November 16, 2012
Buxton or Sano for Twins Top Prospect?
As Jason Parks noted in his prospect rankings primer, this year’s rankings are the product of a collaborative process. Before each system’s prospect list is finalized, members of the BP prospect team trade emails about the players involved, enriching the rankings with their own opinions and perspectives. We’ll be publishing excerpts from the best of those discussions throughout the offseason, generally the day after the prospect lists in question appear. Some exchanges have been edited for language or trimmed to stay on topic.
Chris Mellen: I like [Byron] Buxton over [Miguel] Sano. I think Buxton is going to need time to marinate offensively and it could be a slow process in the early career, but all of the tools are there for him develop into an above-average major leaguer. He's extremely graceful in center field, with the look of a natural at the position, gets excellent reads off the bat, and has an extra gear of closing speed. I did not see him unleash the arm, but my trusted scouts down at Instructs told me it’s plus. I got him as a future 60 defender and maybe more. There's leverage in the swing, with explosive hands that generate plus-to-better bat speed. The long poles are presently a very crude approach and pitch recognition. High risk for sure due to the development time in front of him. Buxton's going to need time to figure out his strike zone and build his base through repetition, but I think he's got the hit tool to push as a .300 hitter. I've got the power at about 20 home runs. Speed graded for me as a 70 and there was chatter that times were close to 80. He's an outstanding athlete scratching the surface as a baseball player.
Sano has the potential to be very one dimensional. I don't see him sticking at third base as he is rough, slow with the reads, and his feet stay stuck in the mud. The arm is plus so maybe the outfield is where he goes over first base. The power is off the charts, but he's very long-armed and I'm not sure he's going to be able to be the type of hitter than can consistently keep his hands inside of the ball against good pitching. He extends early, as a lot of big power guys do, and the hot zone is fastballs middle-to-away. He'll crush ones in that spot. I think he's got a good chance to be a major leaguer and do some things to make a good living, but we could be talking about more of a mistake hitter and lower contact guy. I find it hard to peg the hit tool presently and projecting off what I saw, he’ll have to make a lot of adjustments to consistently hit merciless major-league pitching. I'm interested in the feedback on him.
Jason Parks: I really want to make a case for Sano over Buxton, but you make very good points, Chris. I'm a sucker for a power bat, and the minors aren't exactly full of them anymore. Sano's raw is impressive, but you are right that he is more of a one-dimensional player, whereas Buxton has loud tools at a premium spot. It's close for me.
Nick Faleris: I think Buxton over Sano is the correct call, though my hope is that Sano wakes up defensively and shows he can stick at 3B. I think the two are very close. Also, if you profile Sano to RF he might rate better than he currently does at third (though I think there's enough life in the lower-half for him to become solid at 3B if he is willing to put in the work). Just an addendum to Chris' write-up—Buxton is definitely a 65/70 arm and 70/75 speed. Body structure is what gets me—built like someone who will hang some muscle without losing speed (long, easy strides). I am less bullish on the power, but he could be a 6/5 avg/power guy with above-average defense in CF (eventually) and some baserunning value. Like Dahl, Buxton gives some of his speed away because of his first step, but he's a lot of fun to watch because he covers so much ground so easily. I think he's a fair ways away, and even though I'd advocate him above Sano, it's the type of selection that may take two years to justify. I think Sano will continue to put up big numbers; Buxton may take some lumps next year.