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Twins have bright future with minor leaguers

FARGO — The Minnesota Twins have endured three straight seasons of 95-plus losses. But the organization and its fans might get their first looks at the future this season.

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The Twins farm system was lauded by a number of reputable media outlets last season as one of the best in baseball. And 2014 could mark the first step of a big league career for many of the team’s top prospects.

“Whether we can rely on them in 2014, I don’t know,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said Monday night at the team’s Winter Caravan stop in Fargo. “But I think you’ll see a number of them make their major league debuts in 2014, which is exciting for our fans.”

Headlining that group is outfielder Byron Buxton, who is the reigning Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year. As a 19-year-old, Buxton hit .334 with 12 homers and 55 steals in two levels of Class A.

St. Peter said it’s much less likely that a player will make the jump for A-ball to the big leagues in one year.

Two players who are closer to the big leagues are third baseman Miguel Sano and 6-foot-9 right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer.

Sano, 20, hit 35 homers and slugged .610 across Class A and AA last season, but his batting average plummeted from .330 at A-ball to .236 at AA. Meyer, who just turned 24, had a 2.99 ERA last season in 16 starts, working primarily at Class AA.

Buxton, Sano and Meyer all received invites earlier this month to the big league team’s spring training.

“We’d like to see some of our young guys step up,” St. Peter said. “Nothing is going to be handed to anybody. As (Twins manager) Ron Gardenhire likes to say, ‘The days of handing out scholarships, hopefully those days are over.’ “

Metrodome remembered for success, quirks

The deflation of the air-supported roof at the Metrodome for the final time Saturday was the most visible sign of its eventual demise, as it will be torn down to make room for a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

The Twins now play at Target Field. But they called the Metrodome home from 1982 until 2009 and won their only two World Series titles in Game 7s at the Dome in 1987 and 1991.

“I just hope someday we look back at Target Field having as much history as the Metrodome had,” St. Peter said. “If we do that, we’ve done something right on the field.”

Twins bench coach Terry Steinbach, who played 14 seasons in the majors, said that while he liked playing at the Metrodome, the quirks always come to mind.

“I think the thing that stood out the most for me were the balls that were lost in the roof,” said Steinbach, who played his final three seasons with the Twins. “Some helped us. Some hurt us. Inevitably, if a game was played at the Metrodome, a ball was going to get lost.”

Potential remains for another free-agent signing

The Twins have spent the bulk of their offseason money on pitching. But St. Peter still hopes a move can be made to improve the team’s offense, which was third-worst in the American League in runs scored last season.

When asked what areas in the field he’d like to see improved, St. Peter said, “That remains to be seen, whether that be the outfield or an extra bat off the bench. We think there will be opportunities to make the team better in spring training.”

Twins pitchers and catchers report for spring training Feb. 16 in Fort Myers, Fla. The first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 22.

“We’re always trying to focus on getting better,” St. Peter said. “And, ultimately, there’s certainly payroll flexibility to make that happen.”