Before the 2013 season, the Minnesota Twins had two prospects in Baseball America’s
Top Ten minor leaguers. Miguel Sano ranked #9, and Byron Buxton ranked #10. Such lofty rankings often raise lofty expectations. One of the best stories in the Twins organization in 2013 is that both these top prospects not only met expectations, but greatly exceeded them. In fact, when Baseball America
comes out with its 2014 preseason prospect rankings, it is likely that both will be among their Top Five prospects.
Sano has been making news since well before the Twins signed him for $3.15 million in October of 2009. It is his immense power potential that gets people talking. He began the season in Fort Myers where, in 56 games, he dominated the pitcher-friendly Florida State League to the tune of .330/.424/655 with 15 doubles, two triples and 16 home runs in 56 games. He helped the Miracle clinch the first half division title early and the next day he was promoted to New Britain.
With the Rock Cats, he was a bit streaky but those hot streaks are what make him so exciting. Despite a low average and a bunch of strikeouts, he accounted for some tremendous power. He hit .236/.344/.571 with 15 doubles, three triples and 16 home runs. He drove in 103 runs on the season as well.
As encouraging, Sano greatly improved his defense. In 2012 while in Beloit he accumulated 42 errors. In 2013, between the two teams, he had just 23 errors.
Obviously the concern right now is Sano’s right elbow. However, if healthy, Twins fans will most likely see him in a Twins uniform by midseason.
With Sano, it is his power that is exciting. With Byron Buxton, his speed is electric. However, he is the #1 prospect in all baseball because of his overall game.
Buxton began the season in the Midwest League (Cedar Rapids) as most first-round picks do in their first full season. Unlike most every young player to start the season there, he played so well and was so advanced that he spent only about half the season with the Kernels before moving up to Fort Myers for the second half. Not even Joe Mauer did that.
In 68 games with the Kernels, Buxton hit .341/.431/.556 with 15 doubles, ten triples and eight home runs. Then, in 57 games with the Miracle, he hit .326/.415/.472 with four doubles, eight triples and four home runs.
Buxton’s speed is elite. From the right-handed batter’s box, few in baseball history have been able to get to first base more quickly. He is able to beat out regular ground balls. He turned doubles into triples. Combined, he stole 55 bases, though he was also caught 19 times so that is something he will need to continue to work on. Defensively, he has great range because of his speed, but he actually takes good routes to the ball. He also has a great arm.
Buxton is more than just his speed. He is a solid all-round hitter, patient at the plate, yet aggressive with his swing. He uses the entire field and has enough power to hit home runs. As he matures physically and learns the game through experience, he will hit for more power. Consider this: Baseball America
commented that Buxton’s tools are even better than Mike Trout’s were as a prospect.
Buxton was named the Minor League Player of the Year by many sources. He was named the top prospect in the Midwest League and the Florida State League.
Buxton and Sano were the Twins representatives in the 2013 Futures Game and it is possible they will play in the 2014 Futures Game at Target Field. It is also possible that following that game, they could both stay with the Twins. Hopefully these two upper echelon prospects are able to continue to improve and reach their full potential.
The best part of this story is that Buxton and Sano were not the only Twins' prospects who moved up in the minds of baseball people. Alex Meyer’s stuff and showing in the Arizona Fall League impressed. Eddie Rosario continued to move up at the same pace as Sano. Kohl Stewart is another Top 4 pick who has the stuff to be a future ace. Jorge Polanco took a major step forward in Cedar Rapids. Josmil Pinto continued to hit in the upper levels and had a terrific big league debut in September. Lewis Thorpe grew and came out of nowhere as a top prospect. Max Kepler showed his power potential with the Kernels in the second half. Adam Walker showed he has Sano-like power. Elizabethton had five or six starters that show potential. There are a few bullpen arms that reach into the upper-90s as well.
The farm system is loaded, and that’s a huge story of 2013. However, it all starts with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. They are truly elite prospects and in 2013 they continued their exciting treks to Target Field.
A look at other Twins stories from 2013 includes:
#13 – Twins in the WBC
#12 – Drew Butera Traded to Dodgers
#11 – Twins Sign Kubel, Trade Doumit
#10 - Brian Dozier Breaks Through
#9 - Kyle Gibson Promoted
#8 - Aaron Hicks' Lost Year
#7 – Twins Draft Kohl Stewart
#6 – Justin Morneau Traded to Pirates
#5 – Twins Dismal Starting Pitching