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Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 10:17 PM
This is a piece by LEN III lifted from the StarTribune web site. https://m.startribun...ment/573034791/
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Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 09:20 PM
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Craig Breslow, Assistant General Manager - Cubs

Other Baseball Yesterday, 07:55 PM
Twice former Twin Craig Breslow was promoted to Asst GM in Chicago, working alongside former Twin Randy Bush.   https://www.mlbtrade...
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Free Agency / Re-Signings 2020-21 Offseason

Other Baseball 29 Nov 2020
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Nick Punto And Miguel Sano: Getting The Good To Outweigh The Bad

Perhaps no Twin better typified the mid-2000s teams than Nick Punto. The nibbliest of the piranhas, Punto played every defensive position over the course of his career except pitcher and catcher, and played most of them better than the average major leaguer. In fact, he had nearly 4000 chances to make a defensive play, and made just 84 errors. Defensive stats have evolved substantially since Punto came into the league, but they’re all fairly unanimous in showing that Punto was an asset defensively no matter where he played.
Image courtesy of Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today
The fact that his inclusion in the lineup on a game in and game out basis was as controversial as it was is a great testament to the fact that he was 1) versatile 2) a strong defender and 3) a virtual waste of a plate appearance. For his career, he was about 23 percent worse than the average major league hitter and that includes his inexplicable, galling 2011 when he was 25 percent above average for the Cardinals after having been 32 percent below average for the 2010 Twins. Perhaps no season serves as a better example of the Punto paradox than 2007, when he was the worst qualified hitter in baseball, but still managed to eke out a positive WAR thanks to his defense and adequate base running.

Punto’s glove was too good to leave on the bench, the Twins believed, but putting him in the lineup meant sacrificing elsewhere, which ought to sound very similar to the situation the team is facing this year with Miguel Sano.

No one is unclear why the Twins want Sano’s bat in the lineup, not after what he showed in his 335 PAs last year. By wRC+, Sano was one of the 10 best hitters in baseball (min 300 PAs) last season, and if that doesn’t buy someone a guaranteed spot in the order, absolutely nothing will. But the presence of Joe Mauer and Trevor Plouffe, and the acquisition of Byung-Ho Park means that Sano will now be judged by both his offense and his performance in the outfield.

The Twins may have hoped Sano would be further along in his development as an outfielder by this point, but there was no way he was going to be anything other than a work in progress for most of 2016. His ill-conceived dive on Tuesday night that cost the Twins a run showed that his instincts are still coming along, but he’s already gotten on base multiple times in one game twice in the three games so far this season, so the yin and yang of 2016 Miguel Sano is already on full display.

Much as we wondered how bad Punto’s offense could be before Ron Gardenhire would stop penciling him in the lineup, the question that will almost certainly face Paul Molitor at points his season is how bad can Sano be in the outfield while still providing enough of a reason to keep him in the lineup.

In 2009, Adam Dunn turned in the worst defensive season by any outfielder since 2000. He was 44 runs below replacement defensively that year, though he split time between the outfield corners and first base, where he was also execrable. He hit 38 home runs, walked in over 17 percent of his plate appearances, and was 42 percent better than league average on offense to compensate for being an unhidable butcher in the field, and managed to produce a 1.1 WAR that season. Clearly the Nationals were hoping for an overall better result from Dunn in his first year with the team, but it’s hard to argue that they got anything other than what they should have expected.

If Sano matches Dunn, he’ll still be an offensive star, but he’ll give the Twins less overall value in 162 games than he did 80 last year. Is that acceptable? It’s certainly not desirable, but will the cumulative effect of having Park, Mauer, and Plouffe in the order along with Sano produce the surplus value the Twins want? Possible, but still suboptimal.

There is a pretty clear model for the player the Twins would like Sano to be as long as he’s learning the outfield: Manny Ramirez.

Ramirez wasn’t just bad when he was learning his position, he was hilariously terrible in the field for most of his career, and yet, since 2000, Ramirez is one of only two players to have a season where he was worth -25 runs or worse defensively and still post a WAR of 2.9 or higher. He did four times (Hideki Matsui was the only other to do it, and he did it just once) between 2000 and when his career functionally ended in 2009.

Ramirez’s 2005 season was the sixth worst defensive player-season of the new millennium at -32.6 runs below replacement, but he hit 45 home runs, was 52 percent above league average offensively, and helped anchor a Red Sox offense that scored an MLB-best 910 runs. 2.9 WAR certainly wasn’t his high water mark, but it was good enough to help the Sox secure a playoff spot. Unlike Dunn -- whose offensive profile more closely matches Sano’s than Ramirez’s does -- Ramirez wasn’t a strictly three true outcomes threat that season, as he hit .292/.388/.594 to help drive up his overall value.

If Sano ends up being the next Manny Ramirez, the Twins should be elated even with the accompanying defensive frailties, but betting on that career arc is awfully optimistic. As mentioned above, Sano’s skill set is similar to Dunn’s: Hit for great power, walk a lot based on the fear you instill in opposing pitchers, and strike out an impressively high number of times, which means that in order to produce the type of value the Twins need Sano to produce to be competitive this year -- and, in truth, in the future as well -- he’ll either need to keep his defensive value above -20 runs below replacement or add a high batting average to his offensive arsenal.

It wouldn’t surprise me a bit for this to be the worst season of Sano’s career. He ought to get better and better in the outfield as he gets a feel for different parks and as his instincts kick in, which means that even if his offense stagnates (if you can call repeated seasons at 40 percent above average stagnation) his overall value will continue to rise. Living between 10 and 20 runs below replacement would position him in the Ryan Braun or Giancarlo Stanton realm of being far better on offense than on defense, but valuable enough in total to make a serious MVP case in years of exemplary offensive performance.

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58 Comments

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Pardon My Dinger
Apr 08 2016 07:11 AM

Nice job here. Something's got to give with the 1B/3B/DH situation. I would like to see one of Mauer/Park/Plouffe volunteer to move into RF for the good of the team. It's an idealistic, borderline delusional concept, i realize. But, isn't that basically how it worked out when Plouffy seized 3B in 2012?

    • scottz, d-mac and dwade like this

 

Nice job here. Something's got to give with the 1B/3B/DH situation. I would like to see one of Mauer/Park/Plouffe volunteer to move into RF for the good of the team. It's an idealistic, borderline delusional concept, i realize. But, isn't that basically how it worked out when Plouffy seized 3B in 2012?

 

I'm not sure that any of them would be any better. Park has never played RF and is much older. Plouffe could do it but then you'd have worse defense at 3B and no real improvement in the OF. Mauer at 1B might be a better option but again, he's 32 and doesn't seem like he'd be any better.

 

This is likely the best formation for the Twins until Kepler forces his way up and they have to choose who goes - likely Plouffe.

    • Danchat likes this

The trouble is that none of them has any meaningful outfield experience either. Mauer looked uninspiring the first and last time he was out there, Park was a 1B in Korea, and while Plouffe did take a few reps out there in 2012, he's been on the infield ever since. I don't think any of them are holding out on the team, they're liable to be just as bad as Sano is but older and less likely to develop into a good outfielder. 

 

The other thing I think is worth asking is whether Sano would be better at 3B than he is in the outfield. Yes, he definitely has more experience out there, but I don't recall anyone raving about him as a defensive ace, as much as saying "eh, his bat will play there." Long-term, he's either a DH or a 1B.

    • wickedslider likes this

As long as Sano makes the plays he's supposed to, I think he'll be fine. I'm expecting competence, not brilliance.

 

As Sano gets more experience, I also expect a couple of runners regret trying to stretch a single.

    • Mike Frasier Law, HitInAPinch and dwade like this
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Tommygun921
Apr 08 2016 10:42 AM
I had plenty of frustration with Puntos bat. But there's no denying he was a straight up Beast with the glove as well as his non-stop hustle. Some of the best defensive plays I've ever seen were from Punto and Co.
You can definitely tell that Sano doesn't have the most confidence out there. That'll come in time. Plus I'm assuming he has a much better arm than Dunn and Ramirez. Should help a lot.
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BrianTrottier
Apr 08 2016 10:48 AM

I personally don't care if Sano is a butcher out there. I find it hard to believe that his defense will cost nearly as many runs as his bat will produce. But maybe I'm wrong..

I think Punto would be much more appreciated on sites like this now than he was a 6-8 years ago. 

 

1.) His defense was terrific and because of it, he was a positive bWAR player each season.

2.) In 2006, he was worth 3.7 WAR, and in 2008, he was worth 2.3 bWAR.

 

The other years, he would have a .615-.650 OPS which wasn't terrible for his defense. He was a utility infielder, and the Twins knew it. But, due to some really bad play or injury at various positions (3B-Tony Batista, etc.), he had to play a lot more. And, even when he didn't hit, he took a ton of pitches and had a pretty solid IsoD most years. 

    • Mike Frasier Law and d-mac like this

My biggest problem with the Sano experiment is one of an historical perspective on how the Twins undermine the careers of "good" ballplayers in an effort to make them something that they have never been.Sending Sano to RF is a typical example of "the Twins Way" when it comes to hammering square pegs into round holes.

 

Understand this:

 

Miguel Sano is an infielder!He is a soon-to-be 23 year old (May 11) Dominican baseball player who has always played the infield.And he is a prodigious hitter!  

 

So the Twins take this 22 year old who is trying to break into the Bigs and put him in a position to fail.Read that again - they are not putting him in a position to succeed, but to fail.All young ballplayers struggle with their hitting at first.It takes a while to get comfortable with ML pitching, daily routines fitting in, the grind of day after day playing.So what do the Twins do???Put him in a position that he has never played! Now that compounds his adjustment. Now you have a young player who not only is trying to make the jump to the majors, he is trying to make that leap while learning to play a NEW position! It opens him up to criticism by fans and writers (read here Reusse)who grumble about his size, work ethic, and ability.

 

The point is - we are expecting Miguel Sano to not only learn to be a great hitter of major league pitching, but also to learn a new position; all the while exposing him to the negativity of being in the bright MLB lights while still learning. 

 

I'm guessing it has his head more than just swimming, he may be drowning!

    • LaBombo, Winston Smith, Hosken Bombo Disco and 1 other like this

The problems I have with this are:

 

a. there is an assumption that Sano is a bad right fielder, while all numbers indicate that he is at least league average (but it is small sample size any way you cut it)

b. there is an assumption that a 22 year old player will not get better in a position the more he plays the position, which is plain wrong.

 

I'd wait half season at least before I jump into quick conclusions.

 

Regardless, Ryan had better choices than to play Sano at RF.

 

Punto retired and Gardenhire is thankfully gone.Who cares about those two in 2016...

    • Mike Frasier Law and HitInAPinch like this
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Winston Smith
Apr 08 2016 11:12 AM
Anyone notice what happened to Schwarber?
    • LaBombo and d-mac like this

 

Nice job here. Something's got to give with the 1B/3B/DH situation. I would like to see one of Mauer/Park/Plouffe volunteer to move into RF for the good of the team. It's an idealistic, borderline delusional concept, i realize. But, isn't that basically how it worked out when Plouffy seized 3B in 2012?

The move to RF should have been Plouffe from day one.Put the guy who has the chance to be the offensive cornerstone of your team for the next decade and a half in the defensive position he played over 90% of his minor league games at.This ain't rocket science.Move Plouffe to the OF to showcase his versatility thus increasing his value for the inevitable trade. Hello McFly (Terry Ryan & Paul Molitor) anybody in there?

 

    • d-mac likes this

love the punto / sano analogy.good article. 

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Apr 08 2016 11:20 AM

Anyone notice what happened to Schwarber?

ssshhhhhhhhhhhh quiet
    • d-mac likes this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Apr 08 2016 11:26 AM

The problems I have with this are:
 
a. there is an assumption that Sano is a bad right fielder, while all numbers indicate that he is at least league average (but it is small sample size any way you cut it)
b. there is an assumption that a 22 year old player will not get better in a position the more he plays the position, which is plain wrong..

with all due respect, where is this magic unicorn site that calls Sano an average outfielder? :)

When you consider that the Twins have played 1 and 2 run games, every play makes a difference. Every out and base makes a difference. Sano really looks like he is struggling out there. You could just as plausibly say that with someone besides Sano in right, the Twins might have 2 wins right now. I'm not sure about the evidence he will improve over time, though it makes sense. But then wouldn't it make sense he would improve over time if he was at 3B too?
    • d-mac likes this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Apr 08 2016 11:28 AM
I really like the Punto-Sano hitting-fielding comparison, by the way.
    • d-mac and dwade like this

 

with all due respect, where is this magic unicorn site that calls Sano an average outfielder? :)

 

Look at his statistics at either fangraphs or baseball-reference.They are all about average.The old school ones like fielding percentage and range factor have them way above average.

 

SSS, but that cuts both ways. 

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Willihammer
Apr 08 2016 11:39 AM

Look at his statistics at either fangraphs or baseball-reference.They are all about average.The old school ones like fielding percentage and range factor have them way above average.
 
SSS, but that cuts both ways.

Thrylos you're posting in the wrong thread my friend.

http://twinsdaily.co...on/#entry457551
    • Hosken Bombo Disco likes this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Apr 08 2016 11:39 AM
Sano? Because he made a running catch with his eyes closed Wednesday night? :)
    • d-mac likes this

 

Anyone notice what happened to Schwarber?

 

Anyone notice that Sano got hurt playing 3B a couple of years ago, and he was hurt as a DH last year... Players get hurt sometimes.

    • ken and wickedslider like this
There are plenty of players who were/ are young who didn't get better in time even their own positions much less positions they had to learn in the majors. We have had a few on our team over the last few years. Experence won't always equal getting better, either in the field or the plate and defense peaks sooner than hitting.
    • LaBombo and jokin like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Apr 08 2016 12:15 PM

Anyone notice that Sano got hurt playing 3B a couple of years ago, and he was hurt as a DH last year... Players get hurt sometimes.

I admit it's a tricky subject. And if Sano gets hurt in right field, I expect everyone to take the same sides. I guess my issue with it is that guys like Schwarber and Sano are so far below average in some people's eyes, and learning on the fly, that some people question whether it's even worth the trouble putting them in the outfield at all. Same offseason debate was going on with the Cubs as here.
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Winston Smith
Apr 08 2016 12:56 PM

Anyone notice that Sano got hurt playing 3B a couple of years ago, and he was hurt as a DH last year... Players get hurt sometimes.


Rather obvious Seth, players do get hurt and I doubt anyone will argue that point. Playing guys out of position likely increases the chances of injury, but that's just my opinion.
    • alarp33, jokin and d-mac like this

Good to see @dwade contributing here. Very nice addition to the writing staff. Hope to see more posts from you Dan.

    • Brock Beauchamp and d-mac like this

Shoulda traded Plouffe and kept Hicks or got someone who can play OF. SP isn't good enough to cling to vets in favor of promising youth in the hopes of building a mashup "win now" lineup IMO. Not that the Twins can't be decent but they won't be great with that starting 5. Not a fan of Sano in RF.....or Nick Punto's bat back in the day.

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Halsey Hall
Apr 08 2016 01:58 PM

Sano doesn't want to play right field.Not sure you'll see a lot of improvement there.


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