Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Big Night for Twins prospects

It has been awhile since I have written, so tonight, I will post some stuff I have written about Liam Hendriks, Joe Benson & Chris Parmelee.

Andrew Kneeland of TwinsTarget and I ranked Liam Hendriks number 6 overall. Here is what I wrote about him in January.

6. Liam Hendriks, RHP, 21 years old

courtesy: (baseballinstinct.com)
2010 stats: 8-4 with a 1.74 ERA, 105/12 K/BB in 108.2 innings between Beloit and Fort Myers.
Last year's rank: N/A
Acquired: Signed out of Perth, Australia in February 2007.

So, what makes someone a top prospect? Some prospects are more tools than numbers. The guys that scouts just look at and drool over the possibilities. They say, this guy will be the next.... Other guys become top prospects through hard-work and sheer numbers. Liam Hendriks is part of the latter group.

The Australian hurler made his debut in the GCL at 18 years of age, striking out 52 and walking 11 in 44 innings. A nice start to his professional career. In 2008, back surgery derailed his entire season. In 2009, he came back from injury and made the Australian roster in the World Baseball Classic. He was the roster's youngest player. After the WBC, he split the season between Elizabethtown and Beloit. He had a decent year with a 3.55 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 19 walks in 83.2 innings. Not a bad year for such a young guy, especially one who had missed a year of development.

In 2010, Hendriks returned to Beloit and he took off. Total Domination! In 6 starts and 34 innings he struck out 39 and walked 4. He only gave up 16 hits. That's a .59 WHIP! This earned him a quick promotion to Fort Myers. He was almost as dominant after his promotion. In 74.2 innings, he struck out 66 and walked 8. For the season, he had a 1.74 ERA, 8.75 K/BB rate and a .837 WHIP between Beloit and Fort Myers. He only gave up 2 HRs all season.These are crazy, off the charts type numbers.

He has 4 good pitches, but no single dominating pitch. His fastball touches the low 90s and he also features a decent curve and change-up. What made Hendriks so dominant in 2010 was his control. He only walked 12 guys in 108.2 innings. Coincidentally, Cliff Lee walked 12 in 108.2 innings for the Texas Rangers in 2010. While I'm not saying Hendriks can be the next Cliff Lee*, his 2010 numbers and stuff profile out to a similar kind of pitcher, albeit a right-handed one. *Lee only walked 6 in 103.2 innings in Seattle and 2 of his TX walks were intentional.

Hendriks will only be 22 years old in 2011 and it would seem he is just starting to hit his stride. The only thing slowing Hendriks down is injury. He's already had back surgery. Hopefully the nerve issue doesn't lead to something chronic. He was selected to the 2010 All-Star Futures Game but he missed the game due to appendicitis. These are two un-related types of maladies. Hopefully Hendriks is getting through a rash of random injuries early in his career and and is about to settle in for a long healthy career.

Ideal Scenario: Hendriks will probably start where he left off in Fort Myers. If he hits the ground running like he did in 2010, he should see an early New Britain promotion.

Path to the majors: Another good season in 2011 will leave Hendriks on the cusp of an MLB debut in 2012. With guys like Gibson, Bromberg, Wimmers and a decent major league staff all older and more advanced then the 22 year old Hendriks, 2013 is more realistic. If Hendriks has a season in 2011 like he did in 2010 however, the Twins might not be able to hold him back. He has middle of the rotation stuff but if he can keep his walk rate down, he could become an ace.

Andrew and I ranked Joe Benson #4.

Here is something Andrew Kneeland wrote about Joe Benson.

Below is something I posted at TwinsTarget last September.

With my first post, I will introduce you to my favorite Twins prospect, Joe Benson. He plays all outfield positions and is capable of playing a very good center field. The 22 year old was a Twins 2nd round draft pick in 2006 out of Joliet Catholic Academy in Joliet, Illinois. He is not as highly thought of in Twins prospect circles as Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, or Angel Morales, but he should be. He is a similar, if more advanced player than Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales. Hicks most likely will walk a little more than Benson. He is the same age as Revere and has much more power and is a better fielder, if not as fast a runner.

In 2009, he batted .285/.414/.403 for Fort Myers with 14 stolen bases in 21 attempts. He ranked #4 overall in my Twins prospect list coming into 2010. At the time, I said "he is developing into a prototypical lead off or #2 hitter. He's another of many high-end outfield prospects in the Twins organization." Well in 2010, his power has taken off. The 6'2" 211 lb. Benson finally added power that his frame would suggest. Prior to 2010, Benson topped out at 5 HRs in a season. He had a .259/.343/.538 line with 27 HRs, 31 doubles and 8 triples for Fort Myers and New Britain. He also stole 19 bases in 28 tries. His .527 slugging percentage at New Britain ranked 5th in the Eastern League of players with 300 plus plate appearances. His .862 OPS ranked 11th of players with 300 plus PA. His 23 HRs ranked 4th in the league. He probably isn't a going to be a 1 or 2 hitter after-all, though he hits at the top of the order for New Britain. 

I have seen him play 3 times this season. When he was named as one of seven Twins to make the Arizona Fall league, I posted a scouting report on the 7 players.This was my scouting report on Benson:

I saw him in June and wrote this: He's 22 and LaVelle E. Neal thinks he'll arrive in 2012. For some reason, he was sent back to Fort Myers this year. I personally think he is a better player than Revere right now. He certainly looks to have more upside. He is almost as fast as Revere but also has power. He went 2-5 with a 2B and a walk on Wednesday and 1-4 with a HR in Thursday's game. He leads New Britain with 9 HRs. The bounce in power is great especially since he is considered more of a speed guy. He already has 13 HRs in 2010 between Fort Myers/New Britain. He's never had more than 5 HRs in a season. If Micheal Cuddyer were traded in the off-season, Benson may be better equipped then Revere to replace some of his offense by next season.

I also saw him in AugustHe went 0-5 and some of his swings were really hard. Carlos Gomez hard. He is certainly the best prospect in AA for the Twins currently, but he has some work to do. I love watching him in the field and he has legitimate power. He also might be wound to tight. He got mad a couple times during the game, tossing his helmet hard into the dugout and also on the field after just missing his pitch and flying out. The kind of reaction usually reserved for strikeouts. Benson has a ton of tools and potential that is starting to show. I hope he is able to keep his emotions in check and just enjoy the game a little more. He has enough ability to go a long way someday soon. 

Benson is a 5 tool player that could be a future star for the Twins. He can hit, hit for power, steal a base, plays great defense and has a good arm. He is more than capable in center field but may eventually shift to a corner. 

When he is in the lineup with Ben Revere, Revere has played center. Benson has also improved his on-base skills in the last couple of seasons. The one flaw in his game is his strikeout rate. Benson struck out 136 times in 519 plate appearances in 2010. His 115 Eastern League K's ranked 11th and his total of 136 would have placed him in 6th place for the league. That's a strikeout every 3.82 plate appearances. Many mention his strikeout rate as a reason to keep Benson in AA for another season and it may be a fair reaction. Give him more time to work on this flaw before promoting him to AAA or the majors. As a comparison, the Twins strikeout leader this year is Jason Kubel. He has 102 strikeouts in 515 plate appearances. Kubel never had more than 59 Ks in any minor league season. Benson's strikeouts are a problem. Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn never struck out that much in the minors. 

Joe Benson will be added to the 40 man roster over the winter and will get a look in spring training before he gets sent back to AA. Between Arizona Fall league and his return to New Britain, Benson should be tasked with lowering his K rate. If he can do that, he will be ready to make an impact with the big league club as soon as mid-season. Guys like Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales and Ben Revere could be great players for the Twins, but Joe Benson is the most likely to do it first.

Finally, here is what I wrote here about Parmelee in January: I ranked him as my 18th prospect.

18. Chris Parmelee First Base/Outfield 2/24/1988.
He was a Twins 1st round draft pick in 2006 out of Chino Hills high school (CA). He hit .285/.356/.401 for Fort Myers and New Britain. He hit .258/.359/.441 for Fort Myers before his promotion but his HR power really dropped off after he was promoted. He had only 6 HRs for New Britain, but he did have 25 doubles in 463 plate appearances. He has a good walk rate and his strikeout rate has come down every year, but his prospect value lies in his HR power. I ranked him #12 last year.
2011 outlook: Will probably spend all season in New Britain, unless he has a HUGE year.

Nothing new here, but given the big night for the Twins, I figured I'd post something.