The Twins want to take a present-day look at their future.
The franchise's top three prospects -- outfielder Byron Buxton, third baseman Miguel Sano, and right-hander Alex Meyer -- have been invited to spring training with the major-league team, the Twins announced Thursday, a move that will give manager Ron Gardenhire and his staff a chance to work with the projected cornerstones of the Twins' future..
Buxton, 20, has been rated the No. 1 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, but has not played above the Class A level. Sano, 20, is the game's No. 3 prospect, but has spent just half a season at Class AA. And Meyer, 24, was acquired in a trade for Denard Span a year ago, but has not pitched yet at the Class AAA level. All three will be on the field with the Twins' returning veterans next month (something Meyer did a year ago as well), with at least a longshot chance at making the roster.
Or is it more than a longshot?
"Well, some guys are more realistic [to make the Twins] than others. Buxton was in A-ball last year, so it would be very difficult" to speed up his progress so much, Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "Meyer, he's quite a bit more advanced. He pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, he's been in camp before, and he deserves to get a real close look."
Sano's chances may be complicated by an elbow injury that flares up occasionally, but the Twins are hopeful that the Dominican infielder, who arrived in Fort Myers, Fla., this week to begin working out, will not require surgery. "So far, so good," Ryan said of Sano's workouts in Florida. "He's doing well, and I'm hopeful that he'll be fine once we crank him up in earnest."
Those three prospects will join 20 other players not on the Twins' 40-man roster when spring camp opens in Fort Myers on Feb. 16 (for pitchers and catchers) and Feb. 21. Among the most notable are former Twins Jason Bartlett, who agreed to a minor-league contract in November, and Jason Kubel, who signed a minor-league deal in December. Those two are projected to make the Twins' 25-man roster, and perhaps earn starting roles.
Also invited are three players who spent parts of 2013 with the Twins before being outrighted to Rochester after the season: infielder Doug Bernier and outfielders Darin Mastroianni and Wilkin Ramirez. One other ex-Twin, right-hander Lester Oliveros, who missed the 2013 season after undergoing elbow surgery, will also be in camp.
A handful of Twins minor-leaguers are on the invitee list: Aaron Thompson, a right-handed reliever; Deolis Guerra, a right-hander who missed most of 2013 with a blood clot in his shoulder; outfielder Jermaine Mitchell; infielder James Beresford; and third baseman Deibinson Romero. In addition, four catchers from the Twins' system will be in camp to help with the pitching staff: Kyle Knudson, Matt Koch, Stuart Turner and Dan Rohlfing.
Newcomers extended an invitation include: lefthander Sean Gilmartin, acquired from Atlanta last month in the Ryan Doumit trade; lefthander Matt Hoffman, signed as a free agent out of the Detroit system; righthander Yohan Pino, a former Twins signee who was traded to Cleveland in 2009 for Carl Pavano; infielder Brandon Waring, who spent the past five systems in Baltimore's system; and outfielder Chris Rahl, a nine-year minor-league veteran with Washington and Arizona.