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Top 15 Prospects - #3 Miguel Sano | February

3. Miguel Sano, Third Base, 17 years old

(courtesy twinsdigest.com)

2010 stats: .291/.338/.473 with the GCL Twins (Rookie)
Last year's rank: 10
Acquired: Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $3.15 million in September of 2009.

Is there ever an instance where a team's #3 ranked prospect is considered under-rated? Besides the Brewers system of course, which may not have 3 quality prospects. I submit the case of Miguel Sano. Just ask a Twins fan who the Twins top prospect is. Most everyone of them will say its either Kyle Gibson or Aaron Hicks. Spoiler alert: With 2 remaining prospects to rank, this site will have either Kyle Gibson or Aaron Hicks as its #1 prospect.

We'll worry about the top 2 ranked prospects in a bit. #3 is Miguel Sano. You know, the same Sano who got the second largest signing bonus in Minnesota Twins history. The same Sano who got the second largest signing bonus in Dominican Republic history. Keith Law recently ranked him his #29 prospect. In his piece, Law had an interesting take on Sano: "Sano won't turn 18 until May, but his hitting tools would make him a top-five pick if he were just coming out of an American high school, with consideration for the top overall spot." Sano would be in the same league as Bryce Harper!

Sano could be the best Twins prospect right now and perhaps one of the best offensive players in team history. That's a good deal of hyperbole, but when I examined how he is doing early in his professional career, a couple of things really popped out. For one, he hit a HR in his first state-side professional at bat.  Not so significant, but it was the kind of arrival that could begin his legend. In his short season stint with the GCL Twins, his OPS was 11th best in the league. A decent year for sure, but even more impressive when you consider that every one in the top 10 was at least 13 months older than Sano.

It is very difficult to project how a 17 year old will perform as a 25 year old major league player. He's so young that it's hard to gauge where he will go from here and how he will develop.  He is still a minimum of 3 years away from major league ball and his body has a lot of growing left to do. He was signed as a shortstop, but most scouts predict he will be too big to even stay at 3rd base. He may be a right fielder by the time the Twins call him up. As a young man from a foreign country, his ability to assimilate to American culture is an important, though under-rated factor in his development.

Sano doesn't have the polish and major league readiness of a Kyle Gibson. He is not a 5 tool player who has a couple of professional years under his belt like Aaron Hicks. No, Miguel Sano is just a 17 year old from the Dominican Republic. He's a 17 year old that could be a top 5 prospect in all of baseball next year. A guy who could be in the majors before he is 21. A guy who's hitting skills could make him an all-star. He's young, he's going to be awesome, he's your #3 Twins prospect.... for now!

Ideal Scenario: Sano will probably start the season in the Dominican Summer League, since it's season gets going sooner than the American rookie leagues. Once the Appalachian League season starts, I'd expect Sano to spend the whole season there. He is a long way from the majors and his primary objective in 2011 should be to learn the nuances of 3B (If that is where the organization plans to keep him) and to work on cutting his strike-out rate. He struck out 43 times in 161 plate appearances for the GCL Twins. 

Path to the majors: If Sano has decent numbers in 2011, he will start 2012 in Beloit. Once in he makes it to full-season leagues, Sano will be given the opportunity to advance as quickly as his skills and maturity allow. I think the soonest we will see him with the major league club is 2014. The Twins are usually conservative with their young players but, the Twins have not had many prospects this young with Sano's ability or upside. If he performs well, the Twins will have to be careful that they don't push him. Sano is all potential right now, and it will be awesome watching the young man grow into his powers.