With Sano on board (hopefully) Twins summer signings are promising

Posted on September 30th, 2009 – 3:00 PM
By La Velle

Now includes a few quotes from Sano. 

The Gulf Coast League might be the place the hang out for awhile next year – if you like to follow prospects. The Twins intend to have three of their international bonus babies on their rookie league team there.

Shortstop Jorge Polanco, from the Dominican Republic, will be there after signing a $750,000 bonus in July. German outfielder Max Kepler, who signed for $775,000, is already attending South Fort Myers High School and is in line to play for the GCL team, too.

Joining them will be infielder Miguel Angel Sano, a 16-year old (0r 17…or 18?) who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds and has pleny of raw power. Sano (photo on right) is considered the jewel of the international crop and, on Wednesday, signed with the Twins for a bonus of $3.15 million, the second-largest bonus given to a Latin American prospect and most to a position player. (not counting Cubans).

“It was not so much about the money,” Sano said through an interpreter. “I’m just glad I signed with the Twins.”

Add these three players to a Twins’ draft class that’s led by University of Missouri righthander Kyle Gibson (who is scheduled to pitch two innings on Friday in his first time on the mound as a pro) and the Twins feel they had a pretty good year on the amateur front. 

The Twins, looking at their minor league system, realized that they had a lot of players who, on the 2-through-8 scouting scale, would end up as threes or fours.

“In order to be a contender, you have to have guys who are sixes, sevens and eights, the top of the scale,” said Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ senior vice president in charge of player personnel. You have to try to get the guys you think have a chance to be good.

“Sano. Kepler, Polanco, Gibson, all those guys, in our mind, have a chance.”

In order to get good prospects, the Twins had pony up the dough. And they have. After spending $7.1 million on the draft, they’re handing out $5.6 million in bonuses to international prospects.

Rob Plummer, Sano’s agent, said the Twins have been in contact with him and the family for about a year. Signing him was a matter of timing. Several teams were in on Sano, and Pittsburgh seemed to be his likely destination. But, based on this and this, things broke down between the family, the team and the agent.

Radcliff and the Twins Latin American scout, Fred Guerrero. kept in contact with the Sano camp, and it paid off when the Twins made their offer – along with the understanding that Plummer, could not shop it around. The Pirates likely would have topped the offer if they had been given the chance. Plummer gave the Twins a lot of credit, saying two days didn’t go by without someone checking in with him or the family. Guerrero, by the way, has known Sano since he was 13. “He gets along great with the whole family.

“People were expecting the amount to be over $4 million, and people assumed that I was just going to sign with Pittsburgh,” Sano said. “My dream was to play baseball. It wasn’t about a business.”

Another key: Twins ownership stepped up. Jim Pohlad was said to be as excited as anyone with the organization when told about Sano. “Let’s go get him,” Pohald said.

The deal is contingent on Sano getting a Visa. That process will begin next week when Sano goes to obtain a tourist Visa so he can come over next month for a physical. That’s not expected to be a problem. He’ll need a P-1 Visa to play in the U.S., which will be the big test for him, and the Twins, in the coming weeks.

The Twins are confident Sano will avoid any red flags. The Twins asked MLB to help verify his identity earlier this summer, and they feel they’ve done their due diligence. They hope the worst thing that could happen is that he’s 17 or 18 years old, and that won’t scare them off. “We are not concerned,” Radcliff said.

When you’re dealing with kids, you never know how a prospect will develop. But it’s better to spend the money now that to try to sign mediocre players for $6 million to fill holes on the major league team that the farm system couldn’t. The Twins deserve credit for being diligent, setting high goals and, finally, spending the cash to finish off what the scouts start.

“You can’t get in the game,” assistant GM Rob Antony said, “if you stay on the sidelines.”

They’ll be able to see some of their work pay off next spring training when the Gulf Coast League team reports for duty.

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