While everyone has high expectations for Twins highly touted prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano — ranked No. 1 and No. 9, respectively by Baseball America, in all of the minors, there’s no question that less-heralded prospect Danny Santana has been one of the Twins’ best players this season. He has started to prove that he can be a big-league star while Buxton and Sano still have a long way to go.
Last month during the week of the All-Star Game, Twins owner Jim Pohlad told the Star Tribune that he doesn’t believe in the hype around prospects until they prove it with in big leagues. “We’ve been doing this for 30 years now. And a player who is not here yet is not yet a player,” he said. “I’ve heard that for too long. People are excited about these [prospects], but they were excited in ’85, ’95, 2005. They’re always out there.”
Well it’s become clear that Santana is ready. He went 5-for-6 with a double, a triple, four RBI, two runs scored and two stolen bases in the Twins’ 16-3 victory Sunday over the White Sox in Chicago, and he has easily been the most consistent players for Ron Gardenhire in this struggle of a season.
Santana’s .325 average is the highest of any Twins player with at least 50 games played. His eight stolen bases are third on the team and his 32 runs scored are tied with Josh Willingham for fourth.
The Twins signed Santana in 2007 out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 17.
Santana’s breakout minor league season came in 2012, when he hit .286 with eight home runs, nine triples, 21 doubles, 60 RBI and 70 runs scored in 121 games at Class A Fort Myers, also posting a .329 on-base percentage.
Last year, Santana advanced to Class AA New Britain, and he was named the No. 9 overall prospect in the Twins farm system by Baseball America. He hit .297 with two home runs, 10 triples, 22 doubles, 45 RBI and 66 runs scored in .297 with a .333 OBP and a career-high 30 stolen bases.
One of the concerns with Santana was how he would handle playing shortstop at the pro level. In the minors, he committed 28 errors in 2011, 26 in 2012 and 32 last season.
Former Twins manager Tom Kelly told me recently that while Santana primarily has been playing center field in the majors, he believed the young rookie was going to eventually be a great shortstop. Kelly also said that he had liked Santana’s play for a long time.
“He’s a very exciting player, and he always has been,” Kelly said. “It’s just a matter of, when he was trying to learn shortstop, he was error-prone, had some throwing problems, and finishing plays made a lot of errors. This past spring, I thought he improved immensely with his defense at shortstop, and he was very close to being a big-leaguer. … but I think in the future he’s going to be a shortstop.”
So far he has played well in limited appearances at shortstop, posting a .983 fielding percentage with one error over 18 games. He has also showed talent in center, committing two errors over 29 games.
So like Pohlad said, while there’s hope for the Twins prospects in the future, that’s all it is, hope. With Santana, the team is seeing immediate results and he looks like he could be the starting shortstop for the long-term future.
And he is being paid the minimum big-league salary of $500,000. Buxton, as the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, was given a $6 million signing bonus, and in the majors, you have veterans such as Willingham, who is batting .218, making $7 million this year.
The earliest Santana could become a free agent is 2020, so the Twins can look forward to watching him develop for several years to come.
Nicklaus a huge draw
Hollis Cavner, the founder and director of the 3M Championship golf tournament that took place this weekend at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, said the drawing power of Jack Nicklaus made Saturday the busiest day in the tournaments history.
“We don’t have a clue [on how many people attended], to be honest with you,” Cavner said. “We ran out of parking, went into parking places we never have before, parking at the National Sports Center after we had ran out of airport parking. Our concessions yesterday were double anything they have ever been in the past.”
While Nicklaus was the big draw, Cavner also has repeatedly been able to get Arnold Palmer to appear, and Cavner said he can expect Palmer again next year.
“He has been a great friend and a business partner, and we’ve had a lot of fun over the years,” Cavner said of the golf legend. “I convince him every year to come back and see us. … I had breakfast this morning and he told me if he was still healthy, ‘I’ll be back next year if I’m healthy.’ That’s pretty good.”
Cavner said the event drew in $25 million, with charitable donations going to Allina Health and to local junior golf programs.
“That’s our No. 1 goal here, is to put on a great show and raise a lot of money here in the local community,” he said.
• Ra’Shede Hageman was doing a great job making the transition from defensive tackle, which he played for the Gophers, to defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons in his first NFL training camp. But word came down Sunday that Hageman broke his wrist in a fight with center Joe Hawley. “I think we’re all talking about competing and fighting for jobs, but we’re not talking about fighting each other,” Falcons coach Mike Smith told reporters. “We’ve got to understand that. It’s not what we’re about.”
• No doubt the Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, set a big goal for acquiring a Major League Soccer team for their new stadium when they joined with Relevant Sports, a New York-based soccer promotion company owned by Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross. The word among soccer officials is that the partnership will help the Vikings land an MLS franchise.
• For years, the Gophers men’s and women’s basketball teams had to share Williams Arena to practice, but that will no longer be an issue with the women practicing at Williams and the men in the newly remodeled basketball facility in the Bierman Building.
• Cody Poock, the highly rated former Iowa Western linebacker who was counted as a Gophers starter until he injured his knee in spring practice, is doing some light practice in early drills but is most likely to be redshirted this year, unless the team has a shortage of linebackers when Poock becomes healthy enough to play later in the season.
• The Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction Company is part of a group attempting to win the bid to build the new Atlanta Braves stadium for $672 million.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org