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Twins Top Two Progress Report

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 18 July 2018 · 836 views

minnesota twins byron buxton miguel sano
The Minnesota Twins came into the 2018 Major League Baseball season expecting to compete for a second straight postseason berth. Unfortunately, the offense has been nonexistent for the bulk of the schedule, and that's led to a situation where the club looks like it will sell off assets prior to the trade deadline. The immediate success of the organization lies on the backs of its former top prospects; chief among them are Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.

Sano and Buxton have had nothing short of disastrous seasons. They both find themselves down in the minors right now, and the latter is on the shelf with a hand injury. Whether or not Minnesota gets anything of substance out of either this season is largely unimportant at this point. What does matter however, is that both players are trending in a direction to be difference makers out of the gate in 2019.

Now having spent a substantial amount of time down on the farm, it's worth checking on each to see where they're at.

Miguel Sano

After looking like an uncommitted shell of the player he both could and should be for the Twins, Sano was sent to High-A Fort Myers. Rather than scripting it like a punishment, Minnesota's front office communicated that this was a reinvestment in the player. Everyone in the organization wants more from Sano, they all believe it's possible, and the goal is to get the player on that same page as well.

Although High-A is a drastic drop in surroundings, the idea is that Fort Myers essentially serves as the Twins hub. There's a training center and support staff there that is unrivaled across the rest of the minor league system. While performance is part of the equation, conditioning and support are arguably the greater piece of the pie. Expecting this to be best handled in South Florida, it made the most sense as a destination.

Now through 19 games with the Miracle, Sano owns a .328/.442/.453 slash line. He's contributed four extra-base hits (two homers), and owns a 21/13 K/BB ratio. Looking at the numbers, there's some things to like and others to be skeptical about.

Firstly, it's disappointing not seeing a higher power output from a guy who should be feasting on High-A pitching. Just two home runs in 77 plate appearances is a rather paltry display. It's fair to reserve judgement however, as the goal may be working on specific outputs in game situations as opposed to simply letting it fly. On the flip side, the strikeout to walk ratio is something that has to please Minnesota brass. Again, Sano should be much better than this level, but drawing walks at a higher rate is something he must do in the big leagues. As a power hitter, strikeouts will never be a significant problem so long as the longballs and free passes even them out.

From my vantage point, I'm unable to evaluate Sano's off the field progress. Reports have all suggested he's been very committed to his conditioning program and is invested in the plan set forth for him. I've been vocal about Miguel's weight not ever being the real issue, and instead believing that it all revolves around a work ethic that strives for more. If the Twins are happy with the desire and drive they see from their promising slugger, that's as valuable as anything Miguel can bring back to the big leagues with him.

It's hard to evaluate whether or not Sano should have any sort of timetable for a return to the Twins. Again, I don't think the numbers are the true barometer that should inform fans of an impending promotion. The talent and ability is all there for Sano; it simply comes down to whether or not he wants to get the most from it.

Byron Buxton

Nearly a polar opposite from the Twins first basemen, Buxton's issue has never been that he isn't committed or willing to work. Taken off the field due to injuries and ineffectiveness, it's all about whether or not Buxton can harness all of his abilities in conjunction with one another.

Minnesota handled Buxton's injury situation rather oddly this year. There was time missed due to migraines, and then a skipped rehab assignment. Then there was a broken toe, and the blessing to play through an injury that hampered any real ability to be effective at the plate. Following a necessary rehab stint, the organization the decided Buxton's bat wasn't where it needed to be, and optioned him to Rochester for good. Fast forward to today, and a hand ailment has the talented outfielder on the shelf yet again.

On the season, Buxton has played in just 47 games across all levels. He owns an MLB worst .383 OPS and has slashed .232/.303/.377 in 18 games with Triple-A Rochester. There's two trains of thought when it comes to the production, and it's either a result of inability at the current time, or there's the question as to whether lack of consistency has hampered any ability to settle in.

Faults of both injuries and the Twins handling of them, Buxton hasn't found any sort of stability in 2018. It's been nothing short of a lost season, and right now it's a waiting game to see if that narrative can be corrected. There's significantly too much talent in the superstar outfielder for this to go on forever. Right now though, there has to be a strive towards getting him back on the field and keeping him there.

After he heals from this wrist sprain, my hope would be that there's a few games at Triple-A used as a rehab assignment. From there, I'd like to see him sent back up to the Twins to compete in the big leagues. No matter how much he's currently scuffling at Triple-A, we've already seen him master that level. What Byron needs is the ability to adapt and compete at the plate in the majors. In a lost season for the club as a whole, the continued development at the dish needs to take place where it matters. Sparking his bat on the farm, only to then have him start over following a promotion, does no good.

The Twins need to allow Buxton to settle into the level he appears destined to compete at for a long time. Developing consistency in a season that's had very little for him is a must. There's significant opportunity left to be had in 2018, and capitalizing on that would be best for Buxton as well as the Twins.

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I think you're close on both analysis. Buxtons seems more straight forward. He has to play until he makes it or fails. And of course stays healthy. Rochester holds nothing for him. I personally still thinks he makes it as a significant MLB player. Sano is a little more difficult. Even if he makes strides this summer, can he sustain it when he hangs in the winter with his buds? That has been rumored to be a problem in the past. I sure like to watch him hit when he is on his game though.
I know the analogy doesn't correlate directly, but I remember Robert Smith of the Vikings flashing so much potential but often injured early in his career. He spoke once with Tony Dorsett about protecting his body for the good of the team and a full season of production vs maybe fighting for an extra yard at times. Whether that was the answer, or plain old better luck, Smith's career took off and he became one of the top RB in Vikings history, and was one of the best in the NFL before his early retirement.

Buxton needs to just get healthy. But his problem is also between his ears. Not that's he's a headache, rather, he's just so talented that so much has come so easily, that at times I think he's missed actual development time in his rather rapid ascent.

I think the same is entirely true for Sano, though there may be some maturity/c omitment issues involved as well. Speculation on my part, but I think intelligent speculation.

What's most important for these two is not the remaining Twins 2018 season, but what each of them does for their own rest of the season.
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Kelly Vance
Jul 19 2018 02:05 PM

I think with Sano, he knew he was out of shape and so he tried to just make up for it with the big swing trying to hit the ball 500 feet allatime. It made for a big loopy swing that missed the ball.... well, almost allatime. 

 

I think his K/BB rate improving and HR numbers declining meshes with an attempt to make more contact. More line drives. If he does that, the HRs will come and he will benefit from making contact more regularly.

 

In Buck's case, he was trying to pull everything so he could hit like the big kids. His game is about speed and hitting it in the gaps. I would like to see him cut down on the big swing and look to hit it the other way. Doubles to RF would be triples for Buck.   

 

Ultimately, I think both of these guys need to work on just making contact. In Miggy's case, his power will take care of itself. In Buck's case, his speed will 

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