It has been a rough season for some of the top position players in the Twins minor league system. Eddie Rosario is serving a 50-game suspension after he tested positive for marijuana use. Miguel Sano had to undergo Tommy John surgery and the earliest he could be on the field is very late in the summer. To cap it all off, Byron Buxton, the consensus top prospect in all of baseball, has played a whopping five games this year because of wrist injuries.
Original Outlook (2014): After tearing up both Low-A and High-A last season, Buxton was expected to spend most of the season at Double-A. This would have left him with an outside chance at making his big league debut as a September call-up.
Injury Issue: Buxton missed all of the first month of the season with a wrist injury. This forced the Twins to send him back to Fort Myers to work himself back into form after the injury. He played five games and went just 3-for-20 with a double and a home run before he re-injured his wrist sliding into third base.
Consequences of Lost Playing Time: One of the things that made Buxton move up the prospect charts so quickly was his achievement at each level for his young age. Last season he was two years younger than the average age of position players in the Midwest League. He dominated the Florida State League and he was almost four years younger than players in that league. There are comparisons between him and Mike Trout and Buxton's numbers are even better at the same point. Every at-bat is important for development and he is losing precious development time.
Original Outlook (2014): After producing some of the best power numbers in the minor leagues, Sano was expected to get the majority of his playing time at Triple-A. This would have left him knocking on the door to the big leagues shortly after the All-Star Game.
Injury Issue: Something wasn't right with Sano's elbow for most of the off-season. He wasn't able to fully participate in Winter League action but the Twins wanted him to try to rest his sore elbow. After he reported to big league camp, the reports were mostly positive as he tried to stretch out his arm. It was eventually decided that Tommy John surgery was the only option as he continued to deal with pain.
Consequences of Lost Playing Time: Much like Buxton, one of the reasons Sano was so highly touted was his advanced ability at such a young age. When he was playing with New Britain at the end of 2013, he was almost 4.5 years younger than the competition. He has more professional playing time than Buxton and he reached a higher level even though they are both close to the same age. Sano's injury is frustrating especially since he was dealing with elbow problems for much of the off-season. He'll try and get back in games at the end of this year and this will push back his debut into 2015.
Original Outlook (2014): After transitioning to the middle infield and getting some extra at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, Rosario was supposed to end up in Rochester to push for the big leagues. He and Sano have followed much of the same path so a late season call-up was not out of the question.
Injury Issue: Rosario reported to Twins camp three weeks after the other minor league players. The only word out from the Twins front office was that he was dealing with "personal issues." After he reported the extended spring training, word came out about his suspension was due to smoking marijuana during the Arizona Fall League. He is also rehabbing a sore elbow.
Consequences of Lost Playing Time: While Buxton and Sano are trying to get healthy and back on the field, Rosario is dealing with a different kind of recovery. He made a mistake in the off-season and he is dealing with the consequences. Rosario's suspension will be over at the end of May so he will likely beat the other two players back onto the field. There was an outside chance of him making his debut this year but that likely won't happen because of his lost at-bats. It will also be interesting to see if the Twins continue to use him at second base because of Brian Dozier's emergence.