This offseason, MiLB.com will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.
It's a good time for Twin Cities baseball fans. The Minnesota club has taken the American League Central Division for two straight seasons and three times in the past five years. With the successful first season of the newly constructed Target Field, franchise player Joe Mauer inked through 2018 and a front office committed to winning, things appear sunny for the Twins.
A clear prediction of the club's future must include an assessment of their farm system, though. The top three Minnesota affiliates, Class A Advanced Fort Myers, Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester, had losing seasons while short-season Elizabethton and Class A Beloit fared much better.
But the individual is often more important than the team at the developmental levels, at least as far as the front office of a Major League club is concerned. In this regard, the Twins did come out on top. Highly rated prospects such as Ben Revere, Miguel Sano and Kyle Gibson played up to expectations, and lefty hurler Daniel Osterbrock reestablished himself as a future Major Leaguer.
Twins organizational All-Stars
Catcher -- Jose Morales, Rochester (73 games): Until a near-deadline deal sent Wilson Ramos to the Nationals for closer Matt Capps, Morales' time behind the dish was limited. But the 27-year-old's final numbers are hard to argue with, and in the 11 games he caught at the big league level, he threw out 33 percent of would-be base stealers and didn't make a single error.
"Once Ramos was traded, we had Morales up here in the big leagues. He's got some versatility -- he played a little first base," said Twins director of baseball operations Brad Steil. "He's more of an offense-oriented backup catcher, which is good for us, with Mauer. And, he's a very reliable guy to have in Triple-A."
In the International League this year, he had a .986 fielding percentage as a catcher for Rochester, and he hit .264 with 23 extra-base hits in 73 games, also walking 34 times to post a .350 on-base percentage.
First base -- Chris Parmelee, Fort Myers (22 games), New Britain (111 games): After repeating the Midwest League in 2008 and spending all of '09 in the Florida State League, Parmelee came through in Double-A this season. It's difficult to remember the former first-rounder is only 22, although he has five years of pro experience under his belt.
He only had eight longballs in 2010, but his 27 doubles and .285 batting average show he's adept at driving the ball. Parmelee also displayed plate discipline, walking 56 times.
Second base -- Steve Singleton, New Britain (138 games): After seeing action in 46 Double-A games last year, Singleton hit .267 in his first full season in the Eastern League, and he was among the circuit's top performers in several offensive categories. His 43 doubles tied for the league lead, he and two others led the circuit with 10 sacrifice flies and his 9.89 plate appearance/strikeout ratio was third-best.
He drove in 50 runs and scored 68 on a team that crossed the plate fewer times (553) than every other squad in the league except one (Richmond, 547).
Third base -- Miguel Sano, GCL Twins (41 games): After slugging his way to the United States by hitting .344 with 10 RBIs over 20 games in the Dominican Summer League, 17-year-old Miguel Sano wasn't thrown off by the adjustment to American life.
"He's obviously young, 17, and he played most of the year in the GCL," said Steil. "But he has very good bat speed, he's strong."
He hit .291 with 14 doubles and four homers in 41 games while notching a .338 on-base percentage. On defense, Sano played 21 games at third base and 16 at shortstop. Although the Twins characterize him as smooth in the field, Steil explained that the prospect's future is open.
"He's playing shortstop right now. He did play some third base, but we'll see where he ends up as he moves up the ladder. He has good hands, but he's a big guy, so we'll see if he's able to stay at short."
While where he'll settle in the field is uncertain, Minnesota's feelings on his 2010 campaign are concrete.
"We were pleased with the season he had this year," Steil said.
Danny Valencia's Triple-A numbers over 49 games (.292, 15 doubles, 24 RBIs, 22 runs) were also impressive, but the bulk of his playing time this season came in the big leagues.
Shortstop -- Trevor Plouffe, Rochester (102 games): Plouffe struggled with a .146 average during 22 Major League games scattered throughout the season, but the 24-year-old's power was up this year from last in Triple-A.
In 102 games with Rochester this year, he hit 15 homers. Last year over 118 games, he swatted 10. He also had 22 doubles and four triples in the International League, and he was generally more consistent in 2010 than his .244 average would suggest. An end-of-season cold streak during which he had just five hits from July 26-Aug. 30 (not including three August games in the Majors) drags that number down considerably.
"Trevor got more consistent defensively in Rochester this year, which is what we were looking for from him," Steil said. "Offensively, he had a career high in home runs. His average was a bit down. That happens sometimes. I don't think there was anything significant in that.
"He'll have a chance to make the team out of Spring Training."
Joe Benson, Fort Myers (21 games), New Britain (102 games): Benson led all Twins players, from Rookie level to the Majors, with 27 home runs. A second-round pick in the 2006 Draft, he played over 100 games for the first time this season, and seeing more action resulted in consistent power production.
He homered in back-to-back Florida State League games in the beginning of the season and went yard twice in the same game three days later. In his last two games of the regular season, in New Britain, he collected three homers. His 62 RBIs were near the top in the Minnesota system, and his .527 slugging percentage was tied for third in the Eastern League.
If he continues to develop as a power hitter, he'll be increasingly valuable to the Twins -- they didn't have any other prospects who amassed more than 19 roundtrippers this season.
Ben Revere, New Britain (94 games): Revere, who also got into 13 Major League games this season, had a strong debut campaign in Double-A. Roundly recognized as one of the Twins' top position prospects, he hit .305 with a .371 on-base percentage, stealing 36 bases, which was the highest total in the Twins organization -- Major Leagues included -- and put him third in the Eastern League.
Revere has continued to hit consistently in the Arizona Fall League, where he's working on his skills in the outfield.
"As with any player we have, we have areas that we identify that they need to improve on. Ben's no different, so we've had him working on his defense. And he has shown improvement," said Steil. "We've been working with him on his throwing and his mechanics, getting him to lengthen out.
"The last couple years he got some time in the corner outfield positions, which is good too, because you never know where an outfielder could end up when they get to the Majors.
"The biggest thing for an outfielder is being able to hit the cutoff guy and we don't see that being an issue with him for the future."
Whether or not Revere's offseason work and Spring Training performance show he's ready for a starting job in Minnesota in April, the Twins are confident his future is bright.
"Ben, he's an exciting player. He can really run. He can really run the ball down in the outfield, and he has definite leadoff potential in the big leagues."
Oswaldo Arcia, Elizabethton (64 games): Arcia, a 19-year-old switch-hitter out of Venezuela, hit .375 in his first season above the GCL. He led the E-Twins to the Appalachian League Finals, while pacing the circuit in batting (.375), hits (97), RBIs (51), extra-base hits (42), total bases (174), on-base percentage (.424) and slugging percentage (.672). He placed second in home runs (14) and third in runs scored (47).
"Ozzie had a great year," said Steil. "I think he led the team and the league in about every category. He made some nice improvements this year in terms of hitting left-handed pitchers and showing power to all fields. He has a strong arm. He played all three position in the outfield. He can fill in at center, but he's likely going to end up in right."
Honorable mention: Aaron Hicks and Brandon Roberts
Designated hitter -- Daniel Rams, New Britain (four games), Beloit (110 games):
Listed as a catcher, 2007 second-rounder Daniel Rams showed power in Class A ball, where he split his time almost evenly behind the plate and at first base with 89 at-bats as designated hitter.
Rams played in just 68 games over his first two seasons and in 69 games in 2009, making this his first full pro campaign.
"He started in extended [Spring Training] last year," said Steil. "Back in Beloit, this year was a good year for Danny. He improved behind the plate. His receiving skills improved, and he's always had a strong arm. His contact did improve. He still had a high number of strikeouts, but it was an improvement, percentage-wise."
Rams whiffed 154 times in 114 games this year compared to 102 strikeouts over 69 games last year.
"He shows power to all fields, and he showed [that this year]. We're looking for him to make the Fort Myers team out of Spring Training next year."
It's unlikely but conceivable, Steil said, that a breakout performance and the right set of circumstances could push Rams to New Britain by the end of 2011.
"You never know when guys are going to make jumps in their development, so I wouldn't say it's impossible for him to make Fort Myers and have a really good first half and be a candidate to move up to Double-A at some point later on."
Right-handed starting pitcher -- Kyle Gibson, Fort Myers (seven games), New Britain (16 games), Rochester (three games): Gibson, the 22nd overall pick in last year's Draft, mowed his way all the way up Triple-A in his first pro season and still managed to finish with an 11-6 record and 2.96 ERA in 36 starts across three levels. He led all Twins Minor Leaguers with 126 strikeouts, and he walked just 39 all year.
"Kyle is one of our better prospects," admitted Steil. "He had a good year. He got to three levels, which is not easy to do. I don't think that was really our expectation when the year started. That was something that kind of happened as the year went on.
"He pitched well, and also there were some injuries at the upper levels. The way he pitched, he put himself in the position to be the next guy to move, and he handled the adjustment well each time. He showed his maturity and poise on the mound and his ability to pitch and use all his pitches."
Left-handed starting pitcher -- Daniel Osterbrock, Beloit (five games), Fort Myers (20 games):
A seventh-round pick in 2008, Osterbrock's stock dropped after a tough season last year -- he wound up with a 7-10 record and a 5.19 ERA over 28 appearances in the Class A Midwest League. But the southpaw is back on track after a stellar 2010.
He breezed through five starts in Beloit, picking up a complete-game shutout and going 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA. A move to the Florida State League couldn't shake his newfound confidence, as he led the loop with a 2.73 ERA over 20 games -- 18 starts -- there.
"He had a really good bounceback year. He had a disappointing year for us in '09 in Beloit after such a good start for us in Elizabethton in '08," said Steil. "This year, he really got back to how he was in '08 and made improvements in mixing his pitches and locating his fastball on both sides of the plate."
Relief pitcher -- Anthony Slama, Rochester (54 games): Even though Slama had a 7.71 ERA over his five big league appearances this season, it's difficult to imagine the 26-year-old right-hander as anything other than Minnesota's closer of the future.
"He's put up really impressive numbers in the Minors and was a great closer in Triple-A. Coming up to the big leagues, obviously, can be an adjustment for anybody and you have to throw strikes," said Steil. "He walked a couple of guys, and when that happens, the numbers aren't going to look pretty.
"It's going to be interesting for us in Spring Training and through our offseason. Right now, our bullpen isn't set, so he's definitely one of the guys we're going to be looking at to win a job next year. With the year he had this year, hopefully he'll be ready to take that next step."