Hartman: Youngsters are lined up to give Twins a boost

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2013 - 11:30 PM

The Twins' farm system was ranked as the best in baseball by a number of outlets before this season.

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Minnesota Twins first round draft pick Byron Buxton, center, talks with manger Ron Gardenhire and hitting coach Joe Vara during batting practice before an interleague baseball game with the Philadelphia Phillies, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Minneapolis.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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When the 1987 Twins won the World Series they were anchored by a number of position players who had been called up over the course of the decade without having played meaningful time in Class AAA and often before they had turned 25.

You have to wonder if the Twins have young players in the low minors who could have similar futures. Their farm system was ranked as the best in baseball by a number of outlets before this season.

Kirby Puckett was called up in 1984 as a 24-year-old after having played just three years in the minors and just 21 games at Class AAA and no games at Class AA. He had hit .314 in his lone full season of minor league baseball at Class A Visalia, scoring 105 runs and driving in 97.

Kent Hrbek was called up in 1981 as a 21-year old after playing two full seasons of minor league ball and never going higher than Class A Visalia where he hit .379 with 27 home runs, 119 runs scored and 111 RBI.

Gary Gaetti never made it past AA, playing one year at Orlando as a 22-year old before being called up after hitting .277 with 92 runs scored and 93 RBI in 1981.

Tom Brunansky played in AAA with the California Angels’ Spokane affiliate in 1982 but was just 21 years old. He was traded to the Twins in ’81 after playing 11 games in the majors with California.

Future stars

Looking to today, there are players in the Twins’ lower minor league system who fit the same bill.
Miguel Sano is a prime candidate. The 20-year old is playing at Class A Fort Myers and is second in the Florida State League in batting average at .352. He is far and away the leader in on-base percentage at .446 and slugging percentage at .691. His OPS of 1.137 is .180 higher than his nearest competitor. He leads the league in home runs with 13 and is second in RBI with 38. He also leads the league in runs scored by five, with 40.

Byron Buxton is just 19 years old and having nearly as good a year at low Class A Cedar Rapids, where he is eighth in batting average at .318, fourth in on-base percentage at .423, third in slugging percentage at .561, and second in OPS at .984. He has scored 14 more runs than his nearest competitor, with 48. He is second in the league in RBI with 37 and third in stolen bases with 22. He also leads the league in total bases with 97.

There are other candidates. At Fort Myers, Eddie Rosario is 21 years old and hitting .310, good for ninth in the Florida State League. Levi Michael, the Twins’ first round draft pick in 2012, was hampered by an injury early this season, but the 22-year-old has hit .317 with six runs scored and four doubles over his past 10 games.

At Cedar Rapids, 21-year-old Adam Brett Walker II is hitting .289 but has 10 home runs, 10 doubles and four triples in 44 games. His 96 total bases trail only Buxton in the Midwest League. Walker’s .578 slugging percentage is good for second in the league, and his .917 OPS is fourth.

True, the Twins have a number of minor league stars, some similar to the ones who sparked the 1987 and 1991 World Series, but the fans will have to very patient because it took six seasons from Hrbek and Gaetti being called up, and then the additions of such players as Puckett and Brunansky along the way, for the Twins to win the World Series, but they also came up to a team that didn’t have any major stars.

The Twins have to feel that in the next few seasons they can add such players as Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Walker and Michael to team with star players Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to make a push at relevance again.

Will sign Pekovic

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor says he is very confident that the team will find the money to sign outstanding free-agent center Nikola Pekovic.

In fact, Flip Saunders, president of basketball operations, is going over to Italy to make sure it happens.

“The first day you can sign anyone is July 11th, probably the first day you can actually do it,” Saunders said. “It’s a process you go through. I’m going to see Pekovic. I’m going to Italy in about a week and a half. Similar to what we have in Chicago, the pre-draft camp here, the European players have something similar, they have a pre-draft camp in Proviso, Italy. We’re going to slide by and meet up and talk to Pekovic while we’re over there.”

New players could help Peterson

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