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June 17, 2013

Thoma column: The Twins future is closer than you think

It was a big week for Twins prospects.

Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario moved up to Double A; Byron Buxton wowed everybody with a 3-for-4 performance on a rare televised game that was punctuated with a sensational diving catch at the wall.

All of which raises the question: When might these prodigies reach the majors?

The Twins have reason to downplay expectations. But timelines I’ve seen and heard of 2015 for Sano and Rosario and 2016 for Buxton seem unnecessarily extended. A climb of a level a year is reasonable for normal talents; Buxton is more than a normal talent.

The hardcore truth here is that players like Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Aaron Hicks aren’t good enough to keep Rosario, Sano and Buxton out of the majors. The younger three are in the minors, let us say, 70 percent because they aren’t fully ready for the majors and 30 percent because it doesn’t make financial sense to “force feed” them at the highest level.

But those rationales will disappear quicker than one might expect.

Buxton has an intriguing direct parallel in Mike Trout of Anaheim, the sensational outfielder who most in the sabermetric world believed should have been MVP last year over Miguel Cabrera.

Trout was a first-round pick in 2009. He signed with the Angels on July 2 of that year and made his major-league debut just a bit more than two years later (July 8, 2011).

Like Buxton, Trout opened his first full pro season playing for Cedar Rapids (Kernels fans must be getting rather spoiled). Consider these two stat lines:

BA OBP SLG

Trout .362 .454 .526

Buxton .344 .433 .567

Trout had six homers and 45 steals when the Angels moved him up to High A ball after 81 games with Cedar Rapids; Buxton, through 63 games with Cedar Rapids, has eight homers and 29 steals.

If the Trout parallel holds — and I don’t see why it wouldn’t — Buxton will move up to High A Fort Myers soon and finish out the year in the Florida State League. Next spring, Double A in New Britain, and by July, the majors.

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