The Minnesota Twins spent a season pulverizing pitchers and shattering record after record on their way to hitting a major-league record 307 home runs last year. In the process, they earned themselves the nickname, the ‘Bomba Squad.’
The Bomba Squad got itself a reinforcement — albeit one for down the road — on Wednesday night, June 10, when the team selected power-hitting first baseman Aaron Sabato from the University of North Carolina with the 27th overall pick in the 2020 draft.
The draft, which is normally 40 rounds, has been shortened to just five as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Twins will make three more selections on Thursday.
Sabato, who bashed 18 home runs for the Tar Heels last year as a freshman and slashed .343/.453/.696, looks like he’ll fit in just fine to the power-hitting Twins’ lineup in the future.
Though he saw most of his sophomore season at UNC wiped out because of COVID-19, he already hit seven home runs in the 19 games he played this season.
“I certainly think he fits in with the last few iterations (of) our club, the Bomba Squad and all that,” scouting director Sean Johnson said. “We really value his offensive upside and ceiling, the power threat. All those things are really hard to procure in the draft, and to pick in the back end of the first round, we feel lucky to have him there.”
Johnson, along with president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine, have seemingly made a habit of selecting college bats late in the first round, selecting Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner in their previous years overseeing the draft for the Twins.
Sabato, who is limited positionally to first base, drew immediate comparisons on MLB Network after the selection to Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who was last year’s National League Rookie of the Year after hitting 53 home runs.
It’s a comparison the Twins have thrown out, too.
“I think that’s a natural comp because they have similar frames and they had similar careers in college and they’re probably first base-only,” Johnson said. “If he turns out like Pete Alonso, obviously, we’re thrilled with that, picking at the back of the first round. … We have thrown that comp out there. I think that’s pretty close. Any version of Pete Alonso, we’ll take.”
Sabato, who just turned 21 last week, is listed at 6 feer 2, 230 pounds. He was one of more than 50 players that the Twins held Zoom calls with in the previous few months, spending most of his time talking about hitting with the team. Johnson praised his makeup and said Sabato was open-minded to the technology the Twins could offer him.
Due to the virtual nature of scouting this year and some extra free time for members of the organization who would otherwise be in the middle of the season, Johnson said they had more than 50 Twins employees opine on the 2020 draft class, from scouts to player development to major league coaching staff members including manager Rocco Baldelli to the front office.
“We thought he was the best offensive bat on the board, offensive player left on the board just from every standpoint possible going back to his season last year,” Johnson said. “If you look at him analytically, he lined up with some of the guys that went at the very top of the board.So we expect him to be a first baseman in the end and yeah, the biggest draw here was the offensive ceiling and impact potential.”
Johnson said the team’s hitting coordinators and player development group were “thrilled about Sabato’s swing,” and his power. He praised the first baseman’s extension and exit velocity, saying Sabato checked every box the team was looking for in a hitter.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was little and it’s just another step,” Sabato told The Journal News in New York before the draft. “I’m trying to play in the major leagues and to be a first-round pick definitely increases your chances for that. It’s one of those things I’m just being completely grateful for and something I’ll never forget.”