Instructional league ends. AFL kicks off

Posted on October 16th, 2009 – 1:29 PM
By La Velle

The Twins’ annual fall instructional league wrapped up today. For two-plus weeks, Twins prospects worked on their skills at the club’s year-round headquarters in Fort Myers, Florida.

It also marked the professional debut (sort of) of righthander Kyle Gibson, the Twins’ first-round pick who was an injury concern during the draft. The Twins, however, checked him out, determined that his forearm problem was a stress fracture and not a strain (which can lead to elbow ligament problems),  drafted him and signed him for a $1.85 million bonus.

Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said Gibson threw four innings and looked good,

“The last two innings he threw really well,” Johnson said. “Threw strikes. Kept the ball down. Showed his full assortment of pitches. His slider is his money pitch.”

The Twins hope Gibson can start at Class A Fort Myers next year,  which gives him a chance to get on the fast track to the majors.

Johnson also was impressed with German outfielder Max Kepler, who is attending South Fort Myers high school while working out with at the Twins’ facility across the street.

“Looks like he’s going to be good,” Johnson said. “Good body. Good swing. Runs well for his size.”

I was  on the phone with Johnson for just five minutes (he was about to chow down on a Five Guys burger). But he made a point of bringing up sixth-round pick Chris Hermann, who played all 59 games in the outfield for rookie league Elizabethton but is being switched to catcher.

Hermann, Johnson said, looks like he’ll be able to handle the move. It’s an interesting move because Hermann’s bat looks promising. He hit .297 with 7 homers and 30 and was third in the Appalachian League with 33 walks.  

AFL begins

Seven Twins players – infielders Steve Singleton, Chris Parmelee, outfielder Rene Tosoni and pitchers Mike McCardell, Steve Hirschfeld, Alex Burnett and Spencer Steedley are playing with the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. AFL action  runs until just before Thanksgiving.

Bill Smith & Co. will remain in Fort Myers this week for organizational meetings before returning to the Twin Cities.

I’m still working on my top ten prospects list for 2009. This year has been harder than usual. Part of the reason is the additions of Kyle Gibson, Max Kepler and Miguel Angel Sano. They haven’t played a game as pros, but, if you go on potential, they’re all big prospects.

The other part is, the Twins didn’t have many big seasons. Aaron Hicks, arguably, still is the top prospect but didn’t play well until the end of the Class A season. Wilson Ramos was slowed by injuries.

I’ve swapped e-mails about the Twins farm system with Baseball America’s John Manuel and will include some of his thoughts next week when I finally have the guts to post my list.

Update: Wilson Ramos has jumped into winter ball with a hot bat. He’s batting .393 with 2 homers and 7 RBI in seven games for Aragua of the Venezuelan Winter League. You know, he’s going to be the best Venezuelan prospect the Twins have produced, not that there’s a lot of competition.

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