Name: David Winfree
Position: Third Baseman
DOB: August 5, 1985
The Twins selected David Winfree in the 13th round of the 2003 draft out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and the young slugger is beginning to make a huge splash within the team's organization. While looking at their 2003 first round pick, fellow third baseman Matthew Moses, the Twins came across Winfree, who was then a catcher. Now that he is a third baseman, the Twins now have two legitimate Major League third baseman prospects, a problem any team would love to have.
After being drafted by the Twins, Winfree was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Twins for the 2003 season. To put it nicely, Winfree struggled, batting way below the Mendoza Line. In 23 games, Winfree batted only .129, and failed to hit a home run in 70 at-bats. His main problem was his batting eye, as he swung at bad pitches, walked only twice, and looked overmatched in his inaugural season in professional baseball.
In 2004, Winfree began to show signs of life, as he put together a nice season as a member of the Elizabethton Twins. He upped his batting average to .286, as he appeared in 59 games for the Twins. He seemed more comfortable at the plate, as he walked 18 times, hit eight home runs, and drove in 37. And while he did strike out 51 times, he seemed to be a different player at the plate.
During the 2005 season, Winfree was one of the best bats in the entire Twins organization, as he put together a fine season at the plate. He led the organization in hits, smacking 165 of them, and his 101 runs batted in were also good for tops in the organization. He also finished the season fifth in the organization in batting average, as he posted a .294 mark for the season.
For his efforts, the Twins named Winfree their 2005 Minor League Player of the Year, as he pushed himself into the upper echelon of Twins prospects. He was also the only member of the Beloit roster to be named to the Midwest League Post-season All-Star Team, and was ranked the 14th best prospect in the Midwest League by Baseball America. Not bad for a guy who had hit only .129 two seasons earlier.
The 2006 season was a roller coaster for Winfree, who left the team early in the year because of some issues regarding his confidence. The young slugger would return to full potential, becoming one of the top sluggers in the Florida State League. The Minnesota Twins love what he brings to the table, as he is one of the top hitters in the organization now.
Winfree blasted 13 home runs in only 67 games in the pitcher-friendly FSL, and drove in 48. He displayed the offense prowess that earned him the Twins Minor League Player of the Year honor in 2005, and is on course to open the 2007 season as the New Britain Rock Cats starting third baseman.
We got to see Winfree take batting practice during Spring Training this month, and all signs point to him being ready to take on the Eastern League. He works the gaps, can hit the ball out of any ballpark, and has that uncanny ability to drive in runs in bunches.
Batting and Power: Winfree absolutely crushes the ball, and has now shown the ability to hit at the higher levels of Minor League baseball. He drives in runs in bunches, and is the kind of hitter you want batting in the middle of the order. He works the gaps, can pop the ball out of the ballpark, and has the power to hit the ball the opposite way. One thing he needs to work on is cutting down on his strikeouts, but that is something that comes along with being a middle of the order hitter. He does have the potential to hit over .300 in his career, and is the kind of guy who is going to hit 25-plus home runs.
Baserunning and Speed: Winfree is a below average runner, and that is not something that the Twins expect him to change during his years in Minor League baseball. He is a prototypical corner infield prospect, and while he will not lead the league in stolen bases, he wont kill you on the basepaths either. He did set a career-high in stolen bases in 2005, posting three swipes on the year, but that is not a number that jumps out at you. In 2006, Winfree stole only two bags, so five would be a good year for the slugger.
Defense: Winfree's defense may be his Achilles heel, as he joined shortstop Trevor Plouffe in combining for over 70 errors in 2005. Still, he does have an above-average arm over at third base, and does not have terrible range. He may actually move to first base in the near future, due to not only Matthew Moses being a top prospect, but also the fact that the Twins are very undecided about the future of that position on the Major League level. He has been taking plenty of grounders during Spring Training, and we did not see him commit an error during the time we were in Fort Myers. Hopefully he has a better season with the glove in 2007, because the Twins are seriously considering him as their future at third base.
ETA. Late 2008. Nick Punto has been terrific for the Twins for the past half of year, and he is slated to be their starting third baseman once again in 2007. However, the Twins have Winfree and Matthew Moses in the wings in their minor league camps, and they are fighting to be the teams future at that spot. Moses could be moved to the outfield, opening the door for Winfree. However, he needs to prove he can hit, and field, in the Eastern League in 2007 before he can earn a promotion to Rochester. All signs indicate a big year from Winfree, who looks refreshed and ready.