Phil Miller's Baseball Insider: Baseball's a waiting game when it comes to prospects

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 17, 2014 - 4:55 PM

Outfielders Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have been built up into franchise-saving prospects. Second baseman Eddie Rosario is one of the top hitters in the Twins’ farm system. All three were set to begin the season at Class AA New Britain, but none of them is there.

Buxton, the consensus pick as the top prospect in baseball at the start of the season, has played just five games this season because a sprained left wrist that he injured during spring training and reinjured just over a week ago.

Sano, considered the top power-hitting ­prospect in the minors, is out for the year because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Rosario is serving a 50-game suspension for failing a drug test (he admitted to smoking marijuana) and can’t play until May 28 at the earliest.

Three of the Twins’ top prospects are missing valuable development.

“It’s important time that they are missing,” said Brad Steil, Twins director of minor league operations. “Important at-bats, no doubt about that. They will have to make that up. We can supplement some of them with instructional league or Arizona Fall League and winter ball.”

It’s a reminder of what can happen to a ­prospect. And brace yourselves for the possibility that these prospects might never become what we expect. That’s just player development reality. History offers many examples.

The 2008 Huntsville Stars, the Class AA farm team of the Milwaukee Brewers, were loaded with prospects. Michael Brantley currently is an outfielder with Cleveland. Lorenzo Cain plays center field for Kansas City. Alcides Escobar is the Royals’ starting shortstop. Three solid players from one minor league team.

But look at other players from that team. Outfielder Mat Gamel was considered one of the Brewers’ better prospects but suffered ACL injuries. Catcher Angel Salome and outfielder Cole Gillespie were highly thought of but haven’t had much of a career. And there were two first-round draft picks on that Huntsville team — first baseman-outfielder Matt LaPorta and righthander Jeremy Jeffress — who haven’t stuck in the majors. Jeffress served two suspensions for drug use (reportedly marijuana) and later was diagnosed with epilepsy. LaPorta was the key player in the deal for CC Sabathia in 2008. It turns out that the player to be named later in that deal — Brantley — has served the Indians better.

Looking at Baseball America’s Top 20 prospects list from 2009, there are some impressive names, such as Matt Wieters, David Price, Jason Heyward and Buster Posey. But there’s also ­Travis Snider, Cameron Maybin and Lars Anderson. Waiting on prospects can be a torturous endeavor.

Twins fans are waiting for Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Alex Meyer and others to arrive and save the day. But, sometimes, that wave of talent never comes.

Central Intelligence

Third baseman Mike Moustakas is supposed to lead the Royals’ resurgence, but his batting average has dipped below .200. That has led to some speculation that he should go to Class AAA Omaha.

The Royals have said they have exhausted every angle in trying to get his swing going, but they won’t send him down.

“I’m not doing it,” manager Ned Yost said. “Simple as that. I’m not really discussing it. He’s going to stay here right now.”

Moustakas did come through with a three-run double to help the Royals beat Colorado 3-2 on Wednesday. Was it a response to the calls for his demotion? “Zero,” Moustakas said. “I come out every day the same way, trying to help the team win a ballgame. Just because of what happened yesterday doesn’t mean I came out to play harder today. I came out the exact same as I always do. I got a couple hits today, and that’s all that matters.”

While Moustakas is staying in the majors. Cleveland’s Danny Salazar is headed to Class AAA Columbus. He’s talented with a mid-90s fastball. But he’s 1-4 with a 5.53 ERA in eight starts and needed 98 pitches to get through four innings on Thursday against Toronto. Trevor Bauer is expected to replace him in the rotation.

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