Miguel Looking for His Yasiel Moment
Image courtesy of © Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY SportsBack in the summer of 2012, Yasiel Puig was all the rage. A Cuban defector, he was looking for a big payday with a major league team. Ned Colletti inked the outfielder on a seven-year, $42 million deal. Puig, 21 years old at the time, had taken roughly a year off to go through the signing process (one which has many hurdles for players from his home country). With a list of suitors a mile long, Yasiel experienced the highs and lows of being an international free agent.
In defecting from Cuba, Puig escaped by speedboat in the middle of the night. His handlers made death threats against him, and the journey to freedom through Mexico and eventually the United States was not one for the faint of heart. Even before debuting with the Dodgers on June 3, 2013, he had been put through the wringer.
For Miguel Sano, the journey was a much more traditional one. The Dominican Republic is a hotbed of baseball talent and although Buscones still have plenty of shady tactics up their sleeves, the stories regarding death threats and necessary defection are few and far between. Sano’s eventual signing by the Twins came after hiccups regarding his age, and even included bone scans to verify the truth. Arriving in the organization prior to his 17th birthday, he’s had a much stronger support system throughout his professional career.
Jumping back to that World Series moment for Puig, and where we are today with both players, the parallels between them are intriguing to say the least.
In 2016, as a 25-year-old, Puig was sent packing by the Dodgers. In the three seasons prior, the Los Angeles outfielder owned an .858 OPS and had an All-Star appearance under his belt. A continuous slide in performance had become a yearly occurrence though, and the .740 OPS is where things bottomed out that year. Assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City, the Dodgers were looking for their outfielder to improve “as a player and person.” Puig was recalled after 19 games at Triple-A, and turned in a .900 OPS for the Dodgers to wrap up the season.
Since that point Puig has posted an .827 OPS over the past two seasons and has used his personality to fuel a competitive drive on the field. Less of a distraction off the field, the Dodgers once again have a difference maker on their 25-man roster.
It was in 2018 that Miguel Sano experienced some of the same realities with the Minnesota Twins. An immense talent, one that was ranked as the fourth best prospect in baseball by MLB.com, the person came to be questioned. As production slid and weight was added, the level of commitment toward being great had become the focal point of Sano’s narrative. Needing to be a cornerstone for the Twins big league roster, the reality is that the organization simply couldn’t count on the level of production that would be given to them.
Sitting at the same age of the demoted Yasiel Puig, 25-year-old Miguel Sano was sent packing. Needing to be watched over, given a support system, and be invested in, Fort Myers and Single-A was the landing spot for the Twins star. He too spent 19 games riding the bus, before a brief four game stint at Triple-A that would vault him back to Minnesota.
We aren’t yet at a point to call this story complete, and while Yasiel Puig is two years removed from his adjustment, Miguel will enter 2019 at the age of 26. The next chapter in this saga comes down to Miguel and what he’d like to demand of himself. The Twins have all but played their hand, and Sano investing in himself provides the best path for his moment to still be in front of him.
Yasiel Puig posted his best OPS since 2014 when he returned to the Dodgers full time in 2017. He didn’t garner the All-Star or MVP votes that came in his first two seasons, but he re-established himself as a cornerstone piece to a very talented active roster. How Miguel Sano prepares for 2019 will set the expectations that both he and the Minnesota Twins can establish for the year ahead. Currently at his lowest point as a professional, this is where there is great opportunity for the climb.
Even if it ends up as a five game World Series loss in 2020 it’d be magical to see Miguel Sano take an opposing pitcher deep, toss his bat, and throw his hands in the air full of jubilation. At this moment that seems far-fetched, but there’s a blueprint and a path to follow. All the talent in the world resides on the side of Miguel Sano. The Minnesota Twins have made the commitment to him as both a ballplayer and a person. In 2019, it will be on the Dominican, and whether he wants stardom for himself or not.
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