Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month - April
Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton?
Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano?[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
They are two of the top prospects in all of baseball, and in April both of them put up remarkable numbers. Sano has dominated the Florida State League despite being the youngest player in the league. Buxton is one of the youngest players in the Midwest League and is easily the league’s top prospect. A very strong case could be made for either of them being the Twins top prospect. Likewise, in April, a strong case could be made for either of them having been the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month.
Below, I’ll highlight the Top 5 minor league hitters in the month, and yes, I will pick Sano or Buxton at #1. As is the case when making a Twins prospect list, if you like, you could consider them 1a and 1b.
[SIZE=2]Photo by Greg Wagner[/SIZE]
Here are my selections for the Top 5 Twins Minor League hitters in April:
5 – Cedar Rapids – Adam Brett Walker - (21yo, 23 H- 81 AB) .284/.356/.593 (.948) with three doubles, two triples, six home runs and 26 RBI.
Walker was the Twins third round pick in 2012 out of Jacksonville U. The first two weeks of the season were a struggle for the 6-4, 225 pound slugger, but in the final week of the month Walker was on fire and named the Midwest League Hitter of the Week. Five of his home runs came over a four-game stretch from April 22nd to April 27th. According to the Kernels hitting coach Tommy Watkins, “It’s about getting a good pitch to hit. It’s about having a rhythm, and knowing what pitches he can drive.” Most say that the 21-year-old’s power potential is as great as any player in the organization, including Miguel Sano.
2013 has been an incredible year for the Twins 4th round pick from 2010. It began by him playing well in the Puerto Rico Winter League. He earned a spot on the Puerto Rican WBC team and played well in the tournament. He also hit well in Twins big league camp.
And now he has had a terrific first month with the Miracle. He continues to hit for average while showing plenty of extra base power. He has solidified himself as a top prospect. His ability to play second base has been a question since he switched to the position just a year ago. The 21-year-old has made great improvements and is statistically the best defensive second baseman in the Florida State League.
3 - New Britain – Josmil Pinto - (24yo, 32 H - 96 AB) .333/.413/.563 (.975) with five doubles, a triple, five home runs and 21 RBI.
Pinto had an opportunity to become a free agent after the 2012 season (as a 6-year minor league free agent). Instead, he signed back quickly with the Twins. Soon after, the Twins put him on their 40-man roster. The catcher is off to a fast start. He has shown that 2012 was not a fluke and that he can hit for average and for power. He is 24 years old and could be called up if the Twins find themselves with a catching need. It took some time for him to develop, but Pinto is on the cusp.
2 – Cedar Rapids – Byron Buxton - (19yo, 31H - 79 AB) .392/.510/.684 (1.194) with five doubles, three triples, four home runs and 21 RBI.
When you’re the #2 overall pick in the draft, expectations are going to be high. To say that Buxton has exceeded expectations to this point is an understatement. There was some question about whether he would start the season with Kernels or stay in Ft. Myers in Extended Spring Training. I asked his hitting coach Tommy Watkins who a good comp would be for Buxton. “Mike Trout. When he comes to the plate, he has a presence. He can hurt you in so many ways, with power and with his speed.”
Buxton has all the tools. He has incredible power. Three of his four home runs on the season have exited the stadium in Cedar Rapids. He also has great speed and the ability to beat out many infield hits. He plays great defense and has a very strong arm. He also has a tool not present in many young players; he has great plate discipline as shown by his on-base percentage over .500. He has been on base at least once in every game this season. He is especially proficient as a two-strike hitter. As Watkins told me, “Two strikes doesn’t scare him at all. A lot of young hitters are afraid to hit with two strikes. They start swinging at everything. Buxton’s not afraid at all. He rarely hacks at the first pitch.”
Despite being incredibly gifted as an athlete, Buxton is said to have a tremendous attitude. Watkins concurred, “He is very coachable. He listens. He wants to get better!”
The April Minnesota Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month is...
Ft. Myers Miracle - 3B Miguel Sano (19yo, 35 H - 95 AB) .368/.435/.747 (1.183) with seven doubles, a triple, nine home runs and 24 RBI.
The Florida State League is a very difficult place for hitters to succeed. Really, it is..... for most. Apparently, Miguel Sano did not get the memo. Deemed one of baseball’s top prospects, Sano had an impressive showing in his first month in the league. His nine home runs are best in all of minor league baseball.
Tommy Watkins was his hitting coach a year ago in Beloit. Is he surprised at what Sano has been able to do in Ft. Myers? “No. We all know his potential. He has tremendous power.”
What was the biggest area of improvement for Sano? “He really improved his plate discipline. We knew after his first month last year that he wouldn’t get anything to hit. If they wanted to spin the ball, he needed to lay off the tough ones. It looks like he’s doing that. He knows what he can do, and what pitches he can handle.”
Sano has a chance to move up pretty quickly. Reports indicate that his defense and footwork have been greatly improved. But it is his bat that will help him move up the ladder and become a star. No question, Sano will find some struggles in the Florida State League and how he handles those moments may best determine how quickly he graduates to the next level. For now, and certainly for April, Sano is putting up the numbers to earn recognition.
There were several strong performances in April that weren’t included in the Top 5. Here are some Honorable Mentions who, in most months, would easily be in the Top 5.
- Clete Thomas only had 58 at bats in April, but he hit .362/.456/.621 (1.077) with three doubles, four homers and 13 RBI.
- Chris Colabello continued to impress and show he belongs. In April, he hit .302/.358/.542 (.899) with five doubles, six homers and 19 RBI.
- Travis Harrison hit .291/.341/.519 (.860) with nine doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI.
- Dalton Hicks hit .274/.351/.512 (.863) with eight doubles, four homers and 19 RBI.
- Jorge Polanco hit .341/.379/.489 (.868) with six doubles, two triples, one home run and 19 RBI.
- JD Williams hit .250/.446/.522 (.946) with four doubles, three homers and nine home runs. He walked 19 times and stole six bases.
It was a terrific month for Twins minor league hitting prospects, especially in Ft. Myers and Cedar Rapids. You can tell me that I should have picked Buxton, and I won’t disagree with you too much. Hopefully May will bring some similar statistics.
Feel free to comment and discuss.