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.