Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Race to Target Field: Byron Buxton vs. Miguel Sano

No, this isn't the cheesy mascot race held around the warning track at Target Field. This is a race between the top two prospects in the Twins system to make their debuts in Minnesota. It could be a hotly contested race and it could come down to a photo finish.

Tuesday marked the 19th birthday of Twins top prospect Byron Buxton. This means that the two players ranked highest on most Twins prospect lists, Buxton and Miguel Sano, are now both 19-years old. Sano is seven months older than Buxton and he has been in the Twins system since he was 16-years old. This small age gap should still put together quite the race between these two players to see who will get the first call-up to the big leagues.

The Twins tend to be patient with their minor league players as they make their way through the farm system. There were some people clamoring for Sano to get bumped up to Fort Myers after his hot start at Beloit last season. He came back down to earth a little bit over the course of the rest of the season and his defense continues to look a little shaky at third base. It was good for him to play the entire year at Beloit and hopefully this makes it easier for him to succeed in 2012.

Joe Mauer was the last Twins prospect to sit near the top of national prospect rankings before making his debut. It took him three years to move through the farm system. This included one year in rookie ball, one year at Low-A, and a season split between High-A and Double-A. He would skip the Triple-A level before making his debut. This could be the similar path for both Sano and Buxton.

Last season, Buxton would split time between both rookie league teams so there is a good chance that he will spend all of next season at Cedar Rapids. If he plays well enough, he could join Sano and some of the other top prospects in Fort Myers after the middle portion of the season. It seems more likely that both Sano and Buxton will spend all of next year at different levels. Sano will be with Fort Myers and Buxton will be not very far behind with Cedar Rapids.

Following the same pattern as Mauer, this could put Sano on track to be a Twins Opening Day starter by 2014. He would need to tear up High-A and Double-A next season before this would ever be an option. If Sano were to take this path, it seems unlikely for Buxton to catch him and pass him. The Twins aren't going to send Buxton through three different levels this season. It only seems possible if the Twins have Buxton skip Low-A and join Sano at Ft. Myers directly out of spring training.

After the seasons put together in 2012 by rising stars like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, it can be easy for fans to want to see what they have in their younger players. Harper was 19 for all of last season and he only recently turned 20. Trout turned 21 in August so last season was considered his age 20 season in the big leagues. These are both tremendous talents and the Twins can only hope that Buxton and Sano turn out as well as last year's rookie duo.

Because of their respective levels in 2012, it seems more likely for Sano's powerful bat to be taking hacks at Target Field before Buxton will be roaming the spacious outfield. If Sano has any set backs during the next couple of seasons, Buxton could be hot on his heels. The Twins were already surprised by the power Buxton showed in his first professional season. He also hit for a better average when he was promoted from the GCL Twins to the Elizabethton Twins. This could be a good sign for his future and it shows that he was developing during his time in the system.

It would be cool if both players spent all of 2013 and 2014 in the minors and then they both made their debuts on the 2015 Opening Day roster. This would mean a tie for the race to Target Field but it could mean that both players would be sitting at the same amount of big league service time. It would also give some of the young pitching time to develop in the minor leagues.

All of this might be getting a little ahead of where the Twins mindset needs to be for 2013. With all of the mediocre pitcher signings in the last couple of weeks, it is hard not to want to look past next season to what the future might hold. Sano and Buxton are two of the best prospects in baseball and fingers are crossed that they will continue to develop along their path to Target Field.

So who do you got, Sano or Buxton? The race is on to Target Field and Skeeta isn't involved in this race.

1 comment:

JimCrikket said...

I actally think it may be Buxton that gets there before Sano (and I won't be surprised if Eddie Rosario beats them both).

The reason is defense. The best case scenario for Sano is that he becomes passable defensively. That being the case, I just don't see it as likely that the Twins would rush him to the top. Buxton and Rosario, however, both appear to have defensive skills that the Twins might find of use sooner rather than later. They won't have to rely solely on their bats being deemed "ready" before at least getting a cup of coffee with the Twins.