A week ago, as the Twins called up former top prospect (and current reliever with a 16.88 ERA) Alex Meyer, I tweeted:
Why the hell not. Call up Sano too. Let's do this thing properly.— Mike Bates (@MikeBatesSBN) June 25, 2015
Someone must have been listening, because yesterday, they did. The 22 year old Sano, who has hit .274/.374/.544 with 15 homers in 66 games at Double-A, has been called up to help solve the Twins' offensive woes. He'll primarily be used at designated hitter, presumably. Sano follows other top prospects Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Meyer in making his debut this year as the Twins struggle to patch holes.
The designated hitter position, of course, exists only so that a big slugger can absolutely mash in place of the pitcher. Twins DHes have hit just .250/.305/.357 on the year, however, thanks in large part to Opening Day DH Kennys Vargas (.244/.276/.365), who was demoted all the way to Chattanooga after failing to hit in his second big league stint of the year.
Sano was a consensus Top 15 prospect before the season began, even after a lost season due to Tommy John Surgery. He was signed for a then-record bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 (a disturbing process documented in the documentary Pelotero), and has progressed steadily through Minnesota's minor league system. After losing 18 of its last 29 games, Minnesota is desperate for any offense to help, especially with Buxton out for at least a month.
Not wanting to trade their significant minor league resources to get a shot in the arm and stay in playoff contention, the Twins have hit upon a relatively innovative solution. They are buyers at the trade deadline, all right. But they are buying from themselves, trading out parts that aren't working for new parts that hopefully will. They are throwing spaghetti at their opponents, and seeing what sticks.
And you know what? That's a great idea. We have long known that the Twins were playing over their heads, and that they were never as good as their record. Timely hitting, improbable relief pitching, and mediocre starting pitching conspired to help them win games in May, but no one (with a lick of sense) was actually fooled. Not even the Twins front office itself. Thinking as responsible stewards for the club's future, Terry Ryan and his staff understand that they can't mortgage the future for a team that has almost no chance (13.4 percent according to Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds) of making the postseason.
Will it work? Probably not. I mean, the Twins are still not as good a club as the Royals or the Tigers. The AL East has begun to heat up and the Angels look like they will be in contention for the full year. It typically takes around 87 wins to take the second wild card, and the twins would have to win 46 of their final 84 games to make that happen. But even so, all they're really losing out on at this point in the season is plate appearances for players who have been incapable of hitting for a full half season.
But, at this point, it might as well be worthwhile to have all hands on deck in Minnesota. That sounds like a joke, but it's not. The Twins have multiple prospects who could still help them in 2015.
Jose Berrios just got called up to Rochester after posting a 3.08 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning at Double-A as a 21 year old. But with the Twins pen struggling to keep games close in the late innings, maybe it's time to look inward for a solution there too. After all, Earl Weaver made an art form out of breaking great pitchers in as relievers. That's how Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano got their starts as well. If Eduardo Escobar continues to scuffle at shortstop, don't turn back to Danny Santana, but try Jorge Polanco. Need someone to back up in the outfield corners and at first base? Max Kepler is have an excellent year at Double-A.
At this point, all the Twins have to lose is some service time. That's valuable, of course. But it's hard to ask fans to give up on a season that has been such an unexpected success, and this allows them a way to drive excitement and improve the club, especially if one of their youngsters catches fire.