Jeff Smith is managing Miguel Sano for the first time. But between the work Smith puts in at the Twins' instructional camps and the time he spent in the Dominican Republic, he's seen enough of the 20-year-old to draw a few conclusions.
"You can tell he has a knack for driving in runs," Smith said. "With guys on base, he wants to get them home."
That's what Sano did Saturday night as Double-A New Britain scored five times in the 11th inning and defeated Akron, 12-7, at Canal Park.
The Twins' top prospect belted a two-run triple to break things open in the 11th. It was the second hit of the game for Sano, who's batting .200 with eight RBIs and an .808 OPS in 10 games since being promoted from Class A Advanced Fort Myers.
"Obviously, he's going to need a little time to adjust," Smith said. "One thing we've all been impressed with as a coaching staff is the way he takes every at-bat a little different. Whether he has a good at-bat or a bad at-bat, when he goes to the next one, the old one's over. Every situation, he takes it as it is."
Danny Santana began the 11th-inning with a ground-ball single. After he went first to third on an errant pickoff attempt, Twins No. 5 prospect Eddie Rosario drove him in with a single to right. Josmil Pinto walked and Sano emptied with bases with his triple to right.
Reynaldo Rodriguez followed with his 11th homer of the season to make it 12-7. The 27-year-old Colombian has gone deep in three straight games and has five homers in his last seven contests. Smith noted that beyond the power surge, Rodriguez is an asset for the leadership he provides for younger players like Sano and Rosario.
Rosario joined Sano in making the jump from Fort Myers two weeks ago. The second baseman is hitting .265 in 10 games with a .636 OPS, but what's impressed Smith most is the 21-year-old's defensive improvements.
The Twins moved Rosario to second base full-time this season, knowing he had strides to make at the position. Smith thinks it's apparent that Rosario has taken at least some of the steps to handle the middle-infield spot.
"He's defensively played very well in the 10 games or so he's been up here with us," Smith said. "The infield instructors in Fort Myers have done a great job with him. He's moving well to both sides and turning [the double play] well."
While Rosario's maturation is exciting news for the Twins, Sano is still the headlining talent in New Britain. Prior to his promotion, MLB.com's No. 11 overall prospect was terrorizing the notoriously pitcher-friendly Florida State League. In 56 games, Sano had 16 homers and a 1.079 OPS while hitting .330, his highest average since batting .344 in a 20-game stint in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2010. He also drew 29 walks in building a .424 on-base percentage.
The walks have followed him to New Britain, where he's drawn eight and boasts a .341 on-base percentage. The hits haven't come as quickly, although they are starting to fall -- after going 1-for-15 in his first six games, Sano is 5-for-15 with two homers in his past four.
He's also continued to make strides at third base, where Smith thinks his strong arm and unique abilities will allow him to succeed.
"He's very athletic," Smith said. "That's one thing. He's very athletic and he has range to both sides. He has a tremendous arm. Having that arm strength at third base, it lets them play a little deeper and have range. He has soft hands and a presence over there."
For Akron, Toru Murata allowed five hits over seven scoreless innings and was in line for the win until New Britain piled up three runs in the eighth to forge a 3-3 tie. Ronny Rodriguez went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI, while Jose Ramirez and Giovanny Urshela both doubled for the Aeros.