Miguel Sano: A Fading Superstar
Image courtesy of © David Richard-USA TODAY SportsAge Questions
Back in 2012, one of the first pieces I wrote for Twins Daily examined the questions surrounding Miguel Sano’s age. MLB completed an investigation into his age, but the results were inconclusive. Sano had to drop his asking price and the Twins were happy to sign the young shortstop for $3.15 million. His family lived in a small dirt floored home in the Dominican, so the influx in money had to be a shock to the system.
In that original article, I wrote…
“For players from the Dominican, there is plenty of pressure to find some way to lie about their age to escape the poverty they are subject to in their home country. According to Sports Illustrated on average, a 16-year old player brings in about $65,000 with their signing bonus. Add two years to their age and an 18-year old signs for an average of $20,000. That is a big difference in a country where the per capita income is only $8,900. A player who shows any sign of promise is going to try and ‘adjust’ their age to put their family in a better place for the future.”
The age issue hasn’t been brought up in recent years and that’s probably a good thing for Twins Territory. His age certainly didn’t take away from his high expectations entering the minor leagues.
Baseball America had Sano ranked in their top-100 prospects for five consecutive seasons (2010-2014). He ranked as the number nine prospect in 2014 and peaked as the number six overall prospect in 2014. MLB.com had him as the 4th best prospect in 2014 while Baseball Prospectus had him just outside the top-10 (11th). Most of the baseball world expected him to turn into one of baseball’s best players.
Sano made his Stateside debut in 2011 and he had a breakout year in Elizabethton. In 66 games, he collected 45 extra-base hits and had a .988 OPS. Out of Appalachian League players (minimum of 45 game), only Eddie Rosario had a higher OPS than Sano. He would head into the off-season as the team’s highest-ranked prospect.
Over the next four seasons, Sano continued to pound minor league pitching. He combined for an .893 OPS in 2012, a .992 OPS in 2013, and a .918 OPS in 2015. The only thing that was able to slow him down was Tommy John surgery and that cost him the entire 2014 season.
He made his big-league debut in 2015 and there was still potential for him to be a superstar.
Big League Career
During a strong rookie campaign, Sano burst onto the scene with 36 extra-base hits and a .916 OPS in 80 games. He finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Houston’s Carlos Correa and Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor.
In 2016, Sano ran into a little bit of a sophomore slump. He still his 25 home runs and 22 doubles, but his OPS dropped to .781 and he struck out 178 times in 116 games. He was elected to his first All-Star Game in 2017 following a tremendous first half (21 HR and a .906 OPS). He cooled off a little in the second half as he only managed 10 extra-base hits and a .742 OPS in 32 games.
MLB had to investigate Sano multiple times in 2018 but this time it wasn’t about his age. He was accused of sexual assault by a Twins photographer. The Office of the Commission of Baseball concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant a suspension. Sano was also driving a car when it ran over a police officer in the Dominican Republic. In traffic court, the police found no intent on his part to hurt the officer.
Some of these incidents might have impacted his performance last year. In 71 games, he hit .199/.281/.398 with 27 extra-base hits. Minnesota even sent him down to High-A to try to reset his career.
Sano is certainly putting up strong numbers this season with a 1.009 OPS in his first 14 games. However, I don’t know if he should be seen in the same light as he was when he was signed as a 16-year old. At that time, he looked like he could be the cornerstone of a franchise, a player to be built around.
Now, the perspective has changed. He seems like he could be a good player, but I don’t think he is a player the Twins will build around. Sano had the potential to be a superstar and he could still surprise in the years ahead. That being said, it’s more likely his superstar potential is slowly fading away.
Do you think Sano can still be considered a superstar? Would you build future Twins rosters around him? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.