The Minnesota Twins organization was one of the busiest clubs when it came time to protect prospects on the 40-man rosters near the beginning of the off-season. The club added three pitchers, two catchers and four infielders.
Anthony Swarzak is the most promising out of the trio of hurlers added to the roster. His repertoire includes an 89-93 mph fastball, a plus curveball and a change-up. The former high school second-round draft pick is on the cusp of joining the Twins’ big league rotations despite having a rough year in Double-A. After making 15 appearances at that level in 2007, the right-hander was asked to start back there in 2008. Swarzak’s FIP went from 3.32 to 4.42 and his rates took a hit too from 2.40 BB/9 and 7.92 K/9 in 2007 to 3.28 BB/9 and 6.73 K/9 in 2008. Perhaps there was a lack of motivation because his numbers improved (on the surface) when he joined Triple-A late in the season. In seven starts, he allowed 41 hits in 45 innings of work and posted rates of 2.80 BB/9 and 5.20 K/9. However, there are some signs that his success at Triple-A was luck-induced. His ERA was 1.70, but his FIP was 4.40. His K/BB ratio has also reduced in each of his last four assignments: 3.60 to 3.30 to 2.05 to 1.86.
Brian Duensing, a former third-round pick out of the University of Nebraska, has seen his strikeout rate drop off dramatically as he approaches the Major League level. In his first full season in 2006, Duensing posted an OK rate of 7.00 K/9 in A-ball, only to see it settle in around 5.0 K/9 after a full season in Triple-A in 2008 (He also spent much of 2007 there with better results). The left-handed was quite hittable in 2008 and he allowed 150 hits in 138.2 innings. Duensing, 25, has excellent control as witnessed by his rate of 2.21 BB/9. He works in the upper 80s with his fastball and complements that with a good change-up and a couple of breaking balls.
Catcher Wilson Ramos is one of the club’s better hitting prospects and could eventually give the Twins an excuse to move Joe Mauer from behind the plate. The right-handed hitter spent the 2008 season in High-A ball and hit .288/.346/.434 with an ISO of .146. Like many Twins prospects, he could stand to show more patience after posting a walk rate of 7.6% last season. Defensively, Ramos, 21, threw out 32 of 74 (43%) base runners attempting to steal.
Offensively, Luke Hughes has the most present potential of the four infielders. He split 2008 between Double-A and Triple-A. At the lower level, he hit .319/.385/.551 with an ISO of .232 in 285 at-bats. At Triple-A, he hit .283/.325/.453 with an ISO of .170 in 106 at-bats. His walk and strikeout rates in Triple-A were 6.2 BB% and 28.3 K%. Defensively, Hughes has appeared all over the diamond after playing himself off second base. He spent the majority of his time at third base in 2008 but had a poor fielding percentage (.888 at Double-A) and showed below-average range.
Of the remaining infielders, Steven Tolleson is the safest bet to secure a Major League utility infielder’s role. The 25-year-old batter hit .300/.382/.466 with 12 stolen bases at Double-A in 2008. Trevor Plouffe is a former first-round pick whose numbers have never matched his potential. He spent the 2008 season split between Double-A and Triple-A. His career line is an uninspiring .255/.319/.380.