Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

2009 AL Central Tiebreaker - Game Thread

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 09:37 PM
Hi all -   In honor of Opening Day there are a lot of classic MLB games being streamed today. One of them is the 2009 AL Central Tie...
Full topic ›

MLB and Player's Union Agree on 2020 Adjustments

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 07:13 PM
MLB and the player's union agreed on adjustments to be made in the short season. It appears that when the season starts, all teams will h...
Full topic ›

Thor done for the year

Other Baseball Yesterday, 12:23 PM
The trades that you did not make http://www.startribu...gery/569067112/
Full topic ›

Hardy has elbow surgery, Lewis, Kirilloff, Larnach Reassi...

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:09 AM
Per Phil Miller of the Star Tribune   https://www.startrib...inors/569174942   "The Twins signed longtime Tigers pitcher Blaine...
Full topic ›

Trevor Bauer doing breakdown of Max Kepler's HR strea...

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 08:03 AM
  https://old.reddit.c...ins_fans_in_my/     Not sure if anyone has watched any of his videos he has been making lately bu...
Full topic ›

Twins 2020 Position Analysis: First Base

After going with C.J. Cron as an interstitial stopgap for one year, the Twins are moving forward with their new long-term fixture at first base. Miguel Sano, contract extension fresh in hand, will be relocating 120 feet away as Josh Donaldson takes over the hot corner.

If all goes to plan, these two powerful presences will be lining up across the diamond from one another for many years to come. The only uncertainty in this vision lies on Sano's end.
Image courtesy of John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Projected Starter: Miguel Sano
Likely Backup: Marwin Gonzalez

Depth: Ehire Adrianza, Mitch Garver
Prospects: Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker

THE GOOD

Sano's bat will play just as well at the new position. His 137 wRC+ last year ranked fourth among MLB third baseman (400+ PA) and would've ranked fourth among first basemen. Rebounding in convincing fashion from a tumultuous 2018, Sano blasted 34 homers with 79 RBIs in just 105 games after joining the team in mid-May, entrenching himself as one of the game's most feared sluggers.

Controversy and drama have followed Sano into camp the last two springs – a sexual assault investigation in 2018 and a questionably-treated heel laceration in 2019 – but this year he refreshingly arrives with no added baggage (or bandage). To the contrary: Sano's place with the team is more secure than ever, after the front office committed to him through 2022 with a new deal in January.

For his part, Sano is doing and saying all the right things. With no resistance, he gave up his previous position to facilitate the Donaldson signing – in fact, he played a role in recruiting the star free agent. By all accounts Sano is in phenomenal shape this spring. Rocco Baldelli opined that the 26-year-old "looks like a supreme athlete" and when you look at pictures from Fort Myers, it's hard to disagree.





Obviously, Sano is built to absolutely annihilate baseballs, and he does that. He isn't necessary built to play third base. While his magnificent arm was more than up to the task, Sano's size and movements just didn't lend themselves to the demands of the hot corner, and as a result he rated statistically as one of the league's worst defenders there.

It's easier to see a fit for him at first base, where Sano's lack of mobility is downplayed considerably. At 6-foot-4 he offers a big target for infielders, and he knows how to handle a fast-arriving hotshot or rocket down the line. We have only a limited sample to draw from, given that Sano's played a total of 223 major-league innings at first, but he looks perfectly capable.

THE BAD

Entering his sixth MLB season, with newfound stability and security in the organization, Sano still has much to prove.

He needs to prove he can play first base. Joe Mauer was a Gold Glove caliber defender there before giving way to Cron, who also showed very well with the glove. Sano has a high bar to live up to, and the stakes are also high. Neither of Minnesota's starting middle infielders (Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco) have particularly strong arms, so the new first baseman could be tested frequently. On the list of foreseeable pain points for a team that is generally very sound in its construction and outlook, this ranks pretty high.

He needs to prove he can avoid falling into vacuous pits at the plate. While he might always be a streaky hitter, the cold spells where Sano whiffs relentlessly over expended periods are tough to stomach – especially when they're poorly timed. Can the Twins count on him to be at his best when they need him? The slugger provided one of the most memorable highlights of 2019, helping vault Minnesota to the playoffs with a grand slam in Cleveland, but mostly disappeared once they reached October; in the ALDS, Sano hit a solo home run but otherwise went 0-for-11 with eight strikeouts.

Most of all, he needs to prove he can stay on the field. The Twins will live with growing pains at first base and occasional slumps at the plate so long as Sano can actually hold up over the course of a season, which would be a first. In his five big-league campaigns, he has never played in more than 116 games. His surgically reconstructed elbow and titanium-infused tibia are proof enough of what his body has been through.

On this front, just like the two cited before it, there is reason for optimism. Sano had no significant durability issues after his late start last year, and importantly, gave no indication that his left leg was still a major concern. It's evident he put in some serious work on himself physically over this past winter. The chances are good that in 2020 we finally get a full season from Sano, and it'll be fascinating to see what kind of production he can put forth if we do.

In the event he has to miss time again, the Twins aren't hurting for depth at first base, although the offensive drop-off would be substantial with present options. Marwin Gonzalez is the top backup, with Ehire Adrianza able to fill in as well. Were Sano to face a lengthier absence, Minnesota would probably need to find a better solution, like shifting Mitch Garver to first or calling up Alex Kirilloff or Brent Rooker.

THE BOTTOM LINE

No one should underestimate the challenges of adapting to a new full-time position. First base might be on the far end of the defensive spectrum, but in the famous words of Ron Washington in Moneyball, it's still incredibly hard.

Sano will grapple with added pressure in his transition, learning on the fly for a club with championship aspirations, while potentially dealing with a higher-than-normal volume of errant or skipped throws.

Having said that, he has all the attributes to quickly become one of the game's top first basemen. He's a huge, powerful guy just entering his prime. The future of first base for the Twins would appear to be in very good hands.


~~~


Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Catcher

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

  • Mike Frasier Law, mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan and 4 others like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

27 Comments

Photo
Aerodeliria
Feb 26 2020 09:57 PM

I always thought he had to be moved to first base. He was just a bit too slow to react at 3rd and his range was more like a stove. The good thing is that he is that by playing third, he is used to all kinds of bad hops and that should make a transition to 1st easier and hopefully, he can snag some of those errant throws late in games (these seemed to have dogged the Twins over the past couple of years).

 

Great article!

    • SF Twins Fan and wabene like this

I fear that Polanco will lead the league in (throwing) errors. :(

Photo
theBOMisthebomb
Feb 27 2020 02:33 AM
Yes, the strikeouts are sickening and when they come in bunches they seem to have no end in sight. Overall, I am excited about Sano's upside at first base and think we will look back in a few years and wonder why the Twins didn't slide Sano over to first base 1-2 seasons sooner.
    • Aerodeliria likes this
Photo
Richard Swerdlick
Feb 27 2020 04:26 AM

He may be the main first baseman for only a year or two given that Cruz may not be back next year. He might then be the DH and one of our prospects could be the new first baseman.

    • JoshDungan1, SF Twins Fan, wabene and 2 others like this

If Sano is healthy and can play 145 games this year would you take the over or under for the following stats. (these are his 2019 stats stretched out to 145 games).

 

129 hits/26 doubles/47 HR/109 RBI - .247/.346/.576

 

And if you take the over...or even a slight under, where does he finish in the MVP race? My thoughts are that he'd finish somewhere toward the bottom of the top 5. I think if he could raise his OBP 20-30 points, raise his batting average about 15 points and add maybe 10 more doubles, that would push his OPS close to 1.000 and that would probably do it. This may be his last shot at an MVP award if he moves to DH next year. It would be pretty cool to watch. Either way...I think he's in for a big year if he can stay healthy.

    • tarheeltwinsfan and Nine of twelve like this
Photo
woolywoolhouse
Feb 27 2020 08:12 AM

With "The Bringer of Rain" throwing the ball to first to "Make It Sano" can we give Arraez and Polanco nicknames related to weather, too? Preferably "Sleet" and "Hail" related to work in a "Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail" line about allowing runs?

    • ericchri, tarheeltwinsfan, JoshDungan1 and 3 others like this
Photo
Dave The Dastardly
Feb 27 2020 09:02 AM

"interstitial" - had to look that up. Proving once again that TD is an educational site.

    • woolywoolhouse, wabene, Doctor Wu and 1 other like this

First base harder to play than most people give credit to. With that said, Sano should be able to make the adjustments. Footwork is probably the hardest to master, at least he has spring training to make the adjustments and get comfortable. Twins look to be solid at first base for a few years.

Our depth at 1B is a bit odd: Sano is clearly the starter and expected to take most of the time there, but we don't really have an identified backup and clear depth if he misses extended time (which Sano has, unfortunately).

 

Marwin fields the position well, but his bat is pedestrian there. Garver deserves some time there, but having his bat at catcher is such a huge advantage that spending significant time at 1B isn't where you want to go. Adrianza can play pretty much anywhere, but he's not a 1B.

 

The minors is interesting too: Rooker can probably play it, but hasn't gotten much time at it so might be the Butcher of Cairo over there. (Adam Dunn sure was, and there's a lot of similarity in those guys' profiles) Kirilloff is starting to get some run there, but we don't know when he'll be ready, though I suspect it's soon. be interested to see what his D really looks like? Right now, might we actually pull up Zander Wiel if Sano gets unlucky and misses significant time?

 

Plenty of guys who *can* play 1B...outside of Sano there's not as much depth for guys who are clearly targeted to 1B.

 

i think Sano is going to do well there this year. He won't amaze with the D, and there will probably be a blooper or three that will make people think he's worse than he is, but i think overall he'll be solid on D and elite on offense. The only thing keeping him from 40 HRs this year is whether he's healthy enough to play 130+ games. I'd love for him to keep the Ks under 200 for the season, but I'll live with it if he's got the OPS+ of 130-140...

    • DocBauer, wabene and Melissa like this

 

"interstitial" - had to look that up. Proving once again that TD is an educational site.

I was wondering what a "fibia" is.Maybe that's when both bones get replaced by a single metal rod, lol.

    • Craig Arko likes this
Photo
TouchEmAllGuy
Feb 27 2020 11:08 AM

We should have Sano in RF again...

Photo
Nick Nelson
Feb 27 2020 12:03 PM

 

I was wondering what a "fibia" is.Maybe that's when both bones get replaced by a single metal rod, lol.

Tibia, fibia ... tomay-to, tomah-to.

 

Seriously, thanks for pointing out. Fixed. 

"Miguel Sano, contract extension fresh in hand, will be relocating 120 feet away as Josh Donaldson takes over the hot corner."

 

um, 1st and 3rd are 127 feet apart.Just sayin'.and playin'.Another great article!

There is no depth here if the rookies are not in line for any substantial promotion if Sano has health issues.Ehire is great for 2b/SS.Marwin is an average batter with the kind off flexibility we no longer need. 

With Sano healthy we are in great position - and for now that is all we need to know 

Photo
sweetmusicviola16
Feb 27 2020 06:36 PM

 

There is no depth here if the rookies are not in line for any substantial promotion if Sano has health issues.Ehire is great for 2b/SS.Marwin is an average batter with the kind off flexibility we no longer need. 

With Sano healthy we are in great position - and for now that is all we need to know 

To be honest I'd love to see the Twins trade Marwin, back to Houston. AS you state he's not needed. And really not so sure hes wanted.

Miguel has logged in 31 games at 1st base over the past 5 years. His fielding percentage is.971 compared to the league average for 1st basemen of .993. He's below average in fielding percentage so he's got plenty of room for improvement. His hitting is a different story with a .836 career OPS which is above the league average.

 

If his fielding improves fine. If not then the Twins may keep him in the lineup for his bat.

    • wabene likes this

 

With "The Bringer of Rain" throwing the ball to first to "Make It Sano" can we give Arraez and Polanco nicknames related to weather, too? Preferably "Sleet" and "Hail" related to work in a "Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail" line about allowing runs?

How about the sunshine boys or maybe sunshine Twins.  

The big fella hitting big flies traveling big distances! I think his leather will be fine. Not in the class of Mauer but, not many are. The nuance of stepping away to get poor throws will come. Is Palonco ready to catch the 3-6-3 double play rocket?

Our depth at 1B is a bit odd: Sano is clearly the starter and expected to take most of the time there, but we don't really have an identified backup and clear depth if he misses extended time (which Sano has, unfortunately).

Marwin fields the position well, but his bat is pedestrian there. Garver deserves some time there, but having his bat at catcher is such a huge advantage that spending significant time at 1B isn't where you want to go. Adrianza can play pretty much anywhere, but he's not a 1B.

The minors is interesting too: Rooker can probably play it, but hasn't gotten much time at it so might be the Butcher of Cairo over there. (Adam Dunn sure was, and there's a lot of similarity in those guys' profiles) Kirilloff is starting to get some run there, but we don't know when he'll be ready, though I suspect it's soon. be interested to see what his D really looks like? Right now, might we actually pull up Zander Wiel if Sano gets unlucky and misses significant time?

Plenty of guys who *can* play 1B...outside of Sano there's not as much depth for guys who are clearly targeted to 1B.

i think Sano is going to do well there this year. He won't amaze with the D, and there will probably be a blooper or three that will make people think he's worse than he is, but i think overall he'll be solid on D and elite on offense. The only thing keeping him from 40 HRs this year is whether he's healthy enough to play 130+ games. I'd love for him to keep the Ks under 200 for the season, but I'll live with it if he's got the OPS+ of 130-140...


Great post.

In reference to Marwin and Adrianza at 1B, I think we are fine there. Might like Adrianza more defensively, but we're talking about a fill in, right?

Call me crazy, but if someone were needed more than a game or two, I'm not so sure a roster move wouldn't be made for Wiel to get a shot. He's one of those guys who flies under the radar who could actually get a shot at some point and not embarrass himself. Of course, I hope the need isn't there.
    • Nick Nelson and Doctor Wu like this
Photo
Nick Nelson
Feb 27 2020 10:00 PM

 

"Miguel Sano, contract extension fresh in hand, will be relocating 120 feet away as Josh Donaldson takes over the hot corner."

 

um, 1st and 3rd are 127 feet apart.Just sayin'.and playin'.Another great article!

I mean it's not like they stand on the bags so we're ballparking it here. (Has that phrase ever been used more appropriately?)

    • big dog, DocBauer and Melissa like this
Polanco and Arraez are gonna make Sano look bad. And it won't be Sano's fault. I like their offense, but they are defensive liabilities for our contending team. I hope we get better there.

Sano is going to have to dive for the ball more often at first than he did at third.I hope that isn't true, but I think I would bet the over rather than the under.

 

The good news is he only has to catch the ball now, not catch it, get up, and make an accurate throw.

 

Great post.

In reference to Marwin and Adrianza at 1B, I think we are fine there. Might like Adrianza more defensively, but we're talking about a fill in, right?

Call me crazy, but if someone were needed more than a game or two, I'm not so sure a roster move wouldn't be made for Wiel to get a shot. He's one of those guys who flies under the radar who could actually get a shot at some point and not embarrass himself. Of course, I hope the need isn't there.

 

I'm not sure I like Adrianza more defensively at 1B. For a first baseman, he's a fine shortstop...

 

But I do think the Wiel question is an interesting one. He's not seen as a top prospect by any means, but he's almost certainly going to be a more consistent defensive player than Rooker (who basically hasn't played 1B for the Twins yet) and he had a fine season at the plate last year in his first repeat at AAA. If he shows better plate discipline and gets off to a fast start, he could play his way on the team if/when injury strikes. But he's not on the 40-man (neither is Rooker), which makes me think they'd be more likely to bring up Gordon or Cave/Wade and let a combo platter or Marwin, Adrianza, and Garver handle 1B

Photo
VivaBomboRivera!
Feb 28 2020 09:59 AM

Miguel Sano, picking machine!

"interstitial" - had to look that up. Proving once again that TD is an educational site.

I looked it up and I still don't know what it means!?

Similar Articles


by Ted Schwerzler , 26 Mar 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 22 Mar 2020
Photo


by John Bonnes , 07 Mar 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 02 Mar 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 24 Feb 2020
Photo