Recently I had the opportunity to interview to MLB.com senior writer Jonathan Mayo
about the Minnesota Twins farm system. In part 1 of that interview, we talked a lot about Aaron Hicks and Kyle Gibsonís 2013 seasons
, and what it means for their future. In part two of the three part series, I talk to him about Twins top prospect Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, and he identifies two Twins breakout prospects for 2014.
CF Ė Do you think itís possible for guys like [Miguel] Sano, [Alex] Meyer, and [Byron] Buxton to reach the major leagues this season?
JM Ė Is it possible? Sure. I think that Meyer will definitely be in the big leagues, without question. Heís the only one out of the three that I feel confident will see significant big league time in 2014. Sano, I could see a situation where he hits his way there: you send him back to AA to begin the year; if he hits in Double-A like he did in Fort Myers, then you can move him up in the second half.
I know that a lot of people want Buxton to get there next year because of how well he hit in the Florida State League, and they can send him to Double-A to start the season. Unless he just continues to exceed already lofty expectations, pull a Mike Trout sort of thing - which heís done a pretty good impersonation so far - I think that 2015 is more likely, which is far more quickly then people thought when he was first drafted.
CF Ė Iíve read several people comparing Byron Buxton to Mike Trout. I know thatís a little crazy and putting his ceiling ridiculously high, but how good can Buxton really be?
JM Ė Yes, it is putting it ridiculously high, but you canít help but make the comparison. Just in terms of how good he was right out of the game, and better than people expected.
Everyone knew that Buxton was going to be good - he went number two in the draft for a reason - and a lot of people felt that he was the best talent in the draft. Trout went at the end of the first round, so the comparison has some issues, but because Buxton played in a small town, and didnít face great competition, I think people though that there was going be more of a difficult transition for him, and heís proving people wrong. I think thatís why the comparison exists, that and the fact that heís got all of the tools in the toolbox just like Trout does. They both dominated right away.
I think the problem you have when you make that kind of comparison is, letís say Buxton gets pushed to AA and struggles a little bit. Then suddenly heís not as good as he was, because he didnít do what Trout did, which was continue to be ridiculous and make it to the big leagues three years before he thought he would. No, he may just need to adjust a little bit. Iíd be wary of linking the two of them too much, but I also would not put any ceiling on what Byron Buxton can become. I firmly believe that he has all of the abilities to become an elite level, All-star caliber player at the big league level.
CF: The Twins havenít had a 40 Home Run hitter since Harmon Killebrew in 1970. Is there a chance that Miguel Sano can be a 40 home run hitter in the big leagues and break that streak?
JM Ė Yes, thatís the easiest question youíve asked me.
CF Ė Even at Target Field?
JM Ė I think that he has the ability to hit the ball out anywhere, whether or not the fact that his home ballpark is not favorable for hitters. He does get to play 80 games in other parks. He has the potential to hit 40 homers a year. Without looking at all the stats, the Kingdome (Seattle) wasnít a very good place to hit, but Ken Griffey Jr. managed to hit 40 homers. Iím not saying that Miguel Sano is Ken Griffey Jr. but heís got that kind of power - probably more raw power than a guy like that. Heís got as much raw power as anybody in baseball.
CF Ė Is there a guy in the farm system that you feel like will have a breakout season that may not be on the radar already?
JM Ė Does Berrios count as an under-the-radar guy?
CF Ė He has some hype behind him.
JM- Well hereís the thing, heís not really under the radar but I think heís going to jump much more firmly on the radar in 2014. I think heís going to take off and heís going to be one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the league by the end of the year.
But Iíll give you one more that Iím interested to see, Stephen Gonsalves. Just because he was a guy that came into the spring last year with a ton of hype, was thought of as the best high school lefty in the country and then just backed up. He had a really inconsistent spring, but heís 6 foot 5 and has shown the ability to do a lot, and I think that him combined with the Twins player development staff, and what theyíve been able to do in the past, Iím curious to see what they can do.
I donít know whether he gets to go straight to the Midwest League, or what. He did throw well during his debut, so I do think he can get pushed. I think he can be one of those guys that the Twins can be the beneficiaries of the fact that he didnít have a good spring. If they can get him straightened out, that could end up being one of the interesting steals of the 2013 Draft.
For Part 1 of this interview, click here. Part 3 or the interview will be published on 1/14.