Major League Baseball’s Poor Keep Getting Richer
2010 could be the beggining of a new era for major league baseball. Teams like the Cubs, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, and yes, even the Yankees are going to come the sobering reality that the league's best young talent isn't on their roster or in their system. While they were spending big time money, baseball's "have nots" have quietly been focusing on scouting, player development, and good old fashion fundementals.
In the National League, the Giants and Marlins scouting is as good as it gets. In the American League there's the Twins and Rays. No organization in the league teaches the game of baseball better than the Twins. With the Rays, it's downright hard to fatham how a team so talent rich at the Major League level isn't even close to draining it's minor league talent pool. Bottom line, the talent level of small market teams is catching up to the big spenders. The days of being able to buy a World Series may be coming to an end.
Minnesota Twins (2009 Record: 87-76, 1st in AL Central)
The Twins play the role of the "under dog" better than any team in major league baseball. From top to bottom, there isn't a more fundamentaly sound organization in the game of baseball. Playing "Twins' Baseball" means playing defense, pounding the strike zone, hitting the ball to all fields, manufacturing runs, using all 25 players on your roster, playing smart, playing hard, and never giving up.
The Twins arguably have the best coaching staff, clubhouse, and player in the game. Ron Gardenhire is one of the game's best tacticians and teachers. His "grounded" approach reminds his players that baseball is supposed to be fun and inspires maximum effort. Pitching Coach Rick Anderson is one of the most underrated assets of the organization. He teaches throwers how to become pitchers through emphasizing throwing strikes and pitching to your defense. Then there's Joe Mauer, arguably the best player in the game. I could talk for hours on Mauer, so I'll stop before I get rambling. Suffice to say, I don't need to explain how good Joe Mauer is to anyone who collects cards.
In 2010 the Twins will be opening "Target Field", which should not only allow them to retain their current stars, but give them some additional flexibility in the free agent market. On top of adding Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, and J.J. Hardy, there have been whispers from the Dominican League that the 2006Francisco Liriano is alive and well. Scouts who watched him noted that he appears to have regained 2-3 MPH of velocity on his fastball and that he's keeping his slider down; a slider that in 2006 was perhaps the best pitch in baseball. Delmon Young is another player that could step up in 2010; late last season the ball seemed to be coming off his bat with more conviction.
Top Players in 2010:
- Joe Mauer, 27, Catcher- The Twins Captain and Reigning AL MVP is only 27 and might already be the best catcher to ever play the game.
- Justin Morneau, 28, 1B- The 2006 AL MVP and one of the leagues most feared sluggers. People forget the Twins made last seasons' miracle run without him. Morneau is also one of the leagues most underrated fielding First Basemen.
- Joe Nathan, 35, Closer- One of the top 3 or 4 Closers in baseball. When Mariano Rivera says that he admires your approach, you must be doing something right. Although 35 years old, his arm is only about 30 or so.
- Denard Span, 25, OF-One of the best lead-off hitters in baseball. He's smart and plays in control. The slick fielding lefty is going to get even better over the next couple seasons.
Top Players in the Minors:
Stats don't always tell the story in the Twins' system. The Twins like to put their prospects in "uncomfortable" situations that force them to work on their weaknesses. Johan Santana is a perfect example, after having an ERA over 6.00 as a Rule 5 Pick, they forced Santana to work on his "change up", having him throw it 80% of the time at AAA.
A couple years ago, the Twins system was pretty dry. The story is much different this year. The Twins have assembled a group of youngsters that project as Super Stars, the only problem is that their top tier talent is several years away from making an impact.
- Aaron Hicks, 20, OF- If you haven't heard of Aaron Hicks yet, you will over the next few seasons. Hicks is similar to Atlanta's Jason Heyward, although Hicks is probably more physically gifted. Hicks can hit 97MPH; with a bat and with his arm. He has yet to have a break out season in the minors, but scouts around the league feel he has Super Star Potential. They see the raw Hicks as a 30 Home Run/30 Stolen Base middle of the order slugger.
- Miguel Sano, 17, SS- Talk about an under the radar signing if there ever was one! With very little fanfare from the national media, the Twins quietly signed perhaps the most heralded prospect to ever come out of the Latin America last Fall. The 6-3, 210 Pound might be 3-5 years away, but his potential has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez.
- Ben Revere, 21, OF- Some believe Revere to be one of the most overrated prospects in baseball. I respectfully disagree. In a league desperate for table setters, Revere is one of the most fundamentally sound lead-off prospects in baseball. The knock on him is that he doesn't have "power". I don't think he needs it; all too often organizations end up ruining a prospect in pursuit of the mythical "5 Tool Player".
- Kyle Gibson, 22, RHP-The Twins 2009 Draft Pick is one of only a handful of Minor League pitchers with "Ace" potential. He has the attitude, work ethic, and intangibles you look for in a #1. An injury is the only reason he fell to the Twins. Out of the Twins top prospects, he is perhaps the closest to making the bigs.
Others Worth Watching:3B Danny Valencia, Catcher Wilson Ramos, Closer Carlos Guitierrez, OF Angel Morales
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San Francisco Giants (2009 Record: 88-74, 3rd in NL West)
When Barry Bonds retired (or was forced out), the Giants looked like an organization destined to spend the next decade as basement dwellers. This looked like even more of a reality when they signed Barry Zito to the worst contract in Major League History (7 years, 126 million). In spite of those factors, GM Brian Sabean has produced more Top 100 Prospects over the last 2-3 years than any other team in the league.
Over the next decade, the Giants could have the best pitching staff since the 90's Braves led by the trio of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner. The only question will be whether they can score enough runs. Fortunately they have Pablo Sandoval, with whom they should be able to build a line-up around.
- Tim Lincecum, 25, SP-At just 25, the Giants Ace already has 2 Cy Youngs and is one of the game's most dominant and intriguing players. Lincecum is definitely one of a kind. If this isn't how to start a Hall of Fame career, I don't know what is.
- Pablo Sandoval, 23, 1B/3B- Sandoval is one of the league's premier contact hitters. After hitting .330 with 25 Home Runs last season, he should be a yearly contender for the NL Batting Title. The Switch Hitting Sandoval will be a fixture in the middle of the Giants lineup for the next decade.
- Matt Cain, 25, SP-Cain is essentially a #1 Starter playing the role of a #2. Don't let his slot in the rotation fool you. Last season, Cain came into his own, posting 14 wins and 2.89 ERA. Pairing Cain with Lincecum gives the Giants the type of 1-2 Punch that wins World Series.
- Buster Posey, 22, Catcher-Posey is a Top 5 Prospect who should come into his own in 2010 is considered the front runner for NL Rookie of the Year (unless Atlanta's Jason Heyward makes the club out of spring training). Posey is both the best Catching Prospect in the game and best prepared minor league back stop to make the jump to the majors. Posey should provide the Giants with a consistent bat this season. Even better, he can field his position and is capable of handling a pitching staff. Posey may never hit 35 Home Runs in a season, but he is both smart enough and gritty enough to be a winning player in Major League Baseball.
- Madison Bumgarner, 20, SP-Arguably, the best pitching prospect in Baseball belongs to a team that already features Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain at the top of it's rotation. Bumgarner is Tall, Left-Handed, and throws in the mid-90's. Should Bumgarner fulfill his potential, the Giants will have a lethal lefty to complimant the Right-Handed Lincecum and Cain.
- Zack Wheeler, 19, SP-A Right-handed Fireballer who throws in the Mid-90's with an exceptional Curve. Some scouts question whether he's a Starter or Reliever. Either way, the Giants can take their time and let this one play out. The funny thing is that they don't need to him to pan out, his success would just be an added bonus to an already stacked Pitching Staff.
- Thomas Neal, 22, OF-Neal is somewhat of an "unkown" coming into 2010. He had a great 2009 out of nowhere, if he can duplicate his 09' success (.337, 22 HR), he will definately be worth keeping an eye on. The one things the Giants could use is a big bat in the Outfield.
Others of note:LHP Dan Runzler, SS Brandon Crawford, OF Roger Keischnick, SS Ehire Adrianza, C Tommy Joseph
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