Around draft time, you'll often hear evaluators mention how this front office or that scouting director generally likes to draft a certain kind of player. The Detroit Tigers have a reputation for targeting power pitchers, for example, and that can be easily seen if you look at the number of power pitchers already on the roster: Verlander, Valverde, Zumaya, Perry, Oliver, Coke, Scherzer, Schlereth, Gonzalez, Figaro, Thomas and Sborz all had above-average fastball velocity last season. Only Tampa Bay's pitchers threw harder on average, and that shouldn't be surprising given the number of young power pitchers that they employ as well.
And similar to Detroit's infatuation with power pitchers, it seems like the Minnesota Twins have been loading up on young outfielders for a long time now. In 2006, the club used their top two picks on Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson. In 2007, they used two of their first three picks on Ben Revere and Angel Morales, signed Oswaldo Arcia out of Latin America and traded for Delmon Young. In 2008, the club used its first-round pick on Aaron Hicks and traded Johan Santana for a package led by Carlos Gomez. In that three-year span, the Twins acquired eight premium outfield prospects.
Now, going into the 2011 season, the Twins pretty much have quality outfield prospects coming out their ears. Young and Denard Span, the club's 2002 first-round pick, are key cogs in the club's regular lineup. Benson and Revere are likely to begin 2011 in Triple-A, and both could be starring in Minnesota by 2012. Morales is expected to begin next season in Double-A after putting up a .360 OBP in A-ball last year. Hicks should begin next year in High Single-A and Keith Law recently rated him as the tenth-best prospect in baseball. And the club still has Arcia, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario in the lower minors, giving them a shocking array of options long-term.
Here's a simpler way of looking at their depth.
MLB: Denard Span, Delmon Young
AAA: Joe Benson, Ben Revere
AA: Angel Morales
A+: Aaron Hicks
A: Oswaldo Arcia, Eddie Rosario
SS: Max Kepler
I don't know how good the Twins are going to be in a few years. They probably need to lock up Liriano, they've obviously invested a lot of money in Joe Mauer's long-term health, and beyond Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers there's not a ton of upside in their pitching prospects. But one place where they're unlikely to have issues is the outfield. We're probably looking at the strongest group of minor league outfielders since 2007, when the Diamondbacks had Justin Upton, Chris Young, Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra among their outfield corps.
I think it's fair to say that the 2007 Arizona group is more impressive, and that's reflected in the grades these guys received from John Sickels. SB Nation's prospect guru gave those four prospects A-, B+, B+ and B grades, respectively, while in his 2011 book he gave Minnesota's top four outfield prospects B+, B, B and C+ grades. Although it's worth noting that many evaluators like Hicks (Sickels grade: B+) and Benson (Sickels grade: C+) more than John does.
What do you guys think? Has some other team in recent memory compiled a more impressive group of outfield prospects?