Just 90 feet from winning their first playoff series since 2007, the Beloit Snappers suffered a disappointing end to their terrific season when they fell to the Clinton LumberKings in a three-game series in the first round of the Midwest League playoffs.
The Snappers had many opportunities to advance to the semifinals, but couldn’t capitalize after winning Game 1 of the series at Clinton. Extra-inning losses in Games 2-3 sealed the fate of the talented squad under the direction of Nelson Prada.
The season was highlighted the play of top prospect Miguel Sano. The 19-year-old signed by the Twins out of the Dominican Republic for $3.15 million displayed his considerable skill throughout the season.
Sano led the league in home runs with 29, RBI with 100, and walks with 80. The slugger finished with a .258 average that was buoyed by a .284 mark in the season’s second half.
While the offensive numbers were generally sterling, he did strike out 144 times, and committed a league-high 42 errors at third base.
Twins Minor League Senior Director Jim Rantz was encouraged by Sano’s breakout campaign.
“To have that kind of power at 19 years old is pretty good,” Rantz said. “If he’s not our top prospect, he’s certainly one of them. He does have some work to do with the strikeouts and the errors, but to put up those types of numbers, that’s all you are looking for when it comes to home runs and RBI.”
Despite the high error totals, Rantz said the Twins will keep Sano at third base as opposed to moving him to a less demanding defensive spot.
“We aren’t going to give up on him over there,” Rantz said. “His body type fits over there very well. We just need to get him to improve that first step quickness a little bit. Hopefully that’s something that will come in time. He certainly has enough arm to play over there. I think it’s going to be more a confidence thing than anything else. People have to remember that this was his first full minor league season.”
Prior to the campaign, Sano was the consensus top prospect in the organization. Baseball America selected Eddie Rosario as the number two prospect, and his season certainly did nothing to dispel that acclaim.
Rosario hit .296 with 12 home runs and 70 RBI. His defense was a question mark coming into the season and he moved around quite a bit on the diamond. The Twins believe he could become a plus-defender at second base.
“Eddie was another guy that had a real good year,” Rantz said. “Unfortunately he missed four or five weeks after getting hit in the mouth or his numbers would have been even better. Miguel and Eddie really kind of competed with each other if you will. They were together at Elizabethton last season and again this year. ‘Rosie’ was a little better with the average, and he also had 32 doubles which shows a lot. He also had the position changes in there and that’s never easy.”
Sano and Rosario won’t get much of a break as they head to instructional league next week in Florida.
A third lineup stalwart was Kennys Vargas. Following a 50-game suspension that he faced for a banned substance, Vargas started out hot in July and didn’t really cool off.
Vargas led the team with a .318 average and pounded 11 home runs and 10 doubles despite the limited action.
“His first two days back, I was there and he hit three home runs in those two games and I’m thinking ‘This is good’,” Rantz said. “He only got about 150 at-bats (154), but he certainly has a lot of power and he has a chance to hit for a good average, too. Defensively we like the job he did at first base and the fact that he’s a switch hitter kind of adds a dimension.”
The pitching staff was led by Jason Wheeler. The tall right-hander went 14-6 with a 3.45 ERA in his first professional season after being selected out of Loyola Marymount in the eighth round of the 2011 draft.
The bullpen featured solid work from Corey Williams who saved 17 games while compiling a solid 3.47 ERA.