La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

A quick trip down to Fort Myers

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III under Twins Farm System, Twins prospects Updated: August 4, 2010 - 6:52 PM

FORT MYERS,FLA. -- Oppressive is an understatement.
There's no breeze. The temperature is in the upper 80's - but the heat index is pushing 100. The humidity sits on your shoulders like a three-year old.
It's part of the daily routine at the Lee County Sports Complex, as Twins prospects playing in the Gulf Coast League are learning to be professionals.
Being mentally tough to play through the heat is part of the challenge.
``A bunch of guys who are really young and we try to just talk to them about doing their fundamentals right and they have been doing very well,'' manager Ramon Borrego said. ``It's tough. We've been on those guys to learn how to be pros and how to handle the hot weather they have been doing well.''
The coaching staff there includes Borrego  - who proudly pointed out that he played on the 1998 Fort Wayne team that Michael Cuddyer committed 61 errors on - Milt Cuyler, pitching coach Ivan Arteaga and Tom Brunansky. Bruno is a late addition to the staff after manager Chris Heintz took a job running a college team.
Players were in the cages at 7:30 when I arrived at the complex. One that stuck out was Kennys Vargas a 6-foot-5, 215-pound first baseman. He's hitting .326 with 3 homers and 20 RBI in 24 games.
Jose Marzan, the Twins Latin American Coordinator, said Vargas in a work in progress. He used to drink sugary drinks and eat late at night and was soft. They kept on him about his weight and eventually gave him workouts that nearly had him passing out. But he's improved his diet and has lost weight. His numbers are not bad, although he has just five walks in 24 games.
Walked into the clubhouse. Most of the players hadn't arrived yet, but there was one player wearing a Bluetooth device on his ear and a thin gold chain around his neck as he dressed - Miguel Angel Sano.
Sano looks in even better shape than I remember him during spring training. I realized even more, after watching a workout, that GCL numbers have to be taken lightly. Kids are having trouble repeating their swings and pitch mechanics. They are learning to take good at bats and prepared.
``I just want them to get to the point where they can take pitches confidently,'' said Brunansky, the former Twins masher who is a bundle of enthusiasm. ``That's like a victory.''
After watching a workout and talking to some of the staff there (I know, big sample size,huh?), here are my top five position players to watch.

5. Candido Pimentel, 20, CF, .281/.360/.347: A switch hitter with good speed and the ability to draw walks. Barrego managed Pimentel in the Dominican Summer League and is a fan. But there's one thing they are trying to get out of him. ``Pimentel? Whoa.'' Barrego said, ``For me, he is an, `A' runner. We need to get him more hungry for baseball. He's been doing well.''

4. Jorge Polanco, 17, SS, .246/.329/.328: ``Defense is a big tool for him,'' Barrego said. ``He has great defense. Good hands. Very smooth over there at short.'' Twins feel his offense will improve. Just 17 years old.

3. Max Kepler, 17, OF .270/.330/.340: His swing is smoother than most of the kids on the team. Runs gracefully. Has a body that should fill out and allow him to drive the ball. ``It's very exciting watching guys like Kepler,'' Barrego said. ``Kepler has just a natural swing.''

2. Eddie Rosario, 19, OF, .329/.355/.455: Twins are fired up about their fourth round pick from this year's draft. Rosario was considered the best pure hitter coming out of Puerto Rico this year. He has two homers and 16 RBI in 32 games. While not considered a blazing fast runner, he has some speed and apparently knows how to steal bases - he's 17 for 17 so far.

1. Miguel Angel Sano, 17, 3B, .288/.318/.475: His swing looks the most polished of the group here. He leads the team in strikeouts and his walks are very low. He has 3 homers and 14 RBI in 22 games. He's also committed a team-high eight errors. But the upside remains spectacular. It won't be a setback if he has to repeat at GCL next season - which many first-year players end up doing. ``Watching guys like Sano, with that kind of power, wow,'' Borrego said. ``We have a special guy in Sano.''

I didn't get a chance to focus on the pitchers (had to hit the road and head to Tampa for Twins-Rays).. Borrego said that third round pick Pat Dean, a lefthander, and righthanders Cesar Cirucina and Pedro Guerra are among the most impressive pitchers.  Update: Dean was promoted to Elizabethton on Wednesday.

 

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