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Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: #8 Aaron Sabato

The 2019 Minnesota Twins set the MLB record for most home runs in a single season and won 101 games. That gave them the 27th overall pick in the 2020 draft and they selected another big college bat, 1B Aaron Sabato, a future Bomba Squad member. He debuts in our rankings as the #8 Twins Prospect.
Image courtesy of Rebecca Lawson, UNC (graphics by Brock Beauchamp)
Age: 21 (DOB: 6-4-1999)
2020 Stats (UNC): .292/.478/.708 (1.185), 6-2B, 7-HR (in 19 games)
ETA: 2023
2020 Ranking: NR

National Top 100 Rankings
BA: NR |MLB: NR | ATH: NR |BP: NR

What’s To Like
Shortly after the Twins selected Aaron Sabato last June, Scouting Director Sean Johnson said, "We thought he was the best offensive player left on the board from every standpoint possible. Going back to his season last year, if you look at him analytically, he lined up with some of the guys who went at the very top of the board."



A quick look at the stats of Sabato and top overall pick Spencer Torkelson in 2019 and the shortened 2020 season, shows that the two put up very similar numbers. Those were Sabato’s freshman and sophomore seasons at North Carolina compared to Torkelson’s sophomore and junior seasons at Arizona State.

Torkelson: 74 games, .349/.480/.719 (1.199) with 21 doubles, 29 homers.
Sabato: 83 games, .332/.459/.708 (1.158) with 31 doubles, 25 homers.

So while there is a lot more that goes into scouting than just these offensive numbers, it certainly illustrates the offensive firepower of Sabato. He fits into the mold of recent Twins draft picks such as Brent Rooker, Ryan Jeffers and Matt Wallner.



Sabato pointed out a few days later that he feels that his hitting philosophies closely match the Twins hitting philosophies. He recalled a conversation with Twins minor league hitting coordinator Donegal Fergus.

“We want you to swing at strikes. We want you to take balls, and we want you to hit the ball a long way and do it at a high rate without striking out and walking a ton. For me, that’s what I base my hitting about. I’m trying to do the most damage on every pitch, but also be disciplined enough to take my walks and spit on the good pitches.” He continued, “Right there, (I realized) that I was in a pretty good spot with the organization that had just drafted me.”

Sabato may not possess all of the baseball tools, but he has a plus hitting tool, and plus-plus power potential.

What’s Left To Work On
Sure, Sabato will have to adjust to the pro ball game, even offensively. But really, it’s about that continued development and improvement, and this year, it’s about just getting at bats again.

Sabato is not a speed guy, so don’t expect him to be stealing a lot of bases.

Defensively, there have been assumptions made that he will be limited to first base, and he will need to improve there as well. It is possible that he ultimately will be a Designated Hitter, but the Twins will work hard with him at first base.

What’s Next
Sabato gets to make his actual professional debut. Sure, he went to the Twins instructional league in October, but 2021 will be his debut. Because of the missed time, it will be interesting to see where he starts the 2021 season when it begins in May. Because he hasn’t played in an official game, they could start him in Low-A Ft. Myers and get some at bats under his belt. It’s also possible that he will jump straight up to High-A Cedar Rapids.

While the general belief is that Sabato has a very advanced bat, the Twins have the luxury of being patient with him. He will be given time to work on the other aspects of his game.


Twins 2021 Top 20 Prospects
Honorable Mentions
20. Bailey Ober, RHP
19. José Miranda, 3B/2B
18. Alerick Soularie, UTIL
17. Ben Rortvedt, C
16. Edwar Colina, RHP
15. Cole Sands, RHP
14. Misael Urbina, OF
13. Matt Wallner, OF
12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B
11. Gilberto Celestino, OF
10. Blayne Enlow, RHP
9. Matt Canterino, RHP
8. Aaron Sabato, 1B
7. Coming tomorrow!

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24 Comments

He fits the Twins hitter profile to a tee so I am not surprised they picked him there.While it will likely take him a couple of years 1st base and DH look pretty full right now for the Twins but they could always trade someone to make room if needed.I will be interested to see how he does against tougher pitching.

 

I thought it was a good pick but after essentially 5 years of 1st round fairly slow footed power hitters in Kirillioff, Rooker, Larnach, Wallner and now Sabato it kind of felt like enough is enough.I know all those guys were drafted in the lower rounds as "value" power hitter picks but there were good pitchers in those areas as well and do we need that type of player in the first round every year?

 

Anyway Sabato looks good as a hitter and as noted his bat will have to carry him as he is pretty much limited to 1st base and DH.It is his lack of defense that allowed him to fall to the Twins but the guy looks like another Twins masher and I hope he keeps his numbers in Torkelsons range because then he really would be a steal.

 

The Twins were giddy he fell to them and they know far more about him than I do.Sabato looks like a guy who could have an elite bat and a power bat to boot so who am I to complain.Move over Bronx Bombers the Twins only draft Bomba bats so look out.

    • mikelink45, DocBauer and Doctor Gast like this

A guy who looks like he has a powerful swing that keeps the barrel in the zone a long time.The wood bat transition can have its effects and the advanced pitching of pro ball.So I am not a big fan of putting guys high on prospect rankings who havent played an inning of pro ball.The lost 2020 season is tough especially if he has any kind of adjustment struggles or injuries. 

 

With that said he is a guy who could move quickly, he is already 23 has a mans body and all indications an advanced approach. we will see where he starts the season but might be a fast riser up Twins and national prospect rankings. 

2021 might be the most interesting season for prospect watching with all the minor league changes and the complete lost 2020. 

    • DocBauer likes this

Nice write-up. Quick quibble: born June of 1999 should make him age 21 now, turning 22 this summer, not 23. Unless I'm missing something.

 

Good luck to him!

 

    • Dman and terrydactyls1947 like this

When Falvey was at Cleveland they had a pitcher pipeline - now we have a slugger pipeline, but try to get Kiriloff, Larnach, Rooker, Sabato, and Wallner in the same lineup.Good luck with defense.

    • MMMordabito likes this

I am never a fan of these type of prospects.They offer no defense and all offense.If they never develop the offense that you expect then they have no value.He may be a great hitter in the league and help the team in the future, but he is full boom or bust type.  

    • mikelink45 likes this
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MMMordabito
Feb 16 2021 09:21 AM

 

When Falvey was at Cleveland they had a pitcher pipeline - now we have a slugger pipeline, but try to get Kiriloff, Larnach, Rooker, Sabato, and Wallner in the same lineup.Good luck with defense.

 

Yeah, someone will need to be moved.Someone also will likely not work out.  

 

LF, DH and 1B are the only spots these guys can occupy.

 

Sano has two years, and if the Twins pick up the third, that means they were two good years.

 

If Cruz is still producing and still signing by '23, then that will also come off of more productive years. That would be amazing.

 

Hopefully, this will be a good problem to have.

    • ashbury, mikelink45, Dman and 1 other like this
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SgtSchmidt11
Feb 16 2021 09:41 AM

 

Nice write-up. Quick quibble: born June of 1999 should make him age 21 now, turning 22 this summer, not 23. Unless I'm missing something.

 

Good luck to him!

Everything I can find seems to indicate that his DOB is correct, so his age is wrong in this article.That makes quite a difference between an ETA of debuting @ age 23 v 25.

    • big dog likes this

Didn't know what to think about this pick last summer, don't know a lot more now.

 

Expect many of us are hoping he does as well as Jeffers, who also appeared a bit of a stretch when drafted. But Sabato isn't Jeffers, they are different people and we shouldn't be rationalizing one pick could be good because a previous prospect appeared to over achieve.

 

So like most of us, I will be watching his progress closely this summer.

 

You indicated he would be starting somewhere in May. Are the minor leagues beginning play in May? Are schedules actually set? Or is AAA beginning sooner as most of those players will be in spring training with the big league clubs?

    • Twins33, Dman and DocBauer like this
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nicksaviking
Feb 16 2021 02:38 PM

I'm more than fine if they keep drafting the best bat regardless of position.

 

But when there's a glut of prospects they gotta start moving some. Don't amass the stockpile only for them to organically succeed or fail; swap some out for MLB help now and let another team share in the lottery.

 

Even the best minds in the organization (and fanbase) can't tell which of Kirilloff, Rooker, Larnach, Sabata or Wallner are going to turn out to be the best MLB players. Trade one or two, probably separately but in big packages; by shear number, the odds are in the Twins favor that they'd still end up hanging on to the best one.

 

 

Our rankings:

 

Seth: 11

Nick: 12

Tom: 9

Cody: 7

 

Nice write-up. Quick quibble: born June of 1999 should make him age 21 now, turning 22 this summer, not 23. Unless I'm missing something.

 

Good luck to him!

 

Corrected... thank you! 

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drivlikejehu
Feb 16 2021 02:47 PM

 

I am never a fan of these type of prospects.They offer no defense and all offense.If they never develop the offense that you expect then they have no value.He may be a great hitter in the league and help the team in the future, but he is full boom or bust type.  

 

Almost all prospects are "boom or bust," since most never do anything in the Majors, and the majority that do play in the bigs are role players that don't have a huge impact (basically saving a few million dollars compared to the club signing a low-tier free agent).

 

When Falvey was at Cleveland they had a pitcher pipeline - now we have a slugger pipeline, but try to get Kiriloff, Larnach, Rooker, Sabato, and Wallner in the same lineup.Good luck with defense.

 

If all those guys turn into quality big leaguers, the Twins will be in great shape . . . keep 3 and trade 2 for areas of need.

    • DocBauer likes this

I guess we'll see how his power potential actually plays and whether or not he makes enough consistent hard contact to be a Sano-type slugger. Not sure I would have him ranked this high due to his limitations defensively, and there's always a question about how well college sluggers will adapt...but he does seem to have serious power.

 

I'm not worried about him being "blocked"; if he's great then he'll force his way into the lineup and we do have potential spaces opening up along the way. I'm also not opposed to having some of our other guys lock down positions with their dominance and making Sabato a trade chip. Draft talent and skill and figure out positioning and playing time and opportunity later. Besides, this stuff changes so rapidly. Think about where the Twins were at 1B a couple of years ago: did we have anyone coming up through the pipeline? Heck, did we have anyone on the roster we were ready to hand the job to? (answer: no, we went and grabbed CJ Cron because 1B was pretty thin and the best internal options just created a different hole)

    • DocBauer likes this
One thing about the Twins currently is they aren't afraid to ZIG when other teams ZAG. Or is it the other way around? The 2020 draft was supposed to be filled with intriguing arms and yet they only drafted HS pitcher Raya in the 4th round. (I'm actually higher on his growth potential and projectability the next few years over maybe any other selection, but I digress).

They clearly believe in best player available, and also clearly believe that there is arm talent available past the 1st round. It would appear their philosophy is that unless you draft very high and have as close to a "can't mjss" as possible you don't "reach" for pitching but rather look for things you like and then build on that. Sure has worked for Cleveland.

Despite lack of positional flexibility, there is room for someone like Sabato. There is always room for a guy to play 1B only and have a difference making bat. And that big RH bat could play with the port siders like Kepler, Kirilloff and Larnach.

I think I would rank him a couple spots lower, even with his 1st round selection, simply because he's a 1B only who hasn't played yet. But I still don't have any problem with his potential value and being a late 1st round selection. Hopefully, we'll continue to draft late for years to come.

 

Almost all prospects are "boom or bust," since most never do anything in the Majors, and the majority that do play in the bigs are role players that don't have a huge impact (basically saving a few million dollars compared to the club signing a low-tier free agent).

 

 

If all those guys turn into quality big leaguers, the Twins will be in great shape . . . keep 3 and trade 2 for areas of need.

The problem is compounded by your statement.Unless they look like superstars these are the type of players who have almost no trade value.Trades want pitchers not lumber. Look at CJ Cron trying to hang on - he can hit, probably as well as most of these.Eddie Rosario had a tough time as a FA.These guys are good for trades if we throw in an arm too, but on their own I do not see anyone lining up to take these players.

    • Major League Ready likes this
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drivlikejehu
Feb 17 2021 09:52 AM

 

The problem is compounded by your statement.Unless they look like superstars these are the type of players who have almost no trade value.Trades want pitchers not lumber. Look at CJ Cron trying to hang on - he can hit, probably as well as most of these.Eddie Rosario had a tough time as a FA.These guys are good for trades if we throw in an arm too, but on their own I do not see anyone lining up to take these players.

 

If some of them won't turn out to be very good, then it's all the more important to have numbers. You can't have it both ways - there is either a logjam, or there isn't.

 

If some of them aren't very good, there isn't.

 

If they all are good, there is, and good players (including 'corner' players) have trade value. A number of the highest-paid players in the game play in the corners.

 

The idea that teams only want to trade for pitchers isn't true either. That's an outlandish claim with no basis in fact.

 

Almost all prospects are "boom or bust," since most never do anything in the Majors, and the majority that do play in the bigs are role players that don't have a huge impact (basically saving a few million dollars compared to the club signing a low-tier free agent).

 

 

 

I disagree that almost all are boom or bust.There are many that may not become the offensive player expected or wished, like Buxton overall, but end up still being a good player because of defense.Pitchers that settle into decent bull pen pitchers are not busts, but never become great starters.  

 

With guys like Sabato, if he never hits well, he well never find a place on a major league roster, where guys that can defend well will find places, unless they are so bad hitting that you would rather have a pitcher hit than them.Even then, some teams will still be willing to have them play once in awhile if they provide great defense.

Fangraphs just did an awesome interview with Sabato.If you read it you might just change your mind about this guy.I can see why the Twins like him.  https://blogs.fangra...lly-not-dhing/

I am never a fan of these type of prospects. They offer no defense and all offense. If they never develop the offense that you expect then they have no value. He may be a great hitter in the league and help the team in the future, but he is full boom or bust type.


To be fair, nobody outside of an epically elite CF, SS, or C has any value if they don’t develop offensively. Even then, remember how many people wanted to exile Buxton with his early offensive struggles? Teams weren’t clamoring to sign Simmons this offseason, either, and you can get guys like Billy Hamilton on minor league deals.

You can find defense on the scrap heap. You draft for high-end offensive potential. The guys that have both aren’t sitting there are the tail end of the first round.

I disagree that almost all are boom or bust. There are many that may not become the offensive player expected or wished, like Buxton overall, but end up still being a good player because of defense. Pitchers that settle into decent bull pen pitchers are not busts, but never become great starters.

With guys like Sabato, if he never hits well, he well never find a place on a major league roster, where guys that can defend well will find places, unless they are so bad hitting that you would rather have a pitcher hit than them. Even then, some teams will still be willing to have them play once in awhile if they provide great defense.

But where the is value in a part time defensive specialist? You can sign those guys for minimum wage or minor league deals every year. Ehire Adrianza played a phenomenal third base with Donaldson out last year. I just read an article that ranked him as a top 10 defender on the left side of the infield based on OAA.

You don’t need to draft guys that profile as Adrianza in the first round because you’re scared of a Pete Alonso type flaming out offensively. You want to pay a multi million dollar slot and drag him through minors for 5 years, when you can sign one every year for a few hundred grand? If you’re going out and signing elite hitters, you’re paying huge money (the Twins just paid, what, about $45 million for an elite DH the last 3 years?).

You’re not getting a Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado comp at the back end of the first round.

I just don’t understand what people expect. I love the pick.
    • Ben Noble likes this

 

To be fair, nobody outside of an epically elite CF, SS, or C has any value if they don’t develop offensively. Even then, remember how many people wanted to exile Buxton with his early offensive struggles? Teams weren’t clamoring to sign Simmons this offseason, either, and you can get guys like Billy Hamilton on minor league deals.

You can find defense on the scrap heap. You draft for high-end offensive potential. The guys that have both aren’t sitting there are the tail end of the first round.

Agreed that outside of those positions offense is needed.However, if they can be average on offense and average on defense they will still have a home, and may not be the high end guy you would hope for, but still provide value.Could Sabato turn into a good defender at 1B and then you can live with average output there, okay, but overall my point is I am not a fan of guys that only value possibly is HR.Not saying he was the wrong pick or anything, but not a big fan of those types. 

 

Yes, many fans were down on Buxton until he was putting up some offense, but I was not one of them because I knew what he could do on defense was better than anyone we had.Now that he is at least average overall with stints above average he is viewed as a much better player than before, but he still had great value when he was hitting below .200.

 

But where the is value in a part time defensive specialist? You can sign those guys for minimum wage or minor league deals every year. Ehire Adrianza played a phenomenal third base with Donaldson out last year. I just read an article that ranked him as a top 10 defender on the left side of the infield based on OAA.

You don’t need to draft guys that profile as Adrianza in the first round because you’re scared of a Pete Alonso type flaming out offensively. You want to pay a multi million dollar slot and drag him through minors for 5 years, when you can sign one every year for a few hundred grand? If you’re going out and signing elite hitters, you’re paying huge money (the Twins just paid, what, about $45 million for an elite DH the last 3 years?).

You’re not getting a Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado comp at the back end of the first round.

I just don’t understand what people expect. I love the pick.

I never said he was not the right pick, I just said not a fan of those type of prospects overall.He may have been the best available and I defer to the FO on that.Yes, you can get decent defenders that do not hit great for cheap contracts, and do not advocate for drafting guys that are not expected to hit.However, if you draft a guy that is only expected to hit, and he does not then he has no value to your team in the future.Also, if they can only hit and not field, unless it is at an extremely elite level, they have little value as well.My point was, guys that can do more than just hit HR, will have fall back plans if the HR do not carry over to pro ball.Maybe Sabato will be an elite hitter and HR hitter and I will be happy, but if he is not, then there is nothing else there and no fall back for him.  

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Brock Beauchamp
Feb 22 2021 10:34 AM

 

A guy who looks like he has a powerful swing that keeps the barrel in the zone a long time.The wood bat transition can have its effects and the advanced pitching of pro ball.So I am not a big fan of putting guys high on prospect rankings who havent played an inning of pro ball.The lost 2020 season is tough especially if he has any kind of adjustment struggles or injuries. 

 

With that said he is a guy who could move quickly, he is already 23 has a mans body and all indications an advanced approach. we will see where he starts the season but might be a fast riser up Twins and national prospect rankings. 

2021 might be the most interesting season for prospect watching with all the minor league changes and the complete lost 2020. 

I generally agree about putting untested draftees high on a list but putting Sabato eighth on the Twins list feels like a pretty conservative move. The system is deep but not particularly top-heavy. Sabato is ranked below a few guys who won't even make a top 100 prospect list this year.

The trick here is that he has to become an elite hitter for this pick to work. There are many 1st base DH types out there that can hit 20-25 homers a year. Hardly in demand.

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