March 18, 2015

When should the Twins call up Buxton, Sano, and Berrios?

Sano and Buxton

Putting an early end to all the "will they make the Opening Day roster?" questions, the Twins sent top prospects Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Jose Berrios to the minor-league side of camp. All three players are expected to begin the season at Double-A, where they'll likely be joined by fellow top-15 prospects Jorge Polanco, Nick Burdi, and Max Kepler, so Chattanooga Lookouts fans should enjoy their first season as a Twins affiliate.

After years of hearing about their upside it's understandable that many fans are clamoring to see Buxton, Sano, and Berrios at Target Field as soon as possible, but a little more patience is needed. For one thing, none of them look ready for the majors. Buxton was limited to just 31 games last season due to significant injuries and didn't play very well when in the lineup. Sano missed the entire season following elbow surgery. Berrios has pitched all of 43 innings above Single-A.

There have certainly been instances in which the Twins have kept prospects in the minors too long and in fact 25-year-old Alex Meyer may be a current example, but Buxton, Sano, and Berrios don't fit the description. Buxton and Sano are 21 years old, Berrios turns 21 in May, and all three are on track to reach the majors at some point this season. Opening Day jobs would short-change their development and short-change the Twins' team control of three building block talents.

By waiting as little as a few weeks to promote a prospect to the majors the Twins gain an entire additional year of pre-free agency team control over that player. In other words, if Buxton were in the majors for Opening Day and stayed there for good he would become a free agent following the 2020 season. However, if the Twins waited to call up Buxton until May he would become a free agent following the 2021 season. For better or worse, service time is an important consideration.

Even if you think Buxton, Sano, and Berrios are ready to thrive in the majors--and there's little evidence that's the case--why would a team prefer one month of them at age 21 over an entire season of them at age 28? If the Chattanooga Lookouts are destroying the Southern League in June and the Twins still haven't moved their stud prospects up the ladder there will be plenty of reason to complain, but for now their patience is better for everyone involved.

In the meantime the Twins need to evaluate whether Trevor Plouffe is part of their future plans, either at third base if Sano is forced to shift down the defensive spectrum or at another position. And if he's not, then his first-half performance will help determine if he's able to fetch something via trade or looks more like an offseason non-tender candidate. Similarly, the Twins need to figure out whether Aaron Hicks is a lost cause and could let him keep center field warm for Buxton.

Berrios is somewhat different in that the pitcher keeping his rotation spot warm is likely Tommy Milone or Mike Pelfrey, neither of whom have any real upside, but Meyer is still likely ahead of Berrios on the call-up list by virtue of being four years older with 160 more Double-A and Triple-A innings. Plus, it's a mere 14-hour drive from Minneapolis to Chattanooga and after watching the Twins' future on one field you can stop by the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame.

This week's blog content is sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which is hosting a Twins season ticket giveaway contest on their website,


  1. The problem with the whole “service time” discussion is that teams are always so eager to lock up young talent into multiyear contracts. Rays did it with Longoria, Angels did it with Trouts, etc. So, this is a moot point. Heck , the Twins are already talking with Dozier and he’s under team control for 4 more years!

    Comment by Tom — March 18, 2015 @ 10:07 am

  2. Doesn’t mean that the service-time-related calculations are not real or are not a factor. If you’re running the team, why not keep the team in a better bargaining position up until the signing of a contract extension that may or may not happen?

    If anything it’s a moot point because, as the article’s evidence suggests, these guys aren’t ready.

    Comment by wrong em — March 18, 2015 @ 11:27 am

  3. The whole service time thing is vitally important and not a problem because the number of years left has a huge influence on the extension signed. Longoria signed the long term deal at the great rate because he had X number of years left, not X-1.

    For example, if the Twins only had Dozier under team control for 3 moe years, they would have to pay him more in an extension because they’re buying out a free agency year, not a team control year.
    It is very rare that its not worth leaving a guy in AAA for two and a half weeks. It would be worth at the most 1 game and it saves the team millions.

    Comment by Jack MP — March 18, 2015 @ 12:30 pm

  4. How’s the dietitian at AA? Do they have a massage therapist? Keep Sano in shape and Buxton healthy or we could go full-Brit and just wrap them in cotton wool till June/July. Call it Christmas in July and everyone will be totally pumped.

    Comment by Jeffrey Michael — March 18, 2015 @ 10:13 am

  5. I’m from Chattanooga and have a friend who worked at the towing museum but, for hopefully obvious reasons, I have never been there myself. Far more interesting sights for those who want to visit Buxton & Co. in Chattanooga are: the Tennessee Aquarium, the excellent riverfront area and Walnut Street Bridge, and some scenic areas like Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge which are also Civil War historical landmarks.

    I don’t go to a lot of Lookouts games but will probably try to see what I can of that group of prospects while they are around.

    Comment by John W — March 18, 2015 @ 1:57 pm

  6. “or looks more like an offseason non-tender candidate”
    Huh? The guy is coming off a 4 rWAR season, his fourth straight of rWAR improvement. Nontendering shouldn’t even be considered a possibility. Trade him, switch his position or switch Sano’s position but don’t just let a valuable player like Plouffe walk. At the very least, Plouffe could be a primary bench player that can give corner infielders, outfielders and the DH a day off.

    Comment by Darin McGilvra — March 18, 2015 @ 4:52 pm

  7. Plouffe will likely make around $8 million via arbitration in 2016. He wouldn’t be worth keeping at that price as a “primary bench player” or perhaps even as a LF/RF/1B/DH with a .750 OPS.

    Comment by Aaron Gleeman — March 18, 2015 @ 4:59 pm

  8. That would be why you would trade him before that happens, not just dump him for nothing. $8M for a 4 rWAR player would be a good deal. Plouffe would only need to be a 1.5-2 rWAR player for the Twins to make good on such a deal.

    Comment by Darin McGilvra — March 18, 2015 @ 5:09 pm

  9. I literally mentioned that they could look to trade him in the same sentence you’re finding fault with.

    And if Plouffe is a 1.5-win player–which he has been every year prior to 2014–then the Twins have no use for him at $8 million because they have tons of young, cheap 1B/DH/LF/RF options.

    Comment by Aaron Gleeman — March 18, 2015 @ 5:17 pm

  10. They actually only have to wait for like a week and a half to get the extra year of service time. Rays brought Longoria up on April 12th for their 10th game of the season in 2008. Current service time? 6 years and 170 days. With 172 days of service being a full year, and a ~183 day calendar, two weeks should always be long enough to wait.

    Also, even when young stars do sign long contracts early in their careers, the service time considerations still affect the size of those contracts. Had Long been brought up a week sooner in 2008 he probably would’ve had a few million dollars more leverage than he did when negotiating his long-term deal.

    Comment by Sam Larson — March 20, 2015 @ 1:13 pm

  11. Is that picture taken in a shower

    Comment by anon — March 21, 2015 @ 8:46 pm

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