After it was announced on Sunday that he'd been promoted to Double-A, 20-year-old Miguel Sano became the center of attention in the Twins' farm system. That lasted less than 24 hours.
On Monday afternoon, the Cedar Rapids Kernels -- Minnesota's Low-A Midwest League affiliate -- had their game televised on Fox Sports North. Although it was an off day for the Twins and the Kernels have numerous quality prospects on their roster, the real reason for this unusual occurrence was obvious. This was all about Byron Buxton, who was the topic of conversation for nearly the entire three-hour broadcast
Playing under the brightest spotlight of his entire life, Buxton lived up to the hype and then some. He did so many incredible things in this one game that it's difficult to pick a highlight.
There was the bases-loaded double, crushed off the wall in left-center, that plated three runs and broke the game open early on.
Then there was the triple a few innings later, where Buxton reached out and -- seemingly without exerting much effort -- stroked a ball about 350 feet into right-center field, then sped around to third base in roughly half a second. Buxton's quickness between bags made it easy to see why the Star Tribune's Jim Souhan remarked, after studying the meteoric prospect last month for a column, "He goes from first to third like he knows a shortcut."
Overshadowing Buxton's heroics at the plate and on the base paths were his efforts in center field -- particularly one diving catch at the warning track that was legitimately one of the finest you will see on a baseball field all year.
On this particular day, all of the outfielder's vaunted five tools were on display. The ease with which he, as a teenager, is handling his first hack at full-season ball nearly defies belief. Buxton appeared to be on another level from his competition Monday, and his overall numbers reflect that. He leads the Midwest League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. He's among the top five in walks, stolen bases and RBI. He has scored 60 runs; the next highest total in the league is 42. We haven't seen this kind of utterly dominant performance in the minors since…
Oh yeah, that Sano guy. He's no stranger to the spotlight, having been the subject of a popular documentary before taking American baseball by storm. Sano put forth an incredible performance in the Midwest League last year, bashing 28 homers with 100 RBI in 129 games. Now he has followed that up with a ridiculous showing over the first two months at Ft. Myers. Not only did his 1.079 OPS lead the Florida State League by more than 100 points, it was also higher than any mark that's been posted in the FSL since 1999.
The prodigious Dominican was labeled a Top 10 prospect in the game prior to the season by Baseball America, and has only raised his stock with an historically amazing first half at High-A; now he becomes baseball's youngest player at the Double-A level. Yet, there seems to be a consensus that the more well rounded Buxton has surpassed him as a prospect. When Buck inevitably gets the call to Ft. Myers -- probably a matter of days, not weeks -- he'll once again steal away all the buzz.
That doesn't exactly seem fair for Sano, who's doing everything right, but it's a sign of the times. The Twins currently feature two of the game's most spectacular young talents. In fact, rarely has any organization ever had two such players rising through its system simultaneously. By the end of the year Buxton and Sano have a legitimate chance to rank No. 1 and 2 on many national prospect lists.
A rebuilding franchise could hardly ask for a better one-two punch than that.