Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Twins won't rush prospect Sano

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 31, 2012 - 11:35 PM

BELOIT, WIS. - Miguel Sano nervously handles a baseball as he talks, absent-mindedly testing a variety of grips like a pitcher learning a slider. But the ball looks like a miniature toy in Sano's huge hands; his palm seems to swallow the ball, his fingers entwine it.

Like a boxer's fists, Sano's primary weapons on the baseball field can appear oversized and super-powered.

"He's such a big boy. He's got a lot of strength in those hands," Beloit manager Nelson Prada says of the Twins' most promising prospect. "And when he extends those arms, we've seen what can happen."

Yeah, here's what can happen: Batted balls soar toward the horizon. Scouts become enthralled. Millions of dollars are offered, contracts are signed. And a legend is born -- years before reality arrives.

"There's no doubt, he's got a chance to be something special," Prada says. "But he's still learning."

He is, and the lessons aren't always fun. After a month spent toying with low Class A pitching for the Snappers, Sano endured a lengthy slump in May, a drought that reached 2-for-35 at one point. The Dominican teenager -- he turned 19 in May -- leads the Midwest League in home runs (13) and RBI (40), but he has also stuck out 60 times in 51 games and his batting average has slipped to .245 through Wednesday.

"The league knows him a little better now, so he's not seeing the same pitches," Prada says. "In April, they were throwing him fastballs, and he took advantage. Now he's seeing a lot more pitches middle-in, so he can't get those arms extended. We're helping him try to make an adjustment."

• • •

Add it to the list. Sano's entire life is an adjustment these days, from language to diet to lonely lifestyle. He has been a professional since he was 16, and has already spent one summer in Florida and another in Kentucky, but he still feels like a kid a long way from home. He has bonded with fellow infielder Eddie Rosario, a Puerto Rican who says Sano "is not really a friend. He's more like a brother to me."

So is Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, like Sano a native of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, who lived through the same sort of lifestyle changes. They speak by phone often, Sano says, and he tries to pattern his game after the three-time All-Star. He also leans on Cano for advice on living so far from home.

"It was hard coming here when I was young," Sano says through an interpreter, Snappers teammate Tim Shibuya. "I talk to my mom, talk to my friends, on [Internet] chats and Skype. Sometimes my mom cries because I'm not there, but she understands that it's my job, that I'm following my dream, and I hope things will work out and I'll be able to play Major League Baseball."

That's the Twins' dream, too. Minnesota won a bidding war for Sano in 2009 by offering $3.1 million, the second-largest bonus the team has ever paid, behind the $5.1 million Joe Mauer received a decade ago. In doing so, they turned the young infielder into a star-in-waiting, with a documentary crew turning his life into a movie. Sano is already rated by Baseball America as the best prospect in the Twins organization, perhaps the best since Mauer, and he's already vaguely aware that Twins fans are impatiently waiting for him to arrive and rescue the slumping team. Plenty of them have already made the five-hour drive to southern Wisconsin to check him out this spring.

"I didn't know there were so many out there. I'm just trying to focus on getting myself up there so I can play at a higher level and be able to help the team win," Sano says. "I want to be there in two years."

• • •

Watch him swing the bat, and it's easy to imagine such a fast-track trip through the minors. Sano's swing is gorgeous, a fluid and powerful motion that appears effortless but sends slapped-at baseballs screaming over outfielders' heads.

But there are plenty of obvious flaws in his game, too, and Prada says the Twins are prepared to take their time with Sano's development. He needs to cut down on strikeouts, the manager says, by learning better pitch recognition. His 31 walks are a good sign, but their frequency had decreased in recent weeks. He did draw three walks in an 8-1 victory at Quad Cities on Thursday night.

"He's thinking too much at the plate. He's guessing up there lately," Prada says. "The good hitters don't guess, they see the ball and hit it. But his confidence has been affected by the funk that he's in."

His fielding may be, too. Sano was a shortstop when he signed, but at 6 feet 3 and 235 pounds -- and still growing, he says -- he was judged too big to stay there. The adjustment to third base has been difficult; Sano has a strong arm but an inconsistent glove. His 19 errors so far also lead the league, prompting speculation that his future may be in the outfield -- a notion Sano rejects.

"I want to stay there [at third]. That's where I'm going to play," Sano says, though two hours later, his head dropped to his chest after he let a ground ball scoot between his legs. "The hardest part is the short hops, having to learn all the different hops on the different fields. And understanding what to do with the ball in certain situations."

That all takes time to absorb, says Prada, who has managed the Twins' Class A team for five seasons. It's why Sano has three more levels above Beloit to master before the Twins can pencil him into the lineup.

"He's going to be great, but give it time. In order to move up a level, you've got to show a good discipline at the plate, and make the routine plays every time," Prada says. "He's not there yet. But he's only 19."

  • TWINS AT CLEVELAND

    Three-game series • Game 1: 6:05 p.m. today • TV: FSN (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota0002003038151
Baltimore «00400710X12180
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:W.Chen(14-4) L:R.Nolasco(5-10) S:Z.Britton (31)
HR: MIN- T.Plouffe (12), D.Santana (7) BAL- J.Hardy (9), N.Cruz (35), R.Flaherty (6)

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: B. McCarthy 3 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 4
Philadelphia - LP: A. Burnett 5 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: D. Gee 6
Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Hughes 2
Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco 8 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 12
Boston - WP: C. Buchholz 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: A. Cobb 0
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 6
Texas - LP: N. Cotts 2 FINAL
Houston - WP: J. Veras 3
Chicago Cubs - LP: C. Villanueva 6 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: P. Neshek 9
Oakland - LP: S. Kazmir 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: M. Shoemaker 8
Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse 5 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 15
Los Angeles - WP: H. Ryu 7 FINAL
San Diego - LP: E. Stults 1
Washington - LP: T. Roark 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: H. Iwakuma 5
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Arizona - WP: C. Anderson 6
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 0 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: A. Wood 1
Cleveland 4 Suspended
Kansas City 2
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Red Bull New York 0 FINAL
D.C. 2
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
Chivas USA 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 3:30 PM
Calgary
Phoenix 77 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close