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Updated: May 24th, 2012 11:31pm
Mackey: Sano showing promise, but some Twins prospects are scuffling

Mackey: Sano showing promise, but some Twins prospects are scuffling

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Twins' top-10 prospects list -- as chosen by Baseball America prior to spring training -- is a mixed bag these days.

No. 8 is working his way back from Tommy John surgery while No. 1 leads the Midwest League in home runs and RBIs. No. 2 was recently demoted from Triple-A to Double-A to team up with No. 4, who still hasn't come close to reaching his potential.

Meanwhile, No. 3 and No. 5 are faring pretty well while No. 6 struggles mightily. No. 9 and No. 7 are once again pounding on the door of the big leagues where No. 10 currently resides.

1. 3B Miguel Sano
2. OF Joe Benson
3. 2B/OF Eddie Rosario
4. OF Aaron Hicks
5. OF Oswaldo Arcia
6. SS/2B Levi Michael
7. SP Liam Hendriks
8. SP Kyle Gibson
9. 1B Chris Parmelee
10. SS Brian Dozier

Paul Molitor, who works as a roaming instructor and advisor, spent last week in Rochester working with the Triple-A Red Wings. This week he is in Fort Myers keeping an eye on the High-A Miracle.

He joined us on "Reusse & Mackey" Thursday to talk about the farm system -- mostly the negatives, to be honest.

Bad news first

"I think it's concerning to some degree," Molitor said when asked about the less-than-ideal early-season performances by some of the Twins' top prospects, specifically Hicks, Benson and Michael.

"We've got these guys that you hear about, that you project, and we'd like to hear better reports. We'd like to see better things, but that's not always the case."

• Hicks, 22, entered Thursday hitting .245/.326/.403 with five home runs, 42 strikeouts and 21 walks in 184 plate appearances for Double-A New Britain. He has stolen 13 bases while being caught only three times, but if the season ended today it would mark the second consecutive year in which Hicks' batting average was below .250, and the second consecutive year that his on-base percentage plummeted.

The word is Hicks has untapped power, but to date he has only 26 home runs in 1,731 plate appearances (one home run per 67 trips).

"Hicks has just not been a guy who's been able to figure it out day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month," Molitor said. "We continue to see flashes of why we think he's going to be a quality major league player, but the inconsistencies in his game continue to kind of be something that's a little bit of a red flag. But he's still young. ...

"We're kind of hoping he starts giving us some reason to think he'll surface up here in the Twin Cities soon. But he's not there obviously."

• The Twins elected to start the 21-year-old Michael off at High-A Fort Myers in his first full season of professional ball, and the transition has been slow. In 175 plate appearances he is hitting just .209/.312/.270 with five extra-base hits.

Michael has "handled himself well defensively," Molitor said, "but the game's a little fast (in Fort Myers) as far as him making an adjustment."

Molitor said Michael's early-season struggles shouldn't be a huge concern.

"For one, having some injury problems last year, he really hadn't played much baseball since about last June. And there was some talk in spring training about him starting off in Beloit maybe to have a chance to sort of settle in to a professional baseball routine. But the way the rosters shaped up we thought he fit down (in Fort Myers) and realize he might take a while to adjust offensively."

• Benson, 24, began the season as Baseball America's 99th-best prospect, but he was quickly demoted to Double-A New Britain after a horrible start with Rochester -- an unfortunate situation for Benson, who likely would have been recalled to the big leagues fairly quickly had he broken out of the gate with a solid April.

Now Benson will be out for six weeks following hamate bone surgery.

"A disappointment that he's still having trouble emotionally with the game," Molitor said. "I think physically he's still one of the best guys we have."

• Gibson, 24, is out after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he is scheduled to throw off a mound in two weeks. Best-case scenario has Gibson pitching in a game at some point in August.

The good news

• A 2-for-33 slump over the past 10 games has dropped Sano's batting average to .245 for low-A Beloit, but he still reaches base more than 35% of the time and his 11 home runs and 35 RBIs are tops in the Midwest League.

Despite the recent hiccup, Sano's season has been a success so far, and the same can be said for his Beloit teammate Rosario, who came into Thursday hitting .278/.364/.432 with three home runs, 14 doubles and more walks (22) than strikeouts (21) in 184 plate appearances. Rosario added a fourth home run on Thursday afternoon.

The fact that most of Rosario's at-bats have come as a second baseman make his numbers even more impressive, although his nine errors suggest there are some growing pains in the transition from outfield.

• Dozier's batting line dropped to .260/.273/.384 after going 1-for-5 with two RBIs on Thursday, but it's hard to argue he doesn't belong in the big leagues.

• Arcia, 21, entered Thursday hitting .287/.335/.460 with three home runs and 11 doubles in 165 plate appearances, but he has also struck out 40 times. Molitor said Arcia is having difficulty hitting -- and laying off -- breaking balls, which was also his main problem during spring training. Still, Arcia's performance at age 21 should be considered a huge positive.

• Despite being demoted from the big leagues to Triple-A Rochester earlier this year, Parmelee and Hendriks should also be considered bright spots.

Hendriks, 23, was passed up for another major league promotion this week in favor of Cole De Vries. He responded by pitching seven fantastic innings on Thursday night, allowing only one earned run on five hits and two walks while striking out nine. Hendriks has allowed only five earned runs in 25 2/3 innings since being sent down, and his phone is likely the next one to ring when the Twins need another starter.

Parmelee, 24, is hitting .333/.481/.524 with a homer in 27 trips with the Red Wings. He'll be up sooner than later too.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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