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Sano shows elite pop, indifferent defense

8/20/2012

I dropped in on the Beloit Snappers -- the Minnesota Twins' affiliate in the low Class A Midwest League -- on Friday night for one game, primarily to see third base prospect Miguel Sano, one of the minors' top power prospects and the subject of the new documentary Pelotero, which tracks him in the months leading up to the July 2 signing day in 2009.

Sano has incredibly easy power, with a clean, rotational swing that generates most of its power from his hips and legs, a textbook example of how to make hard contact and drive the ball to all fields. His home run on Friday night went over the batter's eye in Beloit, which is 380 feet from home plate, and he drove two more balls to left without even squaring either up fully. His approach was fair, perhaps not as good as the raw walk rate would indicate (76 BBs in 417 ABs), although the sample here is just three plate appearances as he was hit by a pitch in the other one. He's just 19 and looks like he'll be able to hit for high averages to go along with 30-40 home runs a year.

Sano's biggest drawback is his obvious disdain for the defensive side of the game. He played third base like my daughter cleans her playroom (although he didn't openly complain about it), so while he has the arm and hands for the position now, the question of whether he'll outgrow the position is secondary to the question of whether he'll work enough to make third base a possibility.

I'm not generally a fan of pushing young players out of the infield until they prove they can't handle it -- something I believe even more now given the atrocious state of offense at third base in the majors today -- but Sano might be an exception unless he shows more effort on defense.

&bull; Eddie Rosario played center field for Beloit on Friday night, although he's still playing the majority of his games at second base as the team continues to see if he can convert to the position. He has the foot speed for center and showed good range with an above-average arm. At the plate, Rosario showed quick hands and a good two-strike approach, but was meeting the ball out front all night even though he seemed to keep his weight back; I can't imagine he's doing that frequently because he's slugging .485 and would have a hard time hitting for any power at all if that kind of swing was typical. He seemed unafraid to work the count as well, even though his walk rate isn't high. He's interesting because of the bat speed, the above-average running speed, and the fact that at age 20 he has a real plan at the plate, but I did expect to see a little more given his performances this year and last.

&bull; Beloit first baseman Kennys Vargas has attracted some attention due to a great stat line in a pretty small sample this year since he returned from a 50-game suspension for using Phentermine, an anorectic banned by MLB for its similarities to amphetamine. He's a big boy and at 21 is old for the level, so while his .295/.426/.682 line in 108 plate appearances looks impressive, in context it's much less so, exacerbated by a bad body that may push him permanently to DH, and a long swing with zero recognition of breaking stuff. What he does have, however, is legimate power, with upper and lower body strength and good hip rotation to get that lower half involved. I just think better pitching at higher levels is going to give him major trouble with contact.

&bull; One Beloit pitcher of note was lefty Taylor Rogers, the Twins' 11th-round pick this year out of the University of Kentucky, who made his first pro relief appearance on Friday night. Rogers was 87-89 with a very hard, sharp breaking ball, more curve than slider in shape but breaking hard enough down and away from left-handed hitters that I'd call it a slurve. Either way, it gives him real promise as a lefty specialist; left-handed hitters are just 7 for 38 against him in his brief pro career, with no walks and 13 punchouts. Unfortunately, I didn't see Mason Melotakis or Zack Jones, two premium arms in Beloit's pen; Jones, a swingman this spring at San Jose State who missed the start of the year after an appendectomy, has been sitting 98 in pro ball this summer and has touched triple digits.

&bull; The opposing team was Milwaukee's low-A affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, but had no one I would rate as a prospect, not even a good bench player. Their top-performing hitter is catcher Cameron Garfield, but his bat is slow, he's not a good receiver at all, and he's repeating the league at age 21.