Twins add eight to 40-man roster
Club moves to protect players for next month's Rule 5 Draft
MINNEAPOLIS -- Next month's Rule 5 Draft is the time of year that teams can raid the Minor League systems of other organizations in an effort to find talent.The Twins took precautions to avoid losing some of their prospects on Wednesday, adding eight players to their 40-man roster. The club selected the contracts of pitchers Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak, catchers Drew Butera and Wilson Ramos, and infielders Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe, Deibinson Romero and Steve Tolleson. Those eight players are now protected from selection in this year's Rule 5 Draft, which will take place on Dec. 11 at the close of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Thursday is the deadline for teams to set their rosters. The Twins now have a total of 39 players on their 40-man roster. Among the eight players that were added is the Twins' first-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Plouffe. The 22-year-old split the 2008 season between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester. After being promoted to Rochester on June 13, Plouffe batted .256 with 17 doubles, six home runs and 39 RBIs in 66 games. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Plouffe played primarily at third base for Rochester. Duensing, a left-hander, went 5-11 with a 4.28 ERA in 25 appearances (24 starts) for Rochester in 2008. The 25-year-old also pitched for Team USA in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Swarzak, 23, went 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in seven starts after being promoted to Rochester on July 28. The right-hander, who went 3-8 with a 5.67 ERA in 20 starts for New Britain before moving up, was the Twins' second-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Duensing and Swarzak are both highly touted arms in the next wave of Twins pitching prospects. While they are currently starters, the two pitchers could provide Minnesota with depth for either the rotation or the bullpen in 2009.Butera, 25, impressed the Twins with his defensive prowess behind the plate during Spring Training this year. He spent the entire '08 season at New Britain, batting .219 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs. The Twins acquired Butera, the son of former Minnesota catcher Sal Butera, from the Mets in the Luis Castillo trade on July 30, 2007. Ramos is another up-and-coming catching prospect in the organization. The 21-year-old earned selection to the 2008 Florida State League Postseason All-Star Team after batting .288 with 13 home runs and 78 RBIs in 126 games for Class A Fort Myers. The 24-year-old Hughes caught the attention of the organization when he got off to a hot start offensively at New Britain in '08. Injuries slowed him down a bit, but Hughes still hit .319 with 15 home runs and 40 RBIs in 70 games for the Rock Cats. On July 31, he was promoted to Rochester, where he hit .283 with three homers in 29 games. The Twins spent last season trying to find a position for Hughes, but have appeared to settle on keeping him at third base. Romero, another third-base prospect, batted .268 with eight doubles, one triple, three home runs and 18 RBIs in 40 games with Class A Beloit last season. But a broken right fibula caused an early end to the 22-year-old's season, as he did not play after July 18. Tolleson, 25, hit .300 with 28 doubles and 50 RBIs in 93 games with New Britain last season. The infielder is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League and has been among the league's offensive leaders, batting .386 with two homers and 21 RBIs.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.