This offseason, MiLB.com will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organizations. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.
Despite finishing with a .493 composite winning percentage, the Twins saw their lower-level Minor Leaguers enjoy tremendous success in 2011. Elizabethon finished with the second-best record in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, securing a Wild Card playoff berth. Success is nothing new for the E-Twins, who completed their 23rd consecutive season with a winning record. The last time they finished under .500, Kirby Puckett led the American League in hits (1988).
The Twins' affiliates in the Gulf Coast and Dominican Summer leagues also broke .500, with the DSL squad posting a .618 winning percentage.
Unfortunately, Elizabethton was the only Twins affiliate to reach the postseason. Double-A New Britain finished two games behind Reading for the final Eastern League playoff spot, a quantum leap from 2010, when the Rock Cats won a Minors-worst 44 games.
Twins Organization All-Stars
Catcher -- Chris Herrmann, Fort Myers (24 games), New Britain (97 games): Spending some time behind the plate and some in the outfield, Herrmann batted .269 with eight home runs and 62 RBIs between the Miracle and Rock Cats. The Texas native showed a strong eye at the plate, drawing 79 walks and posting a .385 on-base percentage. He also threw out 36 percent of would-be base-stealers.
"He played more outfield and third base in college and he's come on nicely as a catcher prospect for us," Rock Cats manager Jeff Smith said. "He's had more walks than strikeouts and has knowledge of the strike zone and showed the ability to drive the ball in the gaps. He's a fun one to watch and he's a very good athlete with good speed."
First base -- Chris Parmelee, New Britain (142 games), Minnesota (21 games): In his sixth Minor League season, Parmelee led the Twins organization with 83 RBIs, slugging 13 homers and ranking ninth among Minnesota farmhands with a .287 batting average. He got the chance to show his stuff during a late-season stint in the Majors, where he scorched the ball to the tune of a .355 average with four homers and 14 RBIs in 21 games.
"I've had Chris about five different seasons and he's great for a manager to have in the middle of the order because you know what you're going to get," Smith said. "He has a consistent approach and work ethic. He stuck with his plan the entire season and he's one of those rare Minor Leaguers that played every game this season. He was very durable and went to the big leagues and really took off. Sometimes it takes a little longer in players, but he showed some good results."
Second base -- Yangervis Solarte, New Britain (121 games): After battling through a knee injury in 2010, Solarte broke out in a big way this season, finishing second in the organization with a .329 average. That was three points behind Altoona's Starling Marte for the Eastern League batting crown. Solarte tied tied for fifth in the league with 36 doubles and set a career high by playing 121 games. The Venezuela native flashed a .979 fielding percentage for the Rock Cats, earning midseason and postseason All-Star honors.
"The whole thing for Solarte is this is the first season where he was healthy," Smith said. "He had his 450 at-bats and got better at second base. He's one of those hitters you like to have him up late in the game. He has the ability to get a hit off any pitcher."
Shortstop -- Brian Dozier, Fort Myers (49 games), New Britain (78 games): Dozier broke out in 2011, earning a spot on the Florida State League All-Star team and getting a chance to play in the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. He wielded a strong bat, collecting 54 extra-base hits while batting .320 across two Minor League levels. The 2009 eighth-round Draft pick displayed speed all over the field, legging out 12 triples and leading the organization with 24 stolen bases. Dozier also boasted a strong glove, committing only nine errors in 93 games at shortstop.
"Brian is one of those guys that comes in and he immediately instills leadership in the field and in the clubhouse," said Smith, who completed his second season at New Britain. "He's a good guy to have on that team. His skills have gotten better every year, he's got that combo of speed and plays short well. He hits the ball to the gaps and he's a good middle infielder prospect for years to come."
Third base -- Miguel Sano, Elizabethton (66 games): Making his U.S. debut, Sano showed he was worth the $3.15 million signing bonus the Twins gave him in 2009. The 18-year-old was second in the Appy League with 20 homers and third with 59 RBIs. Sano was at his best in of August, going deep 13 times and driving in 38 runs in 27 games while batting .309.
"He'll be a real good Major League player one day and he'll be there for a lot of years," E-Twins hitting coach and former big leaguer Jeff Reed told MiLB.com in August. "Teams will find a way to get him in the lineup. He can be as good as he wants to be."
Eddie Rosario, Elizabethton (67 games): Sano's teammate was even better in 2011, leading the organization with 21 homers and a .337 average while finishing second in the league with 60 RBIs. The Appy League Player of the Year also won a MiLBY award as Short-Season Hitter of the Year.
Joe Benson, GCL Twins (3 games), New Britain (111 games), Minnesota (21 games): In his second straight season with the Rock Cats, Benson tied for fourth in the organization with 16 homers and ranked 10th with a .284 average. The 2006 second-round pick got his first taste of the big leagues, batting .239 with two RBIs in 21 games. Benson played a strong outfield in New Britain, committing two errors in 100 games while racking up 11 assists.
"Joe Benson's one of the more dynamic tools players in the game," Smith said. "Speed, power, throwing arm, there's not much he can't do on the baseball field. If he keeps developing as a hitter you can expect really good things. He's a guy who can impact a game in three or four different ways."
JaDamion Williams, Elizabethton (50 games): Williams was among the engines driving one of the Appy League's best offenses. A 10th-round pick in 2010, he was third in the system with a .324 average and drew 25 walks in 50 games. The 20-year-old Florida native did a little bit of everything for the E-Twins, amassing 86 total bases, 24 RBIs and 10 steals.
Utility -- Lance Ray, Beloit (132 games): A 10th-round pick in 2010, Ray had a strong full-season debut, slugging 16 homers and driving in 74 runs. He led the Class A Snappers with 203 total bases while splitting time between first base and the outfield.
Left-handed starting pitcher -- Ryan O'Rourke, Beloit (34 games): Splitting time equally between the rotation and the bullpen, O'Rourke went 5-5 with one save. He ranked third among Twins Minor Leaguers with a 3.18 ERA and fifth with 107 strikeouts over 110 1/3 innings.
Right-handed starting pitcher -- Liam Hendriks, New Britain (16 games), Rochester (nine games), Minnesota (four games): Hendriks continued his climb through the organization, participating in his second straight All-Star Futures Games, being selected to the Eastern League All-Star team and making his Major League debut. Overall, the 22-year-old Australian was second in the system with 12 wins and 111 strikeouts and sixth with a 3.36 ERA.
"Liam has great control to both sides of the plates and he can throw three or four pitches anytime in the count" Smith said. "He is a fearless pitcher, he has no fear of anything. He's one of those guys you want in any game, he goes right after every hitter and players like to play behind him."
Relief pitcher -- Tyler Robertson, New Britain (55 games): In his first season pitching exclusively out of the bullpen, Robertson led the Rock Cats in both saves (16) and wins (10). The former third-rounder was the only player in the Eastern League with double-digit wins and saves, striking out 88 batters over 89 2/3 innings.
"Tyler, in previous years, he was always a starter and he became a bullpen guy this year," Smith said. "There's a word that sticks out very well, and that's durability. He can handle the role of long reliever and he can come back on multiple days. He's got a true out pitch in a slider. He had a great season and that was his first year in the bullpen. He's a big kid and has a lot of things you want out of the bullpen, especially from the left-hand side."