Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn, USA TodayIn the theoretical conjurings of worst-case scenarios for this 2018 season, "Buxton and Sano both optioned to the minors" would've ranked pretty high. And now, as Sano fails to inflict damage against Triple-A pitching, while Buxton remains sidelined by yet another injury, after much the same... faith is wavering.
What if Sano ends up being no more than a plodding, all-or-nothing DH? What if Buxton never finds a way to sustain health and production?
These are real possibilities. But they are far from set in stone. All things considered, both players are young, and irrefutably talented. Sano and Buxton have several years left to figure things out in Minnesota.
What's most comforting is this: pressure is being lifted off their shoulders. Elsewhere, it's pretty much all going to plan.
I've heard some grumblings about the front office. I even came across a thread here asking if they owe fans an apology (?). But lest anyone forget: this regime has already gotten it extremely right on at least two vital occasions:
1) They didn't meet Yu Darvish's demands. People around here got AWFULLY huffy when his deal with the Cubs was announced. When I suggested the Twins might have been wise to avoid the risks associated with Darvish's decidedly team-unfriendly contract, it wasn't exactly a popular take.
Now, he's a mess, plagued by elbow issues and struggling when on the mound. This'll mark Darvish's fifth consecutive year coming up short of 200 innings. He turns 32 in a few weeks. And the Cubs are locked in for $100 million over the next five years.
The Twins held their ground, and – as with their rebukes of LA's underwhelming offers for Brian Dozier the previous winter – it was a decision that very quickly looked very smart. If Darvish signed here and followed the same path, this club would be in rough shape.
2) They drafted freaking Royce Lewis. It's almost hard to fathom by now, but when Minnesota selected Lewis with the first overall pick, it was a pretty controversial and unconventional choice. No publications covering the draft pegged him as the No. 1 talent, and very few forecasted him as even a top three pick.
Lewis' relatively low profile enabled the Twins to sign him at a big discount, and use that saved money to juice up later picks. But that's only icing on the cake. One year later, Lewis is the crown jewel of Minnesota's system, and one of the most heralded talents in all the minors. He's far more accomplished than any of the players ranked ahead of him on pre-draft boards.
Presently posting above-average production as a 19-year-old shortstop in the Florida State League, Lewis is tracking to become the youngest Twins player to debut in decades.
His ETA right now looks like late 2019 or early 2020, and thus far Lewis has proven a very fast learner at every level.
Of course, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine can't take much credit for the rest of the enviable situation they've inherited.
Alex Kirilloff, who's crushing the Florida State League alongside Lewis (he notched three hits on Thursday night and is batting .383 for the Miracle), was drafted in the first round about one month before Terry Ryan's dismissal. Right now it's looking like a brilliant endcap to Ryan's tenure, and a true scouting success – it's a lot harder to find such transcendent talents with the fifteenth pick than the first.
And then the there is the starting rotation. A sore spot for so long, finally coming together. Consider this: Jose Berrios played in the All-Star Game last week at age 24. Fernando Romero, 23, has shown elite stuff to match. And Kyle Gibson is fulfilling his promise at long last. This trio, from my view, presents a worthy core for a contending rotation, with stud prospect Brusdar Graterol (another product of the Ryan regime) on the way to joining them – perhaps right around 2020.
The point here is that the Twins have enough high-caliber talent incoming that they can live with either Buxton or Sano coming well short of his potential – maybe even both. The outlook going forward is bright even with those two playing supporting roles rather than steering the ship.
But I'm not ready to count out the possibility that one or both will rebound and reconnect with his previous trajectory. If they can get back on track, and meet with the other talent rising through the other premier talent rising through this system – say, around 2020? – that's going to be something to see.
- mikelink45, BoofBonser, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this