Monday, July 25, 2011

Trip to Beloit Day 1

As many of you know last weekend I went to Beloit, Wisconsin with Seth Stohs of to watch three games of the Class A affiliate of the Twins in the Beloit Snappers. I am sure most of you have read Seth’s accounts of the experience and it was very good like usual from Seth. However, my accounts are going to be a bit different than his because he has seen minor league ball before as he and Josh Johnson went to Beloit last summer and he attended Spring Training in Febuary. I on the other hand had never even been to a independent ball game such as the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks or the St. Paul Saints. The highest level of baseball I have seen besides the Twins is the state tournament in Amateur baseball so I really did not know what to expect. In my observations take into account that I am not a journalist, but just a fan who enjoyed every taste, smell, sight, and emotion that you can experience at a game. I am going to break the three days into three parts so check back for more insight.

The trip really started for me early in the week as I was so excited for this trip as I have never seen a professional baseball game outside the Twin Cities so I was so excited. The excitement built when I found out that Terry Ryan, Mike Radcliff, Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, Joel Lepel, and Bill Springman would be in Beloit for the weekend. That got me excited because those guys are top guys in the organization and for them to be there that weekend was a big thrill for myself.

Seth picked me up at the Dairy Queen on Thursday night about 6:30pm and traveled down to Chanhassen and got there about 10pm at night. We then went to Buffalo Wild Wings and I had the pleasure to meet The Twins Geek John Bonnes for the first time. I had him on podcasts before and had been at Twins Centric events, but hadn’t met him before. We ate and visited at BWW and then went back to Seth’s sister and went to bed to get ready for a big day the next day.

We got started at 7 in the morning and made the five and a half hour trip to Beloit and got there about 1:30. We checked into our hotel about two and got ready and got to the park about 3pm. When we got there we went into the office and asked to talk to Jeff Vohs the GM for the Snappers and they were like who are you guys and when we told who we were they were like oh yeah like they were expecting us. The marketing guy Justin Waters then took us out to meet Jeff on the field. We then spent about 30-45 minutes on the field talking to Jeff and man what a nice guy he answered all our questions in a very patient way. I was very awestruck seeing Paul Molitor on the field and then looking up in the stands during BP and seeing Terry Ryan taking notes. We then sat down and just watched BP as we saw guys hit shot after shot out of the park. I have always enjoyed watching BP so I was pretty entertained just sitting and watching batting practice. We then just walked around and checked out the facility and were very impressed how nice it was. The field was not awe inspiring, but was very solid and the kind of what you expect in minor league ball. I was kind of impressed by the new scoreboard that was put in this season. It is not fancy by any means but from what we were told it was much improved then what was there the year previous.

What impressed me the most though was Jeff Vohs and his staff and how hard they work. They worked their butts off to get the field ready, the concessions ready, the ticket booth ready. What surprised me the most was that the guys in the office Jeff Vohs, Assistant GM Matt Bosen, and Justin Waters were out there working as hard as the volunteers and the interns which you don’t see every day. In fact Jeff got on the tractor and dragged the field and then chalked the lines and that is coming from your General Manager so that really impressed me.

Now was gametime and we had great boxseats in the front row and got to see some good minor league ball. Even though the game did not go the way the Snappers had hoped it would go it was a very entertaining game. The Snappers lost the game to South Bend by a score of 10-2. Ryan O’ Rourke went 4+ innings and gave up four runs although only three were earned on only three hits along with five walks with one of them intentionally with four strikeouts. Nelson Fuentes then came in and worked two innings and gave up two runs on four hits along with a walk and two strikeouts. Ben Tootle then came on an pitched an inning and gave up a run on a hit and a walk. Bart Carter then came in and his line did not do him justice at all. Carter worked one inning and gave up three runs on four hits along with a strikeout. The thing about Carter’s inning though was all four hits were infield singles that were not hit hard at all. Jose Gonzalez then pitched a perfect 9th inning in relief. Offensively, the Snappers were led by Lance Ray who went 2-4 with a homerun and a double. Danny Ortiz went 2-4 at the plate. Danny Santana also went 2-4 at the plate. Now I am going to do some observations that I noticed at the game.

 Ryan O’ Rourke- What impressed me so much about O’ Rourke was his slider as it was very filthy. Seth and I discussed the fact that we felt that his slider is major league ready. He throws in the high 80’s to low 90’s and struggled a little bit by controlling his fastball. Left handed hitters had no shot against his slider it is that good. He struggles a little bit more against rightys and that is more controlling the fastball. Overall I am very impressed with O’ Roarke and think he can be very good and continue to move through the system.

 Nelvin Fuentes- Fuentes was the total opposite of O’Roarke when it comes to pace of the game. It seemed like it took longer for Fuentes to get through two innings than it did for O’Roarke to get through four innings. I was not impressed at all with Fuentes who left a lot of pitches up and did not do anything toimpress me.

 Ben Tootle- Tootle is a guy who is still recovering from injury and it is still a struggle. His arms and legs and flying anywhere and it is not hard to figure out why he is walking as many guys as he is. He needs to get some of his velocity back as he was hitting high 90’s before injury and now is barely hitting 90 so it will be a challenge to get him back up to his velocity level.

 Adam Bryant- I was so impressed by the 9th round pick out of Troy as he played a very good shortstop in this one. You could see the speed he has in a triple. He just looked very smooth at short.

 Lance Ray- That guy is the hitter I have been most impressed with as he hit shot after shot in batting practice over the fence. Then hit another shot in batting practice and another double. He has such a sweet swing that I am shocked that he didn’t do better early in the season but man is he hitting now.

 Danny Ortiz- I was impressed with his smooth swing that he is right on top of the ball. He plays a very good outfield and really you can tell that he is a high prospect as he is a smooth hitter.

After the game we talked to Jeff some more before we headed back to the Hotel for the night. The moment that we got back to the room I crashed from a long day, but knowing that I had a blast with two more games to go.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Joe Benson: The Twins enigma

When Joe Benson was drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Joliet, Illinois everybody knew how talented he was. As a good football and baseball player he had scholarship offers from many different schools. However, his true love was baseball and let teams know that he wanted to play baseball. Benson is a toolsie type outfielder that the Twins seem to love in their prospects. He had the body type that the Twins love with a projectable body with a cannon for an arm along with the ability to run like a deer. From what I hear he is the second fastest guy in the organization behind Ben Revere. Coming out of high school he had quite a bit of projectable tools that would take time to develop. Take that along with such a competitive streak that has gotten him into trouble and you got quite a player. As he has gotten older and matured he has learned from his mistakes and has started to turn his tools into skills and that is what every prospects big goal is. Joe Benson is the reigning Twins minor league hitter of the year and was put on the 40 man roster after 2010. He has now established himself as a guy that has the ability to be crazy good and the only thing that can keep him from achieving his potential really is himself.
After quickly signing with the Twins after the 2006 draft it was not long for Benson to show his promise. He split the 2006 season between the GCL and Beloit where he put up very solid numbers. He started at the GCL and put up these numbers

2006GCL: 52 games 196ab .260avg 5hr 28rbi 9sb 11doubles 5triples 21bb 41k .335/.444/.779

2006 Beloit: 8games 5-19 2runs scored 1rbi 1sb 6k

In those 52 games Benson showed that he had some power with 21 xtra base hits to show for his efforts. The 21 walks were also impressive as he showed an ability to take a walk. The stat that would plague him as he went forward is he struck out too much and did not hit for a good average. He then finished the year with eight games in Beloit which did not mean anything just allowed him to get a taste of what the Midwest League would be like the next year.

In 2007 Benson spent the entire year in Beloit and did decently even though he would argue that he did not do as well as he would have wanted to. So here is what he did in Beloit in 2007 for the Snappers.

2007 Beloit: 122games .255avg 5hr 38rbi 18sb 18doub 8triples 73runs 49bb 124k .347/.368/.715

We learned a few things about Benson from his 2007 season at the young age of 19 is he is a xtra base machine as he had 31 extra base hits. That he has speen as his 18 stolen bases would attest to. However, the thing that would continue to plague him was the strikeouts as 124 strikeouts is way way too many. He knew that with his age and all the strikeouts he would be repeating Beloit again in 2008 and he did. Hereis how he responded in 2008 with the Snappers.

2008 Beloit: 69 games .248avg 4hr 27rbi 17sb 16doub 3triples 39runs 24bb 73k .326/.382/.708

2008 was a disappointing year for Benson as he got off to a really good start, but then was limited to just 69 games due to injury. The good part of his game continued to be the extra base hits as he had 23 extra base hits in those 69 games. However, the strikeouts were no better maybe even a little bit worth with over a strikeout a game during 2008. His stat line showed that there was promise there, but also he has so much talent that his first three years with the Twins had to be considered a disappointment as he is capable of so much more. In 2009 he moved up to Fort Myers and this is how he did with the Miracle

2009 FM: 80 games .285avg 5hr 29rbi’s 14sb 10doub 3triples 46runs 46bb 74k .414/.403/.817

2009 was a season that had its ups and downs for Benson and could have derailed his career. On the field it was his best season as a professional as he set a career high in batting average and cut his strikeouts down. He continued to rake extra base hits as he had 18 in only 80 games and a career high .817 OPS. However, the story that has to be told about his 2009 was late in the first half after striking out he punched a fence in frustration. The only problem with that was the part that he punched had the post which broke his hand. He missed a good portion of the rest of the year coming back from that injury. The Twins severely reprimanded him for not using more common sense and there were some that thought he would be released over this. There is a fine line between intensity and stupidity and he crossed that line. The thing about Joe Benson though that gained him a lot of respect is he did not make any excuses for his behavior and apologized to the Twins and worked his butt off to get back as soon as possible. It was a mistake that if he could do it over again would not do, but that is the thing about mistakes all you can do is learn from them and not make the same mistakes again. Joe Benson is a very intense baseball player and I don’t know for sure that something like this will never happen again, but the Twins are very hopeful that it won’t. After the frustrating 2009 season Joe Benson started the 2010 season in New Britain and would be demoted back in Fort Myers in May before returning to New Britain in July. These are the kind of numbers he put up at each of his stops.

2010 NB: 102games .251avg 23hr 49rbi 14sb 65runs 20doub 7trip 39bb 115k .336/.527/.862

2010 FM: 21games .294avg 4hr 13rbi 5sb 16runs 11doub 1trip 8bb 21k .375/.588/.963

2010 was the coming out party for Joe Benson as he put up some really good numbers hitting out of the leadoff spot. Benson hit 27 homeruns with 62rbi’s and 19sb along with 31doubles and 8triples. Those numbers are all career highs and gained him the 2010 Twins minor league hitter of the year. It was the breakthrough year that most Twins fans have been waiting out of Benson since he was drafted in the 2nd round in 2006. The key in my opinion was how he responded to being demoted to Fort Myers in May as he had been tearing it up in May after a terrible April. Instead of being angry and pouting he took it as a challenge and tore up FSL to earn a promotion back up to New Britain. Benson really showed maturity that he had failed to show the year previous with the post incident. Benson then started 2011 back with New Britain and was off to a good start before knee surgery put him on the shelf for 4-6 weeks. He is now back in New Britian and this is how he has done overall.

2011 NB: 62games .269avg 5hr 28rbi 8sb 19doub 2trip 37runs 25bb 64k .369/.443/.812

2011 has been another good year for Benson as he has continued you to just be a doubles machine and if not for the knee injury his numbers would be much much better. I wanted to get the guy that knows Benson best in blogging community and that is Seth Stohs who was nice enough to answer some questions on Benson.

First, I asked Seth what he considered Joe Benson’ strengths and weaknesses and his response was, “ Benson has incredible speed and a strong competitive fire. He is very strong and has tremendous power. He is also an elite defensive outfielder with a very strong arm. For his weaknesses, Benson's biggest hurdle at times is his ability to make contact. In the past, his competitiveness has got him in trouble, and that's something he works on.” I agree with Seth wholeheartedly as his athleticism is off the charts as I don’t think there is a better pure athlete in the whole organization. The contact is a big thing because he does not have enough power in order to strike out 100 times a year so he needs to clean that up.

Next, I asked Seth about what he considers Joe Benson’s best position and his response was, “He has the arm strength to play in Right Field. However, he is also almost as fast as Ben Revere and gets great jumps on fly balls. He can play all three positions well and his arm will play anywhere.” I really feel that Joe Benson’s future is in centerfield as you can’t teach his speed and feel that his skills fit best in center field. Not saying that he couldn’t be a success in a corner outfield position I just think his best position is center field.

I then asked Seth about what to make of Joe Benson’s up and down career thus far in his career, “Benson is a tremendous athlete. He played multiple sports in high school and was fairly raw in baseball. That is part of what creates the streakiness that we have seen. That's normal with athletic players like Torii Hunter and Aaron Hicks.” I agree with Seth to a point with Benson as he is very raw, but you would like to see a little bit more consistency out of him. He has all the tools now it is time to do it more consistently.

Seth was then asked if he felt if Joe Benson had turned the corner and he responded, “I don't know how to show 'turning a corner' but he has made a lot of improvements in each and every aspect of his game and we are starting to see those great tools become skills.” I really hope that Benson has turned the corner, but it is too soon to say whether he has or not. He still has some things to work on so until he fixes those things I wouldn’t say he has turned the corner.

I then asked Seth what kind of ceiling that Joe Benson has and when we could expect to see him in a Twins uniform and his response, “Benson has a high ceiling if he can make more contact and can stay healthy. We saw the power potential in 2010. He may never hit for a real high average, and he could strike out quite a bit, but he can be a 30/30 guy in time if all goes right. I think we could see him in a Twins uniform by the end of the 2012 season.” The comparison that comes to my head if Benson can develop is that of Torii Hunter who has the ablity to be the center fielderfor the Twins for many years and hit homeruns and doubles and just be a good player.

Next, I asked Seth what he feels that Benson needs to work on as he moves forward and his response was, “He needs to continue to make more contact” I would argue that is the thing that will determine whether he is a major leaguer or not as striking out as much as he has just is not going to work. If he can cut down his strikeout total he has the ability to be very good.

The Final question that I asked Seth was whether his temper issues were an isolated issue or something to be concerned with going forward, “It's a tough question because you want players to be strongly competitive and "get after it" but that does at times need to be controlled.” I totally agree with Seth in that there is a fine line between being competitive and being distracting. You don’t want him to lose his aggressiveness, but at the same time you can’t have things that happened in 2009 happen again. I believe he has learned from it and it won’t happen again so I think he will be fine.

Joe Benson is a prospect that has the ability to be an All Star or a bust. He has so much talent it is crazy and if he can make more contact he has the ability to be awesome. However, striking out 100 times a year just won’t work so that is why I consider him such an enigma because you really would have to grade him as an incomplete. He could go so many different directions it is crazy, but I really believe he will be one way or another. He either will be really good or not be anything and if I had to say right now I believe that he will be really really good. The big thing for Benson is if he can make more contact and cut his strikeouts down to say 70-80 a year than he would be awesome. He is a doubles machine who I believe can hit 40-50 doubles at the major league level. So the question becomes which Joe Benson develops because if the Joe Benson develops that is the doubles machine who can be very scary for opposing pitchers to have to face. Joe Benson is an enigma that really could be the future in center field for the Twins and be an all star caliber player, but he could go the other way so it will be interesting to see which way he goes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Adrian Salcedo: The Future

Adrian Salcedo signed with the Twins as a free agent from the Dominican Republic on December, 13th 2007 at the young age of 16. From the moment that he signed there was talk that he could be special. That’s not to say that he was a bonus baby because his signing bonus was not huge. However, with his size and projectable many felt that he could become special. Now he has grown to 6’4 and 175 which is too skinny for his height, but he has the stuff that you could see him blossom into a number one type at the big leagues. Is he going to evolve into that who knows, but he is so far away from the majors the odds are not in his favor. However, he reminds me of Miguel Sano in that he has huge upside and if he can develop that upside into skills he can have the kind of impact that the Twins have not had out of a right handed pitcher in decades. At the age of 16 the Twins decided to keep him in the Dominican and he had pretty good numbers.

DSL: 4-4 1.65era 12 starts 65.1inn 47 hits 8bb 50k .198OBA

You could see the promise in those numbers as he held opponents to a less than .200 batting average and had almost a strikeout an inning and such a small era. Scouts that saw him began to salivate on what he could become if he continues to grow and improve. After those great numbers Salcedo made his American debut in 2009 as an eighteen year old with the GCL and did not disappoint.

2009 GCL: 3-2 1.46era 10 starts 61.2inn 60 hits 3bb 58 strikeouts .241OBA

That is when Salcedo exploded onto the scene as his walk to strikeout rate showed. Only three walks and 58 strikeouts is unbelievable. He gave up a few more hits than he did in 2008, but against better hitters and culture shock those numbers are unbelievable. He lowered his era in about the same inning total was quite impressive. The stat that impressed me the most was three walks in 61.2 innings which is like a walk every 20 innings which is crazy good. That season is where most felt he was a top 10 prospect in the Twins organization and felt that his potential was out of this world. In 2010 he started in EST with the idea to send him to Elizabethton when the time came. However, when the need arose in Fort Myers he took the big leap and amazingly held his own two to three levels too high for what he was ready for at the age of 19. He finished the season in Elizabethton and here is how he did.

2010 FM: 1-3 6.26 6starts 27.1inn 42hits 8bb 16k

2010 E-Town: 4-3 3.27era 16games 8starts 66inn 55hits 10bb 65k .230OBA

You may look at his Fort Myers numbers and said who he got rocked, but you got to remember that he was facing guys four to five years older than he was, but he went out there every time and competed. When he got to Elizabethton I expected him to dominate the way that he did in the DSL and the GCL, but he got off to a rough start and had an alright year. The thing that was big for him is he got the experience against some really good hitters. The stat that impressed me is as his velocity got higher and higher his walk total did not. In 93.1 innings he only walked 18 batters which are mighty impressive to me. This year the time came for Salcedo to see some stronger completion so at the age of 20 he got up to Beloit this year and has been solid.

2011 Beloit: 5-3 2.81era 16starts 99.1inn 90hits 24bb 68strikeouts .242OBA

Adrian Salcedo’s 2011 have been up and down as he has done some things very well and then there are some other things that leave you concerned. You got to love the 2.81 era and the .242 OBA. However, the question has to be what happened to the strikeouts as in every other year he averaged near a strikeout per inning and this year he is way less. With that he has been said to be touching 95 so you would think that his strikeouts would increase instead of decrease. That could be a number of different factors including the Twins wanting him to get more contact so that he can stay later in games. Or just that he is working on his secondary pitches and that has led to more contact. Regardless with him hitting 95 I really believe it is a matter of time before the strikeout rate not only gets back to where it was, but also improves. When you throw that hard it is just a matter of time for the strikeout numbers to rise. With that I am going to stop talking and let someone else have their say in this phenom. I am joined by fellow minor league guru Josh Johnson of josh’s thoughts on what he thinks of Adrian Salcedo.

First I asked him what he felt were Salcedo’s strengths and weaknesses and his response was, “Strengths: Projectable body, above average control, good velocity, and strong work ethic, young. Weaknesses: Underweight, this year he’s seen a dip in strikeouts, needs to refine his change-up and curveball.” I totally agree with Josh that his Velo will always be a strength for Salcedo and that is what will be his bread and butter. The thing with any pitching prospect though is they need to continually work on their secondary pitches as they move forward and that is no different for Adrian Salcedo. If he can refine his change-up and curveball to the level of his fastball then you have a package that will be really hard to handle.

Next, I asked Josh how high of a ceiling that he thinks that Salcedo has, “I think Salcedo’s ceiling is as a top of the rotation starter, but I’m still hesitant to call him a “future ace” because he’s so young. You can certainly make an argument though that he has more potential than any pitcher in the system.” That is where I disagree a bit with Josh as when I think of ceiling I think that if he develops how good can he be and when I see Salcedo I see a guy that has the potential to throw in the mid to high 90’s with great secondary pitches who defiantly can be an ace. So that is the ceiling that I see in him.

Next, I asked Josh what kind of reproitroire that Salcedo has and how hard he throws and his response, “Salcedo has a four-pitch repertoire. He has a 92-93 mph fastball, that he can sometimes crank up to 94 and 95 mph. He kind of throws two different variations of the slider; a big, loopy slider that he usually throws around 80-82 mph, and a sharp slider that he throws in the mid-80’s. His loopy slider is often confused with a curveball, but he does throw a regular curveball as well. His curveball has a big break, but he hasn’t been able to control it consistently throughout his career. If he’s able to control it, his curveball could be a nice weapon in his arsenal. He also throws a change-up in the low-to-mid 80’s. It’s a work in progress, but knowing the Twins, they’ll work hard with him to perfect his change-up before he reaches the Majors.” I couldn’t agree with Josh more on the the fact that the Twins love to see a plus changeup before they bring the prospect up to the big leagues. So I think Salcedo has to improve his change-up before we see him in the big leagues.

Then I asked Josh about what the future holds for Adrian Salcedo and his response was, “He’ll continue to move through the system at a steady pace until he reaches the majors. As I mentioned, he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Speaking optimistically, of course, Salcedo reminds me little like a young Ubaldo Jimenez. At Salcedo’s age, Jimenez’s frame was a lot like Salcedo’s. He also has the making of an impressive repertoire like Jimenez does. If Salcedo can become near the pitcher Jimenez is, the Twins would have to be ecstatic.” I really like the comparison to Jimenez as that was what I was thinking too for a comparison to what Salcedo can be if he fulfills his potential. If he can get to that level all Twins fans would have themselves quite a pitcher.

Next, I asked Josh about being at such a young age is it too early to judge how good he will be? Do you think he can be an ace and what would you consider his ETA and his response was, “When evaluating prospects, you are always taking a risk? Given his age, ability, and production, he’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on and I’m a believer that he has more potential than anyone else in the system. If things go as planned – which it’s important to note that it rarely does –Twins fans can expect to see Salcedo sometime in 2014 (keep in mind that he’ll only be 23-years-old in 2014).” I agree that it is so hard to project these guys at such a young age and with so many promotions to get to the big leagues. However, that is what I find fun to talk about is to see if these guys can meet their potential.

The final question I asked Josh was what makes Salcedo different than some of the other starters in the organization and his response was, “I think Salcedo’s work ethic and athleticism makes him stand out amongst other pitchers in the organization. This isn’t a slight at anyone in the system (at least in particular), but I’ve been told that Salcedo’s work ethic is incredible and that he’s a man amongst boys in the weight room. Seth Stohs recounted in Spring Training that Salcedo sprinted the mile-run. Given his skinny frame, he’s been hitting the weight room hard this season in order to get stronger and bigger. He was forced to the bullpen late in 2010 because he was exhausted by the time August rolled around. So hopefully this year he’ll be able to last the entire year in the rotation, but it’s important to note that he’s already at his career high in innings pitched.”

Adrian Salcedo is a long ways away from being on the verge of being a big leaguer and who knows if he is going to be anything. However, the potential is there and as a prospect guy that is what you are looking for is the promise to become special. For years the Twins have went with pitchers that were good, but not special and who had a high likelihood of reaching their potential. With a guy like Salcedo the chances of him getting to be as good as he could be is probably remote, but the potential is there and that is what gets everyone so excited. If Adrian Salcedo can get to where he needs to get he can be the right handed ace the Twins have been waiting on for years. It will be very interesting to see if he continues you to get better and better and to get stronger. Because if he does the Twins just might have hit the jackpot as a prospect and he could be the future ace for the Twins as they head into the next phase of Twins Baseball.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Miguel Sano: The Next Big Thing

The Twins had a reputation of not spending big on international free agents so when it was announced Miguel Angel Sano would be signing with a major league team in the summer of 2009 most people didn’t think the Twins would be in the mix. Even when it was revealed that the Twins were one of the teams interested in acquiring Sano most Twins fans rolled their eyes. He was the kind of talent that signed with the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Dodgers so what chance would the Twins have to acquire a talent like this. Then a big thing happened that not a lot of people want to talk about with Sano that changed everything.

It came out that there was some question whether Sano was really 16 years old as he had been touting. That has been a question revolving guys from the Caribbean for years from guys like Orlando Hernandez to Miguel Tejada there was thought that many players from the region would lie about their age. So with that question about Sano a bunch of the big market teams washed their hands of him not knowing if he was as old as he was saying he was. Major League Baseball then began an independent investigation in order to find out how old he really was. Most people then expected him to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates who had developed a relationship with his family. However, the Twins stayed in the weeds and kept in contact with Sano’s representative that they felt they were the best fit for Sano. As the Pirates put more and more pressure on Sano the Twins stayed patient while the investigation continued to find out his age. Then in mid-July Major League Baseball decided that they could not prove that he was not 17 years old so they allowed him to sign with a Major League team. It was then announced that Miguel Angel Sano would be signing with the Twins for 3.15 million bonus. The largest international signing in Twins history. People in the Pirate organization claim that the Sano family did not do things in good faith, but whatever the Twins won the rights to Sano and began his career with the Twins in spring of 2010. After going to extended spring training the Twins sent Sano back to the Dominican Republic to start his career close to his family. Here is how he fared there.

DSL: .344 20games 22-64 11runs 2doub 1tri 3hr 10rbi 14bb 17k .463/.547/1.009

Those were the kind of numbers that Twins brass were thinking when they signed him so they brought him back to the United States in time to play in Gulf Coast League season in Fort Myers and this is how he did there.

GCL: .291 41games 43-148 23runs 14doub 4hr 19rbi 10bb 43k .338/.466/.804

To many the question would be why would you give three plus million to a 17 year old kid from the Dominican Republic and that is a very fair question. Miguel Sano is huge at 6’3 195 and only 18 years old now so you expect him to keep growing. Plus he has such quick hands he such high power potential. Just watching videos on Sano as a 17 year old kid made you salivate at the thought of what he could do when he got more experience and got stronger. You heard comparisons to such hitters as Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, and Albert Pujols. To even be mentioned in the same breath as those guys is quite remarkable. He started at shortstop, but as he keeps getting bigger and bigger it is becoming clear he won’t be a shortstop. He does not have the quickness to play outfield so the two most likely positions he looks headed for 3rd base and first base. To be honest right now his defense is atrocious so likely he will end up a 1st baseman.

That brings the comparisons to Miguel Cabrera in my mind as they were built very similarly when they were 18 years old. So if you can get a guy of Miguel Cabrera’s potential for 3.15 million you do that in a heartbeat and just let the guy play. There is no doubt in my mind that Miguel Sano has the most upside of anyone in the Twins organization as he has the chance to be a 40 hr a year type of slugger and how often do you find guys like that. I asked these questions to my good friend Seth Stohs from to see what his opinion of Sano is and if it is as high as mine.

First question I asked Seth was what he considered Sano’s strengths and weaknesses and his response was, “He's huge. He has very quick hands. He has big power. He can hit. Lots of strikeouts and lots of errors. Hopefully he can improve in both of those areas. He's 18. He has a lot of maturing to do yet.” I totally agree with Seth on this as Sano is only 18 years old and has a lot of maturing to do, but that is par for the course with young prospects. The thing that you can’t teach though is the ability to hit the ball out of the park and he definitely has that skill and will continue to develop it.

Next, I asked Seth how surprised he was that the Twins got involved in the Sano bidding, “The Twins were always mentioned as being involved and that alone was quite surprising. When the bonus was believed to be in the $3-4 million range, I assumed that the Twins were out of it. So when it was announced he would sign with the Twins, I was rather surprised” I will go one step further when I heard how much the bonus was going to be I was positive that the Twins were out of it and when I heard that he had signed with the Twins I had to take a double take because I was quite shocked.

I then asked Seth, what does Miguel Sano need to work on the most in order to achieve his potential and he said, “Cut down the strikeouts, and find a position that he can be adequate at.” I agree with Seth somewhat as he probably will always strike out some as he won’t ever in my opinion be a guy that doesn’t strike out much, but if he can cut his strikeouts by a third with his power he could put massive numbers. More important in my opinion is find a position that you can feel good about putting at every day. Will he ever be a gold glove fielder probably not, but if you can find a position he can be decent at then that is what you are looking for.

Next, I asked Seth about Miguel Sano’s ceiling and he said, “Names like Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera are mentioned as comparables. He does have power and can be very good, but he is a long ways away.” I know Seth is much more conservative when rating prospects and he has been doing this longer and is quite respected. However, I am not going to put the cold water on the hope for Sano as I truly feel that is the ceiling for him and the Twins have not had that kind of power hitter in their lineup since Harmon Killebrew.

Then I asked Seth if he thinks putting a 17 year old kid that you never know if they are going to turn out in the top two-three in prospect lists is outrageous. Seth’s response was, “Prospect lists are so individualized and personal. Everyone has a different opinion and method for how to determine. If someone's ranking is based purely on potential, ceiling and upside, then Sano has to be near the top of the Twins lists. So, no, I don't find it outrageous. I just ranked him 5th” I totally agree with Seth as I had him as my third best prospect and look for him to rise with more experience.

I then asked Seth, what position he sees Sano eventually playing, “1B or DH. But despite the errors at SS and 3B, it's not impossible for him to improve. Isn't one of the popular things to note about Derek Jeter that he committed over 60 errors his first full pro season? I would say they should try to keep him on the left side of the infield for as long as they can.” I view Sano as a future first baseman, but I agree with Seth to keep him on the left side of the diamond as long as humanly possible as his value as a shortstop or a 3rd baseman is way higher than if he is a first baseman or a DH. Who knows he could improve and become the next Alex Rodriguez at 3rd base.

Seth was then asked about when Twins fans should expect to see Sano and his response, “2015 at the earliest” To me that is such a tough question to answer as he is five promotions away from the big leagues and if he goes a year per level then we are looking at 2016. However, I expect him to jump some levels when he figures out how good he truly can be. So my projection is sometime in 2014 season so he still is a ways from joining the Twins.

Finally, the last thing I asked Seth was what about his game really excites him as a prospect guru, “The power potential. He's a long ways away from being big-league ready, but he has potential to be special.” I totally agree I feel that Sano has the tools to be a special hitter who can be unbelievable as a power hitter.

Miguel Angel Sano is an enigma in that he could turn out to be the greatest power hitter in Twins history or he could be a bust. The great thing about prospects is you don’t know how these guys are going to turn out. The fun part is watching Sano either turn into the special power hitter he has the ability to be or into the guy that struggles. Sano has the potential to be one of the greatest power hitters that this organization has ever seen. It will be interesting to see how he develops as a player as he has the ability, the work ethic, and the support staff to help him develop into the player that Twins fans have been craving since the departure of the late Harmon Killabrew. Sano has the ability to hit bombs out of Target Field like Killebrew did in old Met Stadium it just will be interesting if he can harness those skills to achieve his destiny.