DOB: August 5, 1985
The Twins selected David Winfree in the 13th round of the 2003 draft out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and the slugger has since become one of the better run producers in the entire organization. Once considered the Twins' third baseman of the future, Winfree has made the move to the outfield, though it has not messed with his potency at the plate.
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 would go on to get a promotion to New Britain in 2007.
Winfree never really showed much consistency at New Britain in 2007, and his batting average and power numbers dipped. Double-A baseball is arguably the second toughest jump in professional baseball, and Winfree showed signs of frustration throughout the season. He did show decent power numbers, and had some nice stretches, but never really took off.
Winfree would return to New Britain in 2008, where he had much better results. With a year in the Eastern League under his belt, Winfree once again showed his power prowess, blasting nearly 20 home runs on the season. He drove in over 85 runs, and although his batting average was near .250, Winfree did finish second in the organization in runs batted in and home runs.
During the off-season, we sat down with Winfree.
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. While I do not believe he is a .300 hitter, he does have the potential to his .275 and drive in 100 in a given season.
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 defensive struggles were well documented when he played third base, and the Twins made an organizational move to send him to third base. He told us he was told before Spring Training last year and worked really hard. He has a good arm for right field, and is still learning.
ETA. 2009. Winfree looked very good in big league camp in 2009, batting over .300, and he drew some nice reviews from management. Winfree is always going to hit the ball hard, and he could be an option for the Twins late in the 2009 season. He will start the season in Rochester in 2009, but I feel confident that he will make his Major League debut by the end of the season.