When Terry Ryan was on the radio last week talking about Byron Buxton and other Twins prospects, he said something along these lines regarding prospect promotions: If you call up a guy and he fails, you get blamed for calling him up too early. If you call up a guy and he succeeds, you get blamed for not calling him up sooner. You can't win.
That's how it seems to work. It's a faulty system of judgement in my opinion, one based on results rather than philosophy or whether or not it was the right/best decision at the time - for both the player and the team. Even when it comes to Buxton, a 21-year old who was called up directly from Double-A after just 268 plate appearances following an injury-marred 2014, people are already asking if he was promoted too soon.
Byron Buxton, unanimously the best prospect in baseball pre-2014 and the best prospect in two of three outlets pre-2015 (and number two in the third), is getting questions as to whether he's been called up too early...after 27 plate appearances. That's ridiculous.
Jeff Sullivan hosted a chat at FanGraphs yesterday and came at a question of Buxton's callup from a different direction. His opinion that the Twins rushed him isn't based on Buxton's swing or his results, but on Buxton's development and whether or not he was good enough to help the team from the world "Go."(Bold emphasis mine.)
Comment From Tommy
How soon until Buxton makes his adjustments? Did the Twins rush him and get caught up in the prospect call up game?
Jeff Sullivan: They did rush him, but the hope is that he's good enough to help right away while he gets familiar. It's better than overpaying for external help. This and Santana are kind of the Twins' big mid-season upgrades.
Sullivan's answer has nothing to do with what we've seen of Buxton since his promotion - probably because we've barely had enough time to see anything. We even get into a little gray area here: Is it okay to rush a player, especially one upon which the future success of the franchise heavily depends in the next few years, if he will still help the team?
That brings us to Miguel Sano. Minnesota's offense has been terrible in June as the team has scratched across 55 runs in 20 games (2.75 RPG), so it's natural to look to some of these prolific minor league bats in the hope that they might give the run scoring a shot in the arm. The Twins are lucky in that they have no shortage of minor league hitters playing well, including most prominently Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Adam Brett Walker, but none of them are as high-profile as Sano.
Sano, hitting .249/.351/.493 with 13 home runs in 221 at-bats this year, would presumably come to Minnesota and play a little bit of third base while also getting time at designated hitter. Considering how the roster is constructed, getting him into the lineup everyday means less playing time for guys like Kennys Vargas and perhaps an outfielder or two. But that's not the first (or the second) question that needs to be answered. The first question would be whether or not promoting Sano from Double-A to the Major Leagues is the right thing to do right now - for both the player and the team.
The second question is: if you think calling up Sano now would be rushing him (and it probably is), are you still in support of the idea? There needs to be a level of comfort here in the idea that, if Sano fails, it's fine in the context of the greater good: experience for the future, and making the team better right now even if rushed. "Good enough to help right away while he gets familiar," as Sullivan said of Buxton.
Regardless, calling up Sano is guaranteed to do one thing: it would make the Twins even more fun to watch than they already are. Minnesota has been working with a lot of these prospects for years - Sano has been playing for the organization since 2010 after signing in 2009 - and seeing so many players of such a high talent level debut in one season is gratifying not to mention unprecedented.
You never know what kind of permanent or long-term damage might be done to a player by holding him back for too long or by promoting him too early; it's not a science. And Terry Ryan is right. It doesn't matter when he promotes a player, he very rarely comes out ahead...especially when the player in question is a blue chip prospect. Buxton's readiness has - misguidedly - come into question after 27 plate appearances. How quickly would the criticism come down on Sano if he didn't produce immediately?
If you're fine with all of those questions, then sure. Maybe Sano is the answer. But those are some pretty big ifs.