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Sano The Sleeper Of The Derby?

When Miguel Sano was named to the home run derby, I imagined an event with a handful of young stars. Right now, major league baseball is being paced by that type of talent in the long-ball department. The field has some interesting inclusions, Sano, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Cody Bellinger, making the event must-watch television. The question is, can the fifth-seeded Sano take home the prize?
Image courtesy of © Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Competing before him, the Twins have watched both Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier scuffle in the competition, while Justin Morneau won it as a footnote to Josh Hamilton’s output. If Sano is going to win it, he’ll have to travel a difficult road, and the competition stacks the odds against him.

Not ruling out an upset victory from the likes of Gary Sanchez, Mike Moutakas, Justin Bour or Charlie Blackmon, the four aforementioned names seem to be where the focus should remain. Figuring out just how well Sano stacks up against the trio of Stanton, Judge and Bellinger could lead us to some sort of conclusion on Monday night.

Having led the major leagues in average exit velocity for most of the year, Sano has routinely hit the ball hard. Now sitting at 94 mph in second place, he trails only Judge’s 96.3mph. Both Stanton and Bellinger find themselves further down the leaderboard at 90.9 and 90.2 mph respectively. When putting out max effort however, Judge and Stanton pace the big leagues with max exit velocities of 121.1 and 118.7 mph on the season. Sano’s high water mark is 114.6 mph while Bellinger’s is 112.8. In the derby though, the test is both endurance and strength.

You’d be hard pressed to find an argument against Sano being the strongest of the group, but coming in around 260 pounds, his fitness will likely be tested to a greater extent than the likes of the leaner Stanton, Bellinger and Judge. With the new rules dictating players routinely swing in a timed format, getting a rhythm, and not over exerting on outs is an absolute must. While you can toe the line between getting the added bonus for distance, you also can’t set yourself up for failure by launching straight moonshots.

During game situations this season, Sano actually holds the lowest percentage of fly balls that leave the yard among the group. His 26.7% is 11th in MLB, trailing Judge’s insane 41.4%, Bellinger’s 29.6%, and Stanton’s 27.7%. In a derby format, he’ll obviously need to hope something like 80% of the balls he puts in the air leave the yard.

If you’re going to drive the ball far, you’ll also have to hit it hard. Per Fangraphs, Sano owns the fifth best hard% in the majors this season. His 47.7% number is behind Judge’s 49.5%, but ahead of both Bellinger’s 45.5% and Stanton’s 35.8% mark. Despite being another category that tips the scales in Judge’s favor, Stanton fares well here in regard to his competition.

Maybe the final part of the equation is the actual location of the Derby itself. Being hosted in Miami, Miguel Sano has never had a big league at-bat in Marlins Park. Per ESPN’s 2017 Park Factors, Marlins Park checks in as the fifth most pitcher friendly ballpark in the big leagues. That’s on par with Camden Yards, Busch Stadium, Citi Field and Minute Maid. Target Field ranks as the third most hitter friendly ballpark this year.

Of the similarly playing ballparks to Marlins Park, Sano has only played in at least 5 career games at Camden Yards and Minute Maid. While the .884 OPS and three homers in 41 at-bats at Camden Yards shows nicely, Sano has just a .297 OPS and zero homers in 23 at-bats in Houston.

Realistically speaking, it’s foolish to extrapolate game data to a slugging competition. Despite that not being the exact intention, it’s interesting to see what the sluggers'offensive production has looked like relative to the home run. We may not know anything more about Sano’s chances based upon this data, but we can gain a further understanding of his power ability as a whole.

Come July 10, and the commencement of the actual Home Run Derby, the wondering will be laid to rest. Given the fact he’ll likely be facing long odds, Sano is a solid bet. However, this still appears to be a race between the defending champ in Stanton, and the Yankees phenom Judge.


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11 Comments

I remember Joe Mauer in one Home Run Derby, but Im pretty sure he did not scuffle.

    • glunn likes this

I don't know if I would call him a sleeper. People know who he is. No smart person would bet against him.

    • bighat likes this
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Ted Schwerzler
Jul 07 2017 09:28 AM

 

I remember Joe Mauer in one Home Run Derby, but Im pretty sure he did not scuffle.

He hit 5, didn't make it out of the first round.

    • glunn and jbissell like this
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Ted Schwerzler
Jul 07 2017 09:29 AM

 

I don't know if I would call him a sleeper. People know who he is. No smart person would bet against him.

 

While Twins fans are aware of his power, he's not going to be favored against Judge or Stanton, and maybe not even Bellinger.

    • Danchat likes this

Everyone who looks at stat sheets are aware of his power.  Statcast in particular loves Sano.

 

Even with hitting 42 home runs last year, Dozier is still very much in the Twins sphere only, fans in other markets don't think about him. The same cannot be said of Sano. He may not be a superstar (yet), but people know who he is and know he is in the league to hit dingers.

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yarnivek1972
Jul 07 2017 10:11 AM

Sano nearly got voted in to start.  Clearly fans know who he is.

 

 

I find it funny that Minute Maid Park is now considered pitcher friendly.  Did they do something to change it?  When it opened it was officially called Enron Field, but derisively called "Ten Run" or Homerun" Field.

 

I suspect the change in it's factor has more to do with an improved pitching staff.

    • Doomtints and bighat like this

 

He hit 5, didn't make it out of the first round.

I stand corrected. Must have confused him with Morneau. 

    • glunn likes this

I think Sano will have his hands full with Mike "Juice-stakas".Going up against the 2017 version of Brady Anderson is a tough way to start the competition. 

 

Moustakas has hit 25 HR this year so far.His previous high for a season is 22 (2015).He hit 15 in 2014 and 12 in 2013. Something smells very rotten here.

I despise the HR derby and hope Sano pulls out. (He won't)
It wrecks young players swings for quite some time after the derby.

 

I despise the HR derby and hope Sano pulls out. (He won't)
It wrecks young players swings for quite some time after the derby.

I don't despise it, but I do worry about a possible injury or after-effects.

 

I despise the HR derby and hope Sano pulls out. (He won't)
It wrecks young players swings for quite some time after the derby.

 

That's just a myth. Most contestants are having an above normal season when entering the derby and they just even out in the second half of the season to their career norms. 

    • jimmer likes this

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