The Minnesota Twins always put an emphasis on the future. Since the team's renaissance in 2001, the franchise has relied on their minor league system. That trust paid off in several solid players that became franchise cornerstones like Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
But over the last couple of seasons, the Twins system has become bare. Trades and bad decisions by former general manager Bill Smith resulted in the team force-feeding prospects and falling from the top of the American League Central to last place.
The return of Terry Ryan solved those problems as the Twins system went from a bare cupboard a year ago to one of the best farm systems in Major League Baseball.
Now, the Twins have several areas of depth that can be traded for established major league talent or allowed to develop and become key contributors down the road.
Here are some of the deepest areas of the Twins' minor league system as we travel into mid-May.
The Twins had great success developing outfielders during their run in the 2000s that included five division championships. As it stands right now, the team is about to embark on another run of major league outfielders.
Part of that is already happening at the major league level as Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are playing key roles for the Twins. However, the depth in the outfield is much bigger.
Joe Benson, who was ranked 99th in Baseball America's top 100 prospects list a season ago, is playing at Triple-A Rochester. While he's struggled mightily to begin the season, he does have talent to resurface at the major league level if the Twins have issues.
Digging deeper, the Twins' Low-A affiliate is loaded with talent as the second overall pick in last June's draft, Byron Buxton, has been tearing the cover off the ball at Cedar Rapids with a .352 average, five home runs and 28 runs batted in through May 12.
Over in right field, Adam Brett Walker has been having a similar effort with a .297 average with nine home runs and 40 RBI. The third-round pick from last June has an unbelievable amount of power, so the ability is there for a quick rise through the system.
The outfield has been so stacked that the team decided to move Eddie Rosario from the outfield to second base. With this amount of talent, the Twins can have a solid outfield in the future with plenty to back them up in the minor leagues.
A year ago, the starting pitching in the organization was completely absent. To fix the problem, Ryan went and made a couple of unpopular trades by moving Denard Span and Ben Revere for pitching prospects.
The haul that Ryan received has turned a weakness into a strength.
Alex Meyer was ranked 59th by on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list heading into the season, and his performance at Double-A New Britain has done nothing to disagree with that.
A 6'9" pitcher with a downward plane, Meyer has posted a 3-2 record with a 3.58 earned run average to begin the season. He figures to play a major role in the Twins rotation in a season or two.
The other acquired prospect from last winter was Trevor May.
With the Phillies, May had issues with his control that kept him from breaking through to the major leagues. However, he's been able to limit that this season with the Rock Cats as his 4.3 walks-per-nine-innings ratio is the lowest since a stay at Low-A Lakewood in 2010 where he allowed 2.8 per nine innings.
With other prospects in the system like Kyle Gibson (Triple-A Rochester) and D.J. Baxendale (High-A Fort Myers) having solid starts to the season, the Twins rotation is another call-up or two away from making a full recovery.
Since the departure of Corey Koskie in 2005, the Twins have been begging for somebody to step in and take third base by the throat.
With the depth in the system, their answer at the hot corner is on the way.
At the major league level, Trevor Plouffe isn't an All-Star-caliber third baseman. However, his bat makes up for it as he's slugged 28 home runs over the past two seasons. His defense needs work, but he's valuable enough to provide an adequate answer if only for a couple more years.
The reason for Plouffe being considered a stopgap is the talent that has been assembled at the bottom of the organization.
In Low-A Cedar Rapids, Travis Harrison is putting an impressive season together despite being in high school at this time a year ago. With a .272 average and five home runs, the 50th overall pick in last year's draft will have a future in the organization, even if it's a distant one.
But, nothing can compare to the beast at High-A Fort Myers known as Miguel Sano.
A free-agent signee at the age of 16 in 2009, Sano has done nothing but hit baseballs into orbit since arriving in the Twins system. The ninth overall prospect according to Baseball America has gotten off to a scalding start in the Florida State League, where pitching usually dominates.
This is not an issue for Sano as he's hit .377 with 10 home runs and 33 runs batted in over 33 games this season. Twins fans everywhere are drooling at his monster potential, and a quick rise will result in a superstar being born in Minnesota.
If the Twins wanted to, they could use some of this depth as trade bait or insurance to make sure an adequate third baseman is waiting in the wings. After all, the Twins will take that after seven years of failure at the hot corner.
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