Two of the game’s very best prospects were shut down this week, and both happen to be Minnesota Twins.
Outfielder Byron Buxton, the game’s consensus No. 1 prospect, is out with a strained left shoulder suffered in the Arizona Fall League, according to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. Power-hitting third baseman Miguel Sano has a strained UCL in his right elbow and was sent home from the Dominican Winter League.
Sano’s injury is the one worth worrying about, since that’s the Tommy John ligament. However, Dr. James Andrews examined him and determined that surgery wasn’t necessary.
Buxton, 19, was hitting .212/.288/.404 in 52 at-bats in the AFL after batting .334/.424/.520 with 55 steals for two A-ball teams last season. Sano, 20, had played in just two games in his native Dominican Republic, going 1-for-5 with four walks. He hit .280/.382/.620 with 35 homers in 439 at-bats between Single-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain last season.
Neither Buxton nor Sano will have any real chance of breaking camp with the Twins next season, but they could both debut over the summer if they continue tearing up minor league pitching.
Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.
Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”
Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.
The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.