Sixty-six games into the season and the Minnesota Twins sit 8.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.
Yes, that puts them at the bottom of the AL Central and pretty darn close to the bottom of the league.
As a Twins fan, there is nothing about this that makes me happy. Statistics do not lie. It is simply a fact that the Twins are not a threatening, top contending team.
Many on Twitter, Facebook, and other media outlets have complained that it’s time to move on to football — which I don’t really understand since most Twins fans are Vikings fans, and we all know that their season will be another rebuilding one.
Unlike football, baseball provides two wonderful escapes for a fan who is suffering from a miserable season: the MLB Draft and farm teams.
While the NFL has a draft that allows fans to speculate their teams improvement, baseball allows us to watch those draft picks develop almost immediately. When your MLB team is suffering, you can turn to the farm teams to see what prospects could be gracing your home team’s diamond in the near future.
Here’s a look at how a Twins fan can make it through the season and still enjoy baseball!
Welcome to the Minnesota Twins, Byron Buxton!
Last Tuesday, June 12th, the Twins signed their top draft pick Byron Buxton from Appling High School in Baxley, Georgia.
Buxton received a $6 million signing bonus, which is $1.5 million more than the signing bonus received by the No. 1 draft pick in the league and broke the team’s bonus record of Joe Mauer’s of $5.1 million.
Yeah, Buxton seems to be a big deal.
Thanks to their horrendous 2011 season, the Twins were able to snatch the coveted outfielder at the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, despite their pressing need to improve pitching.
Here’s why he is a big deal.
Keith Law from ESPN explains:
Buxton has the most upside of any prospect in the draft, with unparalleled athleticism. He’s an 80 runner with a 70 arm and a chance to be a 70 defender in center field. With quick wrists and good hip rotation, Buxton should hit for at least above-average power, although he hasn’t hit for much pop this spring. He carries risk, but the potential is enormous — possibly a Matt Kemp with a grade less power.
Buxton’s running, arm, and defense in center field have all been rated as an elite player’s skill level according to the Scouting Scale. As a high school draft pick, and like Keith Law pointed out, there is a risk to signing a young, inexperienced player. But as a fan of baseball, that’s part of the fun.
The risk draws you in and makes you WANT to follow Buxton’s development, knowing that the Twins see potential for him to become a break out star similar to Joe Mauer … if not better.
During his senior year, Buxton batted a .513 with 17 doubles, 35 RBI and 38 stolen bases in 39 attempts. However, he only had three home runs this season, causing some concern for his ability to become a power hitter. There has also been chatter about his lack of competition at the high school level.
His strengths and weaknesses at the next level will show as Buxton heads to Fort Myers, FL to join Minnesota’s farm team.
Twins fans will have the opportunity to focus on the future of the organization by observing his progress as the season continues.
Growing the Talent Already In the System
Many fair-weather fans give a blind eye to farm teams, and die-hard fans tend to focus so much on what is happening now at the big league level that they lose sight on what is to come.
Farm teams and their players should not be ignored, for they play a significant role in the development of all MLB franchises teams, especially for middle and low budget teams.
Plus, like fellow MSF writer AJ Kaufman has repeatedly stated, these games can provide wonderful entertainment for all.
Fort Meyers Miracle (FSL)
Sunny Florida is where the Twins will ship 18-year old Buxton to begin his career in baseball, hopefully to help the Fort Myers Miracle out of the bottom half of their league. With only 27 wins out of 65 games, Buxton has a solid chance to show off his skill set and provide the missing ingredient in this team’s success.
Another prospect to keep your eye on is outfielder Angel Morales. He suffered an elbow injury in 2011 and he didn’t have the opportunity to show all that he is capable of. While Morales has only had 2 home runs and 13 RBIs in 57 games, experts expect to see more from him as the 2012 season continues.
New Britain Rock Cats (EAS)
Located in New Britain, Connecticut, the Rock Cats are another farm team to follow closely for upcoming prospects of the Minnesota Twins. The team is only four games behind league leaders Reading (PHI) and the Trenton Thunder (NYY), winning 35 of their 67 games to date.
Outfielder Aaron Hicks is on the Twins radar to become a solid team player once his skills become more consistent and focused. So far, Hicks has had 6 home runs with 28 RBIs to assist his team.
Beloit Snappers (MID)
Not too far from Target Field in Beloit, WI, the Snappers are having their best season in five years, ranking number two in the Midwest League Western behind the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. I may or may not favor the Snappers over other farm teams simply because they are located relatively close to where I live and am able to catch their games or the their opponents’ games.
With 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 69 games (making him #1 for HR and #3 for RBIs in the league), third baseman Miguel Sano has the attention of his peers and team officials. It won’t be long before this 19-year old has his shot at the Majors.
Additional Farm Teams
These three farm teams are not the only ones to watch closely this season. Also keep an eye on the Rochester Red Wings (INT) in Rochester, New York; Elizabethton Twins (APP) in Elizabethton, Tennessee; GCL Twins (GCL) in Fort Myers, Florida; and the DSL Twins (DSL) in Dominican Republic.
I could go on and on about prospects to watch and get into the nitty gritty details of each farm team. However, that would take away the fun for you to begin discovering this wonderful side of baseball yourselves.
Instead I challenge you to find a farm team within a reasonable distance of where you reside and enjoy a game. The team doesn’t have to be affiliated with your favorite MLB organization for you to enjoy or learn about the development of a baseball team. Heck, I will be checking out the Cedar Rapids Kernels (affiliated with the Los Angelos Angels) this Monday.
You’ll be surprised by how much you can enjoy baseball during a lousy season.