MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have long relied on their farm system to help fill holes at the Major League level and to be able to do that requires having strong talent. And once again, two of the Twins' prospects have garnered notice for their skills.On Tuesday, Aaron Hicks and Kyle Gibson were ranked 39th and 40th, respectively, on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list for 2011. This year's edition of the top prospects was revealed on MLB Network on Tuesday night during a special program. The show, hosted by Matt Yallof, featured analysis from MLB.com senior writer Jonathan Mayo and former Indians general manager John Hart. Fans can chat with Mayo about the list on Wednesday at 1 p.m. CT on MLB.com. Of the Twins' two prospects on the list, Gibson is the closest to making an impact in the Majors. He's already been mentioned as a candidate to perhaps help the Twins' starting rotation at some point in 2011.
After falling to the Twins at No. 22 in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft due to a stress fracture in his right forearm, Gibson was immediately labeled as a pitcher who could be on the fast track toward the Majors. That certainly looked to be the case in '10, Gibson's first professional season, when he rose through three levels in the Twins' Minor League system.Gibson, 23, went a combined 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 26 starts between Class A Fort Myers, Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester last season. Twins pitchers have garnered a reputation for throwing the ball over the plate and delivering quality strikes. Gibson fits that mold of having pitch-making ability, although scouts say his stuff might be better. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire spoke about Gibson during last week's western leg of the Twins Winter Caravan. Gardenhire said that last spring he went over to the Minor League side of the club's Spring Training complex to watch Gibson pitch while Jason Kubel got in a few extra at-bats. "Kyle Gibson carved Kubel up, and as we walked back to the Major League side right after he finished hitting, Kubel said, 'Who was that guy?'" Gardenhire said with a laugh. "I said, 'Don't worry, you'll be playing behind him before you know it.' "He can really pitch. He's got a great arm. He handles himself really well. A big kid, and that's a steal, we got a steal in the Draft. He'll probably end up going to Triple-A to start the year, but you'll see him probably sometime this year I would imagine." Gibson is one of the Twins' non-roster invitees to Spring Training this year, so Gardenhire and the rest of his staff will get a chance to see more of the right-hander in action. Hicks, who was selected in the first round out of high school in 2008, has a longer track to the Majors, but scouts rave about his raw tools. A switch-hitting center fielder with tremendous speed, he possesses what many believe can be an impact bat. It's still uncertain how much power he can develop as he matures. The 21-year-old outfielder got off to a slow start in 2010, going 1-for-30 after being sent back to Class A Beloit before getting himself back on track. He batted .279 with 27 doubles, eight home runs, 21 stolen bases and 49 RBIs in 115 games for Beloit last year and should begin this season at Fort Myers. A five-tool player, Hicks possesses a good instinct at the plate and posted a .401 on-base percentage last season. He's considered to have the best strike-zone discipline of any prospect in the Twins' system. Hicks is also highly regarded defensively, thanks in large part to his strong throwing arm. Many teams that scouted Hicks in the 2008 Draft were looking at him as a pitcher because of his ability to throw 95 mph. But the Twins liked what the elite athlete could bring to the field. Considered to be one of the best athletes in all of the Minor Leagues, Hicks' blazing speed has allowed him to cover a tremendous amount of ground in the outfield. He's drawn comparisons to Torii Hunter and Adam Jones. While Hicks has primarily played center field, the Twins have also tried him out at the corner outfield spots, and the feeling is that he could be a Gold Glove-caliber defensive player once he's polished.