Monday, March 14, 2011

A morning on the minor league side

Miguel Sano (24) reacts to a ground ball to his right during
infield practice in the Twins minor league complex.
There are two kinds of uniforms at the Twins minor league complex. The coaches and managers wear the major league whites. The players wear navy jerseys and the gray road trousers.

I surmise that it makes it easy to tell at a glance if this stranger is one of the bosses or one of the underlings. And that over time it makes a visual symbol of the goal of each of these players — to wear that bright white.

Sunday was a brilliant day — easily the best weather of my four days in Fort Myers — and I spent the morning watching the tedious drills of the first days of spring training.

On Field 1, waves of pitchers took fielding practice. On Field 2, catchers — none of whom had names I recognized; the most prominent catching prospects in the organization were still in major league camp — were working. On Field 3, infielders — most, if not all, of them bound for Class A teams — took infield.

It was that group that I settled in to watch, and specifically Miguel Sano.

Tommy Watkins (61), a longtime Twins farmhand who got
a cup of coffee in the majors in 2007, is now a coach in
their minor league system.
Sano is one of the most important pieces of the Twins minor league system. He was signed in 2009 for the second-largest bonus in the history of Dominican prospects and is still just 17 (or so it is believed). Eyeballing him from the other side of the fence makes it easy to understand why some doubt the veracity of that age; his is not the body of an adolescent.

Sano split time last season between third base and shortstop. The conventional wisdom holds that he's going to outgrow shortstop — become too bulky and lose the mobility the position requires. I noticed Sunday that the coaches encouraged the players to shift positions frequently as they hit dozens of balls,  but Sano seldom left the third base group.

Another player I watched was Niko Goodrum, who the Twins took in the second round last summer. He's said to be a stellar athlete, but there are questions about his bat. Tall and slender (he's  listed at 6-foot-3, 167 pounds), he'll play short until he proves that he can't handle it.

When that drill ended, I shifted over to watch the pitchers. Again, tedious, boring drills.  Two lines, one fielding "bunts" and throwing to third base, the other line either throwing to first or covering first.

There were two things I took from that:

1) The Twins have a lot of tall pitchers in their organization now.
2) Toby Gardenhire is still around. (He was the guy taking throws at third base.) Young Gardy had been in major league camp the previous two springs as an extra catcher, and when he didn't get the invite this year I wondered if he had been bounced from the organization.

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