Twins Have Big Hopes For Beloit's Infielders

FORT MYERS, FLA—Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario are playing in their first full-season league, and many challenges await them as they work their way through the Twins farm system.  But the hype about these two promising hitters is already in full swing.

"I've got fans calling us wanting pocket schedules so they go watch them play," Twins farm director Jim Rantz said, "so I've got one here for you if you want to swing on by."

Not Twins schedules. Schedules for low Class A Beloit, where the two currently are playing. With the outlook for the major league club not favorable after 99 losses last season and a 0-4 start this season, fans might be in search of hope for the future. That search could lead them about 315 miles east of the Twin Cities, where Beloit, Wis., is located.

Both prospects are off to encouraging starts. Rosario, a second baseman from Guayama, Puerto Rico, was 6-for-17 through five games. Sano, a third baseman from San Pedro de Macoris, Domincan Republic, clobbered a grand slam for his first hit and had since added a two-homer game and a triple.

Sano, 18, is considered the Twins' best prospect and 18th overall by Baseball America, a little stunning for someone his age. But Rosario, 20, is right there with him, ranked as the third best Twins. Sano and Rosario, who are represented by the same agent, bonded while playing at Rookie-level Elizabethton last season.

In 66 games at E-Town last season, Sano batted 292/.352/.637 with 20 homers and 59 RBIs. "The power is unbelievable," Rantz said.

Big Power, Big Man

The Twins signed Sano as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic for $3.15 million in 2009 after a lengthy process to verify his age. The Twins listed him this spring at 6-foot-3 and 244 pounds—up 12 pounds from last year. They knew he was going to grow out of shortstop, but there are concerns that he could outgrow third base and end up in the outfield or at first base.

The Twins don't want that to happen. He's shown good speed and agility as a pro and has a strong arm. He committed 26 errors last year, a huge total for a short-season league. The Twins say that many errors came from him trying to make plays he had no chance to make, which is something they expect him to cut down on with experience.

"He's got a skill set that fits beautifully at third base," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "If you talk about what a prototypical third baseman is, he has the hands, he certainly has the arm. He's athletic enough. He's got the bat. He's got the power. I suspect we'll have to make sure he does not outgrow the position. I don't have any interest in seeing Sano at first or the outfield. He looks like a third baseman and should stay there."

Buying In

Sano, however, wasn't the best player on his team last year. Rosario batted .337/.397/.670 with 21 homers and 60 RBIs and shared the Appalachian League player of the year award. Rosario, 20, was considered the best hitting prospect in Puerto Rico when they selected him in the fourth round in 2010. The Twins have been pleasantly surprised by his power development. He led the Appy league in runs (71), triples (nine), homers, total bases (181) and slugging percentage.

He's a good outfielder but was moved to second base during the Twins' instructional league last offseason. They have promising outfielders in Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia, so they felt the switch was worth a try.

"The big thing is that the player is on board with it," Rantz said. "He wants to do it. He likes playing in the infield."

During spring training, Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and former Twins manager Tom Kelly helped Rosario with the transition.

"So far I'm feeling great," Rosario said through an interpreter. "The transition is going smooth and I would like to learn how to play several positions. That way my value will increase."

Like Sano, Rosario will have to watch his walk-to-strikeout totals (27 walks and 60 strikeouts in 67 games last year) while facing better pitchers.

"I'll be interested in seeing what Eddie Rosario does at Beloit, moving him to second base," Ryan said. "There aren't many guys who go through the Appalachian League and hit 21 home runs, with how many triples he had."

What the organization is most interested in is if the two can, one day, become cornerstones of the Twins' infield.

"Hopefully they will move up together and all the way to the big leagues," Rantz said.

La Velle Neal covers the Twins for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune