Futures Game 'great' experience for Buxton, Sano
Twins' pair among sport's most exciting prospects in showcase event
NEW YORK -- Ask any scout or baseball executive about the best two players in the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game, and they'll all give you the same answer -- it's Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, and it's not all that close.
Buxton and Sano -- the Twins' prized prospects -- are simply a duo to be reckoned with.
Buxton is the epitome of a five-tool player, with a good approach at the plate, power, speed, elite defense in center field and an arm that registered fastballs as high as 97 mph as a pitcher while in high school. And Sano has more power potential than any player currently in the Minors, while also showing impressive plate discipline and a marked improvement defensively at third base.
Buxton, currently ranked as the game's No. 16 overall prospect, is making a strong case to be the game's No. 1 overall prospect while Sano, ranked as the No. 6 prospect, is expected to be ranked in the Top 3 by season's end.
"I think if you talk to anybody that ranks that Minor League prospect list, those guys are up there pretty stiff," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said recently. "Major League Baseball loves it when you make those types of guys available [for the game]."
Buxton, 19, wasn't in the starting lineup for the U.S. Team with Reds prospect Billy Hamilton getting the start in center field, but Sano, 20, started at third base and hit cleanup for the World Team, which lost 4-2 at Citi Field. Buxton replaced Hamilton in center in the fifth and finished 0-for-2 with two strikeouts, while Sano played the entire game and went 0-for-2 with a walk and a hit by pitch.
Buxton, though, was still thrilled to be participating in the Futures Game and being on the national stage.
"It means a lot," Buxton said. "It's another opportunity for me to showcase my talents that God gave me, and just have fun."
Sano was similarly excited to take part in the event, and the Dominican Republic native conducted interviews in English before the game, as he's been working hard at learning the language since arriving in the United States in 2010 after signing with the Twins in '09 as an amateur free agent.
"I'm so happy to be playing in the Futures Game," Sano said. "There are a lot of good prospects on the team. So I'm just really happy. It's a great experience."
Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, has emerged as the Minor League's most dynamic player, earning comparisons to Angels superstar Mike Trout. Both starred for Class A Cedar Rapids and put up similar numbers. Trout, playing for Cedar Rapids in '10 back when they were the Angels' affiliate, hit .362 with six homers, 19 doubles, seven triples and 45 stolen bases in 81 games, while Buxton hit .341 with eight homers, 15 doubles, 10 triples and 35 stolen bases in 68 games.
Buxton recently made the jump to Class A-Advanced Fort Myers and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, as he's hitting .300/.354/.417 with a homer, two doubles, a triple and three stolen bases in 15 games.
"I'm doing pretty good," Buxton said. "I'm seeing the ball really well and hitting it hard. So I'm just trying to stay within my approach and hit my pitch instead of the pitcher's pitch."
Buxton added he's trying to focus on his game instead of all the recent exposure he's been getting this year. He recently graced the cover of Baseball America, and Fox Sports North aired one of his final games with Cedar Rapids in early June.
Buxton, a soft-spoken Georgia native, said he doesn't have a timeline for his jump to the Major Leagues, but many expect him to be in Minnesota by 2015.
"I don't pay too much attention to it," Buxton said. "I just have to stay within myself and go out and have fun and play the game and help our team win."
Sano, meanwhile, is much more used to the attention that goes with being a top prospect. He already starred in one documentary, "Pelotero," about his highly publicized signing process while in the Dominican Republic, and he has a film crew following him around for another documentary.
He's known as an affable and fun-loving person by those who know him and spent time before the Futures Game joking around with his fellow Dominican teammates.
"He likes to have fun," Buxton said about Sano. "He plays around a lot. But he plays the game the right way and is an all-around great player who can do it all."
Sano, like Buxton, jumped a level this year, as he started at Fort Myers before being moved up to Double-A New Britain in early June. He crushed the ball in Fort Myers, hitting .330 with 16 homers and 48 RBIs in 56 games, but he has been humbled a bit in Double-A, hitting .200 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 28 games.
But he's still hitting for power and making improvements defensively and could be on the fast track to the Majors as early as the start of next season.
"I want to keep doing well and play hard every day," Sano said. "I don't know [when I will get called up to the Majors]. Maybe next year. But I'll keep working hard every day."