Pipeline Perspectives: Sano has more upside
Twins third-base prospect possesses power that surpasses that of Cubs' Bryant
There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding a consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye-to-eye. They'll be discussing their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.
Kris Bryant is the best college power prospect to come along in years. After he out-homered 223 of the 296 NCAA Division I teams all by himself last spring, he went No. 2 overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft to the Cubs. Bryant hit .336/.390/.688 with nine homers in 36 games in his pro debut, then starred in the high Class A Florida State League playoffs and has continued to terrorize pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.
It's difficult to imagine a third-base prospect better than Bryant. While Jonathan Mayo can't, I'll give the very slightest of edges to the Twins' Miguel Sano.
Separating two prospects of such high caliber is an exercise in nitpicking. For both Bryant and Sano, their calling card is power, and I think Sano has just a little bit more. He's also 16 months younger than Bryant and has proven more at the pro level.
The top international prospect in the summer of 2009, Sano had to wait through a lengthy MLB investigation into his identity and age before signing for $3.15 million out of the Dominican Republic that October. Industry sources had considered the Pirates the strong favorites to land him -- and Pittsburgh saved money by selecting Tony Sanchez at No. 4 overall in that year's Draft in order to make a run at Sano -- but Minnesota beat them in the end.
The Twins never have regretted their decision to invest so heavily in Sano. He has played in five Minor Leagues in the United States, and Baseball America never has ranked him lower than the second-best prospect in any of them. He led the low Class A Midwest League with 28 homers last year at age 19, then slammed 35 between high Class A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain this season.
The day that Bryce Harper graduated to the Nationals, Sano became the best power prospect in the Minors. He has legitimate 80 pop on the 20-80 scouting scale and can crush balls out of any part of any ballpark from the right side of the plate. He carries 40 pounds more than the listed 195 on his 6-foot-3 frame and has the bat speed to meet his prodigious strength.
Sano did whiff 142 times in 519 plate appearances this year, and his power always will come with the tradeoff of strikeouts. But he's making strides with his pitch recognition and his plate discipline -- he drew 65 walks this year -- and, considering his youth, he should hit for a solid average in the Majors. There's no reason to think he can't replicate his .280/.382/.610 numbers from this season during his prime in Minnesota.
The biggest question with Sano is whether he can stay at third base. He moves better than one might think a 235-pounder can, he has a cannon for an arm and he cut his errors from 42 in 2012 to 23 this year. His hands and instincts are just OK, but he might be able to pull it off.
While Bryant is a better athlete, he's also quite big for third base at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds. Between his size and the possibility that Javier Baez might move from shortstop to third base, Bryant is no lock for the hot corner, either.
Bryant is one of the game's best prospects at any position. Yet Sano has a little more upside.
Jim Callis is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.