COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins announced on Sunday, June 9, that one of the top prospects in baseball, Miguel Sano, has been promoted from Class A Ft. Myers (Fla.) to Class AA New Britain (Conn.). Sano is now just two steps from the major leagues, but the Twins have shown that they are willing to have players skip Class AAA.
With Sano so close to the majors, it brings up the possibility of him being promoted to the Twins sometime in 2014 and not just as a September call-up.
The most recent example of a player skipping Class AAA is Aaron Hicks, who made the jump this season to be the Twins' opening day center fielder. The results haven't been great, as Hicks has batted below .200 all season and has struggled to make contact consistently.
The difference between Hicks and Sano is that Hicks had a full season at New Britain while Sano will have at most a little less than four months at New Britain before the start of 2014. However, Sano has always been considered a more elite prospect than Hicks despite Hicks being a former first-round draft pick.
Miguel Sano Promoted to Class AA at the Same Age as Joe Mauer
Twins catcher Joe Mauer also skipped Class AAA. He played 62 games at Ft. Myers at the age of 20 before getting a midseason promotion to New Britain. He played 73 games at New Britain to finish the year and then was the Twins' opening day catcher in 2004 at the age of 21.
Of course, the big difference between Mauer and Sano, who also is 20, is that Mauer was always considered an excellent defensive player and mature beyond his years. What has kept Sano from a midseason promotion the last couple of years has been his defense at third base, but there are reports that he has been improving.
Twins minor league director Brad Steil told Phil Miller of the "Minneapolis Star Tribune" that, "His range is improving. He made some pretty good plays the first couple of months, going across the third-base line and making some pretty impressive throws over to first."
Sano has also drawn a few comparisons to Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who was a year younger than Sano when he was in the Florida State League, but he played the entire season there and only batted .274/.333/.421. Sano batted .330/.424/.655 with Ft. Myers in the FSL before being promoted Sunday.
Cabrera batted .365/.429/.609 in 69 games in Class AA before being called up to the Marlins on June 20 and then going on to help the Marlins win the 2003 World Series.
Of course, the Twins won't consider this jump if Sano struggles to make the transition to Class AA. He has succeeded wherever he's gone, and he hit better in the FSL, a notorious pitchers' league, than he had in lower levels. However, many consider the jump to Class AA one of the most difficult next to the jump to the major leagues.
While it is exciting for Twins fans to consider the idea of Sano in the major leagues to start 2014, it is more likely that he'll start the year in the minor leagues and get called up sometime after May. The Twins are usually pretty conservative in moving prospects, and waiting at least until June will give the Twins another year of team control of Sano and will delay arbitration for another year as well, which makes good business sense.
Eddie Rosario Also Promoted, Transition to Second Base Going Well
Perhaps almost as important for the future of the Twins was that Eddie Rosario was promoted along with Sano. Rosario has been promoted through the Twins' system right along with Sano, but what makes this exciting is that he had been switched from the outfield to second base last season.
Rosario getting a midseason promotion is a good sign that the transition is going well.
"(Rosario) is becoming more comfortable over there every day," Steil told Miller. "He's making a lot of plays there."
The Twins have had a black hole at second base since they traded away Luis Castillo in July, 2007. Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka could not hit enough to become regular major league second basemen.
Now, the Twins are trying to convert Brian Dozier from shortstop to second base. He's done well defensively, but he's a .233/.275/.331 hitter in more than 500 major league plate appearances.
Hitting has never been a problem for Rosario, who hit .328/.374/.515 in Ft. Myers and is 21 years old. If Dozier continues to struggle on offense, Rosario might be in the major leagues before Sano.
Byron Buxton Should Get Promoted to Ft. Myers Anytime Now
It also is notable that center fielder Angel Morales was promoted to New Britain as well. This means that Ft. Myers has room for a center fielder.
The Twins' first-round draft pick of 2012, Byron Buxton, has been dominating in low Class A Cedar Rapids (Iowa) but wasn't promoted Sunday. This is probably because Cedar Rapids' game Monday was to be televised throughout the Upper Midwest on Fox Sports North as a way to showcase Buxton and other prospects on the team. It is likely that Buxton will get the call up to Ft. Myers soon, possibly as soon as Monday.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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