and began his pro journey in the summer of 2003.
He was originally assigned to Elizabethton of the Appalachian League, and battled through leg injuries to really make a name for himself in the organization. While he hit only .271 in 50 games, he did steal 14 bases, and scored 34 times. The 14 stolen bases would start a streak of at least 14 stolen bases per year for Span, as he has taken his game to new heights recently.
The 2004 season may have been his worst as a pro, as he again battled injuries during his first season of full-season baseball. He broke a hamate bone in his right wrist during that season, missed two months, and finished with a .267 batting average. While the injury really ruined his season, the Twins felt he was ready for a challenge in 2005, and he began the year with Fort Myers of the Florida State League.
It was with Fort Myers that his star really started to shine. While in the Florida State League, Span was one of the more feared hitters, and when he was promoted to New Britain mid-season, he was leading the league with a .339 batting average. In 49 games, he had registered 63 hits, and has an on base percentage of .410. It was clear that he needed more of a challenge, as the Twins were more than surprised that he ate up a pitcher-friendly league like the FSL.
He ended the 2005 campaign as a member of the New Britain Rock Cats, and nearly led them to the playoffs from his leadoff spot. He batted .285 in 68 Eastern League games, and stole ten bases, to bring his season total to 23. He also drove in 26 runs, smacked 76 base hits, and was really a catalyst from the top of the lineup.
Span was back in the Eastern League for the 2006 campaign, and once again he batted .285. It was not the season the Twins were hoping for, though he did swipe a career-high 24 bags. He will be the leadoff hitter for the Rochester Red Wings in 2007, and the Twins are hoping he makes a big leap forward.
Batting and Power. While he does not have much power, Span is one of the better all-around hitters in the Twins' farm system. He was rated as having the best batting eye in the Florida State League during the 2005 season, and absolutely gives pitchers fits when he is at the plate. He can spray the ball to all fields, and has the ability to turn a double into a triple. He also is good at bunting and moving the runner over, and was one of the best table-setters in the Eastern League. He is, however, a streaky hitter, which is something the Twins are hoping ends this season. The Twins see him as their future leadoff hitter, so they are looking for some more consistency.
Base running and speed. This is one of the areas where Span really sets himself apart from the other prospects in the Twins' organization. He is fast, and when I say fast, I mean he could have been a kick returner for any Division 1 football team in the country when he was in high school. He has the ability to steal 30-plus bases a year, and is the smartest baserunner in the Twins' farm system. When I ask opposing pitchers, they say Span is the one guy they do not want on base. One look at him gliding around the bases and it is clear that he has plus-plus speed.
Defense. He is the best defensive outfielder in the Twins' organization hands down, and he gets to balls that most other players can only dream about getting to. While he does not have the strongest arm in the world, it is above-average, and is not a liability in his game at all. He still needs to work a bit on the routes he takes to get to ball, but with his speed, it is sometimes unnoticeable.
ETA. Late 2007. Span will be in Minnesota at some point during the 2007 season, it is just a question as to what capacity. Span will be the leadoff hitter for the Rochester Red Wings to open the 2007 season, and he has already turned Manager Ron Gardenhire's head during Spring Training with the big league club. If Torii Hunter decides his days in Minnesota are over after his contract expires after the 2007 season, than the Twins will not hesitate to give the reigns to Span. He gets better and better everyday, and soon will be introduced to Twins' faithful in Minnesota.