Throwback Thursday: Twins Top Prospects Ten Years Later

This is the time of year where prospect lists and rankings dominate many baseball headlines but everybody should be warned that they are just lists and carry no meaning in terms of how the careers of these players pan out. There’s always first round picks and elite prospects who fail to make an impact at the Major League level and there are just as many unknown players who come out of nowhere to make a name for themselves.

Ten years ago, a number of unproven Minnesota Twins prospects went through the same thing that guys like Byron Buxon and Miguel Sano are going through now, both part of the same lists.  Minnesota was coming off a third straight American League Central title in 2004 and had a rotation lead by reigning Cy Young award winner Johan Santana and an offense powered by future MVP Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter. Many of these prospects helped the Twins win three more division titles over the following six years and some of them never panned out, like many do across the sport.

This list is based off of Baseball America’s rankings of the team’s top ten prospects in 2005.

1. Joe Mauer, Catcher
Not only was this guy the top prospect in the Twins farm system, but he was the top prospect in all of baseball…and for good reason. Mauer has won more batting title than any other catcher in league history so clearly he lived up to his lofty prospect ranking. He’s added six All-Star appearances, three gold gloves and an MVP to his name as well. With injuries clouding his past few seasons, Mauer has frustrated a number of Twins fans now that he has a massive contract, but it’s still impossible to argue how great of a baseball player he has become.

2. Jason Kubel, Outfielder
Kubel’s first stint with Minnesota was very successful. He hit .271 with 104 home runs and was an effective everyday player on multiple teams that advanced to the postseason. His best season came in 2009 when he slugged 28 homers and added over 100 runs batted in as the Twins captured the American League central title. Kubel saw his career tail off when he left the Twin Cities in free agency after the 2011 season as he struggled over the next two seasons with Arizona and Cleveland. A return to Minnesota last season didn’t last too long after early season struggles and the 32-year old outfielder is still unsigned.

3. Jesse Crain, RHP
Crain was a very good relief pitcher for the Twins over seven seasons and he got even better after he signed with the White Sox after the 2010 season. In 376 appearances with Minnesota, he posted 3.42 ERA and was strong in both the middle innings and as a setup man. Crain really took off with the White Sox in 2011 and was named to the All-Star team in 2013 but was sidelined with a shoulder injury just before the game and has not pitched since.  After spending time with Tampa Bay and Houston – but never pitching – Crain signed a minor league deal with the White Sox this off-season in hopes of returning to the Majors.

4. J.D. Durbin, RHP
This is the first guy on the list that a casual Twins fan might not remember. He pitched in only 23 Major League games, just four of them for the Twins.  He was having a strong season in AAA in 2006 when a shoulder injury shut him down for the season. The Twins placed Durbin on waivers the following spring and he spent the 2007 season pitching for the Phillies and Diamondbacks. He still pitches today but hasn’t been in the system of a Major League team since 2009.  Clearly this was not a prospect who panned out.

5. Francisco Liriano, LHP
Francisco Liriano was brilliant.  Francisco Liriano was terrible. Twins fans can read those two sentences and know how true both of them are despite having completely opposite meanings and Pirates fans have probably figured that out by now. He was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA as a rookie and made the All-Star team but that was it for the pitcher who was always unhittable. After he had Tommy John surgery and missed the next season, you always saw flashes of the pitcher that dominated baseball as a rookie but you also saw a player who sometimes couldn’t buy an out.  His career record is currently 76-72 with an ERA just above four.  Liriano is not by any means a bad pitcher but when you compare what he became to what could have been, it’s easy to say he was a disappointment.

6. Kyle Waldrop, RHP
Waldrop didn’t make his Major League debut until 2011 and has only appeared in 24 games to date, none since 2011. His struggles began in the minor leagues after a shoulder injury forced him to miss the entire 2008 season and he was not the same after that. Waldrop was Minnesota’s first round pick in 2004 but was never able to live up to his lofty draft status and the Twins let him go after the 2012 season. He signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates that off-season and spent 2013 pitching in AAA. Waldrop did not play professional baseball last season.

7. Anthony Swarzak, RHP
Swarzak was first called up to the big leagues in 2009 and had early struggles as a starting pitcher but eventually found his groove in the bullpen, putting up a respectable 2.91 ERA in 2013 over 48 appearances. His production dipped off last season and Swarzak opted for free agency after the Twins left him off of the 40-man roster. He signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians last month and has been invited to Spring Training.

8. Matt Moses, Third Base
The Twins took Moses 21st overall in the 2003 draft out of high school and he got off to a fast start in his minor league career, allowing him to be ranked a top 75 prospect heading into the 2006 season. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for Moses after that and he never played a game at the Major League level. Over seven minor league seasons, he hit .251 with 50 home runs and 329 runs batted in but Moses would really begin to struggle when he hit the higher levels of minors. He was a .238 career hitter in Double-A and a .224 career hitter at the Triple-A level.

9. Jason Bartlett, Shortstop
Bartlett was the Twins regular starting shortstop by the end of the 2005 season and he was an extremely reliable end of the order hitter, highlighted by his 2006 season when he batted .306 as the team’s everyday 9th hitter. Despite this, Bartlett was among some of the worst defensive shortstops in the Majors and the team traded him to Tampa Bay after the 2007 season along with Matt Garza to get Delmon Young and Brandan Harris. Bartlett enjoyed success with the Rays, hitting .288 over three seasons and making the AL All-Star team in 2009. After two terrible seasons with the Padres, he sat out the 2013 season before returning to Minnesota last year. Like Kubel’s return to the Twin Cities in 2014, it didn’t last long. Bartlett only appeared in three games with the Twins before retiring.

10. Scott Baker, RHP
This was a guy who could pitch. It wasn’t flashy, but when Baker was healthy he got the job done and always gave the Twins a chance to win. Baker was 63-48 as a starting pitcher over seven seasons and the team’s opening day starter in 2010, the last time Minnesota made the playoffs. He needed Tommy John surgery and missed the 2012 season because of it and Baker’s career has not been the same ever since. After he missed the 2012 season, he signed with the Cubs  but couldn’t get healthy enough to pitch until September, where he did not have a decision in three starts while posting a 3.60 ERA. Baker struggled with the Texas Rangers last season, jumping between the starting rotation and the bullpen, and signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees just recently.

One Response

  1. gagu

    A successful top 10, especially when you consider the Liriano TJ injury and that Kubel’s ceiling took a big hit early when he tore up his knee.


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