July 9, 2013
Baseball America released its midseason top 50 prospects list--updating their preseason list based on performances, injuries, and graduations to the majors--and the No. 1 spot belongs to Byron Buxton. Midseason lists and preseason lists aren't apples-to-apples comparisons, but dating back to 1990 the only Twins prospect to hold Baseball America's top spot was Joe Mauer in 2004 and 2005. Buxton was No. 10 on the preseason list, which is remarkable in itself after 48 pro games.
Miguel Sano was No. 9 on the preseason list and moves up to No. 3 in the midseason update, behind only Buxton and Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. Preseason lists are the standard for measuring prospect status and things could change between now and the official 2014 version, but I thought it would be interesting to go back through Baseball America's archives looking for other instances of one team having multiple prospects in the top five.
2009: Braves had Tommy Hanson at No. 4 and Jason Heyward at No. 5.
2006: Diamondbacks had Justin Upton at No. 4 and Stephen Drew at No. 5.
2004: Devil Rays had B.J. Upton at No. 2 and Delmon Young at No. 3.
1999: Cardinals had J.D. Drew at No. 1 and Rick Ankiel at No. 2.
1998: Dodgers had Paul Konerko at No. 2 and Adrian Beltre at No. 3.
1995: Yankees had Ruben Rivera at No. 2 and Derek Jeter at No. 4.
1994: Blue Jays had Alex Gonzalez at No. 4 and Carlos Delgado at No. 5.
Seven times in the past 24 seasons a team has placed multiple prospects in Baseball America's top five, which is actually more often than I'd have guessed. It's interesting that there are two sets of brothers (the Uptons and the Drews) included in the sample of 14 total players. And the presence of Delmon Young is kind of a buzzkill for Twins fans attempting to get swept up in the Buxton-Sano hype.
Of those seven pairs of top-five prospect teammates only the 1998 Dodgers' duo of Konerko and Beltre both went on to have lengthy, star-caliber careers. Drew and Ankiel for the 1999 Cardinals were both headed to sustained stardom before Ankiel's pitching career imploded suddenly and the 2009 Braves' pair of Hanson and Heyward were briefly both stars before injuries wrecked Hanson. In general, having two top-five prospects has usually just meant ending up with one star.
In terms of the Twins' highest-ranking duos, they've never come particularly close to placing two prospects in Baseball America's top five. In fact, Buxton and Sano this year are the only instance of two Twins prospects cracking the top 10. Back when Mauer was No. 1 in consecutive years the Twins' next-highest prospects were Justin Morneau at No. 16 in 2004 and Jason Kubel at No. 17 in 2005. They also had Mauer at No. 4 and Morneau at No. 14 in 2003.
There isn't much question that Buxton and Sano are the best Twins prospect duo of at least the past 25 years and if they both maintain their current status for the rest of the season there's an argument to be made that they're one of the top two or three prospect duos any team has had since 1990. I'd say Drew and Ankiel currently hold that distinction and they'd be awfully tough to surpass, but after that it would at the very least be open for debate.
Also of note from Baseball America's midseason top 50 is that Alex Meyer ranks No. 32, moving up from preseason No. 59. Meyer hasn't pitched since June 1 because of a shoulder injury that the Twins insist is minor, but before going on the Double-A disabled list the 23-year-old right-hander acquired from the Nationals for Denard Span posted a 3.69 ERA and 73-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 innings while holding opponents to a .226 batting average and just three homers.
With the same caveat that midseason and preseason lists aren't on equal footing, the last time Baseball America ranked a Twins pitcher higher than No. 32 was Matt Garza at No. 21 in 2007. Before that it was Francisco Liriano at No. 6 in 2006 and Eric Milton at No. 25 in 1998. Toss in the fact that Oswaldo Arcia and Kyle Gibson surely would have joined Buxton, Sano, and Meyer in the midseason top 50 if they weren't already in the majors and it's tough not to start dreaming.