So here’s some more good (and interesting) news for the Twins and their fans: ESPN’s Keith Law, who spends quite a bit of time on MLB prospects, ranks both Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton in the latest version of his top 25 MLB players under 25 years old. To be eligible, a player needs to have been born after July 1, 1992.
Neither Sano nor Buxton made the list last year — instead, both had to settle for “honorable mention” as Sano scuffled through his second season in the majors while laboring in right field and Buxton tried to gain confidence as a hitter.
What’s particularly intriguing, though, is where both players are slotted on this year’s list: Sano is No. 21, while Buxton is No. 8.
Based on their production (at least offensively) so far this season and throughout their MLB careers, I would expect those rankings to be flip-flopped. Sano this year, in fact, is putting up numbers worthy of MVP consideration thanks to a ridiculous hard contact rate and a more selective approach.
Law writes of Sano (insider required): “Sano is certainly having a strange year: He’s second in the AL in walks and OBP, third in strikeouts and ninth in wins above replacement, but he’s also sporting a .434 BABIP that is beyond unsustainable. He’s back at third base, where he isn’t very good defensively, but as long as he continues to get on base and hit for power, it isn’t going to matter much.”
Law might be right about that batting average on balls in play, but the “isn’t very good defensively” part doesn’t apply to 2017. Sano is actually fifth in defensive runs above average among MLB third basemen. He’s have a great all-around season, at the plate and in the field. The sample is small, but it’s impressive.
Of Buxton, Law acknowledges part of the high ranking is still based on hitting potential combined with his other skills: “I’m ranking him aggressively because his defense gives him a high floor and his other tools give him an unreal ceiling.“
At this point, though, Sano is playing like one of the very best young players in MLB, while Buxton is still trying to figure things out. The overriding bottom line, of course, is that both are amazing talents at young ages. Buxton is 23 and Sano just turned 24.