Like a coming-attractions trailer of a summer blockbuster, the Twins are treating their fans to a sneak preview this spring.
Byron Buxton will wear a Twins uniform for more than a photo op, Miguel Sano will take his cuts against major league pitching, and Alex Meyer will try to fire fastballs past the likes of David Ortiz or Evan Longoria beginning next month in Fort Myers, Fla. The Twins’ three top prospects have been invited, along with 20 other non-roster players announced Thursday, to suit up with the team’s veterans during spring training, with at least a long-shot chance at making the arrangement permanent.
“Some have a more realistic chance than others [to make the major league team], but they’ll all get some good experience alongside the rest of the team,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said.
“This will give Gardy [manager Ron Gardenhire] a look, [hitting coach] Tom Brunansky a look, Andy [pitching coach Rick Anderson] a look, and it will give us a pretty good idea of where they stand.”
Twins pitchers and catchers report Feb. 16, with the first workout the next day, while the full squad reporting date is Feb. 21.
Buxton, an outfielder who was the second overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, stands on rarified ground already; it’s unusual for a player not on the 40-man roster who has yet to advance beyond Class A to be invited to big-league spring training, but “he deserves it. He was the minor league player of the year,” Ryan said. “This is going to be a good opportunity to see what it’s like to be in a major league setting. He’s going to get exposure to the media, to autograph seekers, to the demands and workload and routines of a major leaguer.”
Is he ready, just a couple of months beyond his 20th birthday and after only 173 professional games, to be one?
“It would be very difficult” to speed up his timetable that quickly, Ryan said. But he can make significant progress toward Target Field this spring. “I’d like to see him carry himself with confidence and maturity in camp,” the general manager said. “As far as going 0-for-4 or 4-for-4 in any particular game, that’s not going to change our mind about what kind of player he is. We’re trying to develop him for long-term success.”
Though he’s also just 20, third baseman Sano has far more pro experience than Buxton, and has a far greater chance of sticking around, though he’s more likely to wind up at Class AAA Rochester to start the season.
His chances might be complicated by an elbow injury that flares up occasionally, but the Twins are hopeful that the Dominican slugger, 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.”
Meyer is 24, pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, and spent a few weeks in Twins camp last spring, too, after being acquired from Washington for Denard Span. He’s the most likely, among the top three prospects, to come north with the Twins.
“He handled himself very well last year, and he had a good year,” posting a 3.21 ERA and striking out 84 hitters in 70 innings at Class AA New Britain, Ryan said. “He’s a little closer [to the majors] than the other guys.”
But they’re all coming soon, to a ballpark near you.