Remembering those Minnesota Twins who failed to launch
MINNEAPOLIS -- All failure is temporary, the motivational speakers remind us. Baseball tells us that as well. One day you're riding in white-napkin luxury at 30,000 feet via chartered air travel and enjoying catered postgame spreads, the next you...
MINNEAPOLIS -- All failure is temporary, the motivational speakers remind us.
Baseball tells us that as well.
One day you’re riding in white-napkin luxury at 30,000 feet via chartered air travel and enjoying catered postgame spreads, the next you’re back on the foul-smelling bus for eight-hour jaunts to nowhere and wolfing down cheap burgers in cinderblock clubhouses.
Such is the cruel nature of an unforgiving sport.
Young Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario became the latest to experience that reality after a nightmare game in Detroit on Wednesday. Disgusted by watching him go for the mental-error cycle with mistakes in the field, on the bases and at the plate, Twins manager Paul Molitor shipped Rosario back to Triple-A Rochester after the game.
Rosario is hardly alone. He’s merely the latest promising young Twins talent to experience such a setback.
The strong-minded usually find their way back to the majors. Others, whether due to circumstances or lost momentum, struggle to reclaim their squandered status.
Here’s a player-by-player look at a group of young Twins talents that failed to launch on their first try. (And sometimes their second or third as well.)
Call them “The Demoted.”
-- The Hope: Drafted second overall in 2012 out of a rural Georgia high school, Buxton received a $6 million signing bonus and quickly got to work establishing himself as baseball’s best prospect. An all-world performance at two Class A levels in 2013 raised expectations to stratospheric proportions, with some noting comparisons to fellow center fielder Mike Trout.
-- The Reality: After overcoming an assortment of injuries, including a serious concussion following an outfield collision in August 2014, Buxton made his big-league debut last June. While his speed and defense translated with ease, he appeared overmatched at the plate from the outset before missing another six weeks with a thumb injury. Now 22, he opened this season as the Twins’ everyday center fielder.
-- The Latest: Batting just .156 on April 24 and saddled with 68 career strikeouts against just eight walks, Buxton was shipped back to Triple-A for the second time in his young career. He was reaching base at a .356 clip through 20 games with Rochester before a minor bout of back spasms landed him on the shelf once again.
-- The Hope: Drafted 32nd overall in 2012 out of a Bayamon, Puerto Rico, high school, the undersized right-hander quickly made himself into the Twins’ top pitching prospect with his hard work and aggressive attitude. After starting the past two All-Star Futures Games and repeating as Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Berrios looked ready to nail down a spot atop the big-league rotation for years to come.
-- The Reality: Amid a rash of injuries to the Twins’ rotation, Berrios was recalled for his big-league debut on April 27 against the Cleveland Indians. He picked up his first career victory on May 2 at Houston, defeating boyhood friend and rival Carlos Correa, but Berrios was shipped back to Rochester with a 10.20 earned-run average after just four starts and 15 innings.
-- The Latest: Still viewed as a future rotation star, Berrios turns 22 on May 27 and must earn his way back to the majors by sharpening his command with the Red Wings. After walking just 2.5 batters per nine innings across 85 minor-league outings, a jumpy Berrios walked 7.2 per nine in the majors.
-- The Hope: Plucked out of the Washington Nationals farm system in a straight-up deal for center fielder Denard Span after the 2012 season, Meyer was immediately considered the Twins’ top pitching prospect. A former first-round draft pick out of the University of Kentucky, Meyer brandished a radar-busting fastball and the secondary pitches to make him a potential 200-inning horse atop the big-league rotation.
-- The Reality: Slowed by shoulder woes in 2013 and left at Rochester for 27 solid starts in 2014, Meyer lost confidence in early 2015 and landed in the Red Wings’ bullpen. Called to the majors a month after making the transition, the 6-foot-9 right-hander struggled to a 16.88 ERA in a two-outing audition and was shipped back for more seasoning. His second crack at the majors didn’t go much better, and he was sent down after failing to complete three innings in his first big-league start on May 3 at Houston.
-- The Latest: Now 26, Meyer has yet to pitch since his latest demotion because of what the Twins describe as shoulder fatigue. It’s unclear whether his future should be in the rotation or in the bullpen.
-- The Hope: Drafted 14th overall in 2008 out of Long Beach, Calif., and rated as high as No. 19 among all prospects (after 2009) by Baseball America, Hicks was handed the starting job in center field for Opening Day 2013. That followed a dizzying midwinter week in which general manager Terry Ryan traded incumbent Span for Meyer and potential replacement Ben Revere to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitchers Trevor May and Vance Worley. The patient, switch-hitting Hicks was supposed to give the Twins a viable leadoff man and plus defender for the next several years.
--The Reality: Hicks, then 23, opened the year in a 2-for-48 tailspin and never fully recovered before being shipped out on Aug 1. He regained the Opening Day job in 2014, but due to lost confidence and a series of nagging injuries (back, concussion, hamstring) peaked with a solid July in 2015.
-- The Latest: Traded to the New York Yankees last November for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy, Hicks is hitting just .211 in a reserve role for a disappointing club.
-- The Hope: A fourth-round draft pick out of a Puerto Rico high school in 2010, Rosario reached the majors in early May 2015 after an unsuccessful conversion to second base and a 50-game suspension in 2014 for a drug of abuse. Despite his free-swinging ways, he gradually seized the left-field job with his across-the-board production. He posted double figures in home runs (13), doubles (18), triples (15), stolen bases (11), outfield assists (16) and, with little room to spare, walks (15) in 122 games with the Twins last season.
-- The Reality: Rosario’s lack of plate discipline as a rookie finally caught up to him in his follow-up season. His percentage of swings outside the strike zone only dropped slightly, from 46.3 to 45.9, and he had already piled up 149 career strikeouts against just 18 walks, a rate of 8.3 whiffs for every free pass.
-- The Latest: He played center field in place of the ailing Buxton on Thursday in his return to Rochester. Fellow outfield prospects Max Kepler and Adam Brett Walker II also need playing time with the Red Wings.
-- The Hope: Rated as high as No. 3 in the Twins’ farm system by Baseball America entering the 2013 season, Arcia pounded a total of 34 home runs in his first two big-league seasons. The Twins hoped they had found the next young left-handed power hitter to anchor their lineup from a corner-outfield spot for years to come.
-- The Reality: Streaky and strikeout-prone, Arcia rode the Rochester shuttle multiple times in his first two seasons. Troubled by a series of nagging injuries and displaced to left field in 2015 by the Torii Hunter signing, Arcia landed on the disabled list in early May and was optioned back to Triple-A a month later. The Venezuelan proceeded to hit .199 in the minors and failed to receive a September call-up.
-- The Latest: Out of minor-league options, meaning he must pass through waivers in order to be demoted, Arcia has experienced mixed results with his increased playing time. Now 25, he has delivered multiple walk-off hits and was tied for second on the team with four home runs, but he also has authored a handful of embarrassing pratfalls in the field.
-- The Hope: A jolly revelation over the final two months in 2014, when he slugged .456 after veteran designated hitter Kendrys Morales was traded to Seattle, Vargas evoked a young David Ortiz, only with Puerto Rican roots and the ability to switch hit. When the late bloomer with a history of weight issues opened 2015 as the everyday DH, Vargas appeared poised to enjoy a lengthy run with the Twins.
-- The Reality: Saddled with a .277 on-base percentage and dwindling power production, Vargas was shipped all the way back to Double-A Chattanooga last July 2. Miguel Sano took his place and never looked back, leaving just 18 September plate appearances for Vargas in the majors.
-- The Latest: Now 25 and blocked by the offseason signing of Korean slugger Byung Ho Park, Vargas ranked 17th in the International League with a .784 combined on-base/slugging percentage.
-- The Hope: Blessed with speed, range and a strong arm, Santana rose through the ranks as a teenaged signing from the Dominican Republic. Called up in May 2014, he split time between his natural position of shortstop and center field, where he filled in due to injuries. He opened eyes with a .319 batting average and a .472 slugging percentage, and the Twins decided to make him their Opening Day shortstop in 2015.
-- The Reality: Unable to sustain the majors-high .405 batting average on balls in play he enjoyed as a rookie, Santana got off to a slow start at the plate and in the field, where he made 12 errors in 48 games before a June 7 demotion to Rochester. Brought back three weeks later, he received another month-long chance to seize the opportunity before Eduardo Escobar replaced him for the final two months.
-- The Latest: After making the Opening Day roster in a utility role, Santana rediscovered his batting stroke and daring on the bases. Now 25 and starting in center field in place of the demoted Buxton, Santana has been successful on just 65 percent of his stolen-base attempts since swiping 20 bases as a rookie.
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