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Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Next Generation

La Velle E. Neal recently wrote an article in the StarTribune detailing which affiliates various Twins prospects will begin their seasons with. The free swinging pair of super studs Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario will begin their seasons at Low A Beloit, along with Twins 2011 1st round draft pick out of North Carolina Levi Michael. With Sano ranking as the number 23 prospect on Jonathon Mayo’s top 100 prospects list and with their being a strong case for Rosario making the list I thought it’d be fun to take a closer look at what the future may hold for the Twins infield.

In recent years, despite their success, the infield has been an area of constant flux for the Twins. Between Justin Morneau’s injury woes, an unreliable middle infield platoon and the 3B position being unstable since fan favorite Corey Koskie left for Milwaukee the idea of a prospect rich infield developing in the lower levels of the Twins minor league organization has Twins fans eagerly anticipating their big league arrival. Let’s take a look at these three in a little more detail.

Eddie Rosario (2B)

The only hitter who arguably out-performed Miguel Sano in the Appalachian league in 2011 was outfielder and now 2B Eddie Rosario. The 20 year old Puerto Rican was taken by the Twins in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. In 67 games at Elizabethton in 2011 Rosario was good for a line of 337/397/670 with 9 triples, 21 HR, 60 RBI and 17 SB to boot. Pause, breathe, and continue reading. While some don’t project Rosario to have nearly the upside of Sano, citing a ‘long swing with some considerable holes’ and expect a major drop off in 2012. If he can make a successful conversion to 2B, sure up his swing and build upon his excellent bat speed and other tools he could be an upside 2B, a position in demand, especially for an organization that has rarely had one.

Levi Michael (SS)

The Twins took Tar-Heel Michael with the 30th overall pick in last years amateur player draft, their first 1st round college position player since Travis Lee in 1996. The Twins typically spend their 1st round selections on college arms. Michael hit .309 in his college career as a switch hitter, hitting .297 with a .444 OBP his senior year despite battling several injuries. Michael also has some speed on the base-paths, successfully stealing 35 of 38 in his final two seasons in Chapel Hill. Michael is comfortable playing both middle infield positions, a versatility which the Twins will savor. While Michael has his limitations, including questionable range, he should develop into a solid gap hitter with a little more pop as he continues to get stronger. A switch hitting versatile middle infielder is always an excellent asset to a big league club and while Michael doesn’t have the raw tools of Rosario or Sano, he should be a solid addition to the new wave of infielders rising through the Twins ranks.

Miguel Sano (3B)

Sano should turn out to be the best of them all. He received a record $3 million signing bonus at the tender age of 16 in 2009 but it may turn out to be one of the best pieces of business the Twins have done in recent times. In his first shortened season at rookie-ball Elizabethton Sano blasted r-ball pitching for a line of 292/352/637, Bashing 20 HR and 59 RBI in just 66 games! Sano projects to hit for average as well as power when he increases his plate discipline and baseball IQ while having the glove and arm to man the hot corner and according to his upside projection from Mayo may be ‘bashing home runs as an all-star third baseman’. Clearly such projections are speculative for an 18 year but it is clear that in Sano the Twins have locked up a precocious talent at a position they have struggled to foster the talent to dominate in recent years.

The Twins hope Sano is their next superstar
It is difficult to speculate exactly how quickly these 3 prospects will rise through the Twins farm system or with what level of success. Having 3 solid infield prospects with major league potential is certainly comforting when considering recent years of constant and repetitive off-season discourse on how to plug the holes in the Twins sub-par infield. Keep an eye on them this season or better yet, visit the Snappers and watch three of the Twins more fascinating and exciting prospects try and earn their stripes on the same diamond.

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