When Terry Ryan took over his old job as Minnesota Twins general manager at the end of 2011, he knew one of his biggest jobs was to rebuild a farm system that fueled the team's resurgence in the early 2000s but had crumbled through a series of poor drafts.
Armed with the No. 2 pick in the draft last June -- and the most money to sign draft picks under MLB's new system -- Ryan and his staff went to work, taking center fielder Byron Buxton in the first round and adding a handful of the hard-throwing pitchers the organization had been missing.
This winter, Ryan made a pair of the proven players-for-prospects deals he often swung in his first run as Twins general manager, moving outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere for a combined haul of three pitchers. At the end of all that, it looks like the Twins' farm system is on its way back.
Pitchers Alex Meyer and Trevor May figure to be two of the top arms in the team's system, and they're backed by the Twins' 2012 draft picks: sandwich selections J.O. Berrios and Luke Bard, plus second-rounders Mason Melotakis and J.T. Chargois. All six pitchers throw in the mid-90s, and the Twins are also counting on Kyle Gibson to return from Tommy John surgery this year.
They also have hitters like Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Oswaldo Arcia in their system, in addition to Buxton and Aaron Hicks, who could turn out to be the Twins' starting center fielder this spring.
Minnesota's immediate future is still uncertain, with Justin Morneau's contract up after the 2013 season and Josh Willingham set to become a free agent after 2014. Joe Mauer turns 30 in April, and the team has lost a combined 195 games the last two seasons.
But the Twins' long-term outlook is brighter than it has been in some time, and Ryan seems on his way to turning the farm system into a strength again.