Buxton, Sano to represent Twins in Futures Game
Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton have received about as much hype as baseball prospects can possibly get. Sano was the subject of a documentary before he even signed a professional contract. Last month, Buxton graced the cover of Baseball America.
On Sunday, though, the Twins’ top two prospects will both play on perhaps the biggest stage of their young careers. Sano and Buxton will be among the handful of baseball’s young stars playing in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field in New York.
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Even before the duo takes the field Sunday, they’ve both been the subject of plenty of chatter, both among Twins fans and among national baseball pundits. While it’s a good thing for Minnesota to receive praise for their prospects, it also places weighty expectations on the 20-year-old Sano and the 19-year-old Buxton.
“It’s the nature of the game,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said late last month. “People like to hear about prospects, especially if you’re a struggling franchise.”
Which the Twins are. Minnesota has lost 90 games in back-to-back years and is on pace for yet another 90-loss season. The future appears bright, though, thanks in large part to Sano and Buxton. Recently, Buxton was ranked the top prospect by Baseball America, while Sano was close behind at No. 3.
Still, for as much as Twins fans have heard about these two uber-prospects, many have not had the chance to see them play. That is, until Sunday. The Futures Game will be televised nationally on ESPN2, allowing for even greater exposure for players like Sano and Buxton.
“That Futures Game is a great tool for minor league baseball to showcase the best talent in the game,” Ryan said. “It’s helped a lot because it’s televised nationally on a station that people get. … I think it’s a tremendous opportunity, not only to see where you match up with the other minor league players but also the media attention and handling interviews and handling 40,000 people. It’s a good opportunity to further the development of a player.”
The Futures Game, which uses a U.S. vs. World format, was first played in 1999. Last year, outfielder Oswaldo Arcia was the Twins’ lone representative and went 1-for-2 with a double. In 2011, pitchers Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendriks played in the game. All three of those players have since made their major league debuts for the Twins. Current stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau also took part in the game earlier in their careers.
In all, 50 players will be taking part in Sunday’s Futures Game, with all 30 MLB teams represented by at least one player. Some teams, including the Twins, have two players, although Minnesota’s dynamic duo is easily the most heralded pairing of any in the Futures Game.
The rosters are selected by Major League Baseball, which gets input from all 30 clubs. Ryan said teams can refuse to have a player take part in the game if the team feels its player is not ready for the opportunity. Even though, at 19, Buxton is one of the youngest participants, the Twins felt he was indeed ready for this stage.
Buxton began the season at Low-A Cedar Rapids, where he batted .341 with eight homers, 55 RBI and 32 stolen bases in 68 games. Through his first 12 games since his promotion to High-A Fort Myers, Buxton has continued to produce to the tune of a .340 average with eight RBI and two stolen bases.
“If we didn’t want Buxton to go, for instance, if we thought he was too young, they would have honored that,” Ryan said. “They’re hoping that we encourage Buxton to go. The only reason I think that it makes a lot of sense is because he’s ready to go to that type of venue.”
Like Buxton, Sano has climbed the ranks this year. He began at High-A Fort Myers and was moved up to Double-A New Britain last month. Entering Thursday, Sano has struggled since moving up a level. He’s batting .195 with six homers and 17 RBI in 26 games after hitting .330 with 16 homers in 56 games for Fort Myers.
When Sano gets to New York City this weekend, he’ll be reunited with a familiar face: Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who is from the same city in the Dominican Republic as Sano. Cano is the starting second baseman on the American League All-Star team and said he got an excited text from Sano when the 20-year-old prospect found out he was playing in the Futures Game.
“I’m going to see him. He texted me, ‘I’ll be in New York!'” Cano said earlier this month.
Sano has been to New York before. Last year, he went to see Cano play with the Yankees. But Sunday’s experience will be one that neither Sano nor Buxton has ever experienced.
“Once Major League Baseball decides that they would like to have (a player), then you put the invitation out and then they accept or deny,” Ryan said. “We’ve never had anybody deny. There are years we would deny a player going if we didn’t think he’s ready. In this case, we certainly think Sano is ready, and we think Buxton is ready.”
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