Questions About Miguel Sanó's Return
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsHow is Sanó going to return?
Nobody can know for sure which Sanó the Twins will get when he returns. In 2017, everybody believed he had had his breakout season and was bound to be the stud of the lineup. In early August of that year, though, shortly after an All-Star Game appearance, he was hit in the shin and was sidelined for the better part of the remainder of the season. He got back in late September, but Paul Molitor chose not to put him on the wild card roster.
He had surgery in November of that year to insert a permanent titanium rod into the shinbone and was expected to be ready to play by spring training. Well, he barely was. Sanó could only start his spring participation in the last day of February. Plus, he reported to camp a bit out of shape, which caused some concern among some fans. In spite of all that, he was cleared to open the season with the team.
Then, maybe because of his conditioning or perhaps because he wasn’t confident enough to be back at that point because of his procedure, he developed a new injury during the first full month of regular season. In early May he was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain. At that point, it was clear that he was not even a little bit close to the All-Star he had been months earlier. Even though he posted a not terrible .739 OPS and hit five home runs, he was batting only .212 and struck out 36 times in 90 plate appearances, which represented a 40.0 K%, a league-worst among all major league hitters with that many PA.
He got back from the DL and things only got worse. His first game out of the DL was on May 25th and he went on to play another 17 games. In that span, he had 73 PA, batted .191 and struck out even more than before, a 41.1 K%. Before the middle of June he was optioned to Single-A Fort Myers, where he spent the rest of June and almost the entire month of July. He returned to MLB in late July for a third stint, but it was basically all of the same. His K% dropped to 36% during the 34 remaining games of his season and he batted only .195 with six home runs.
After by far his worst season as a major leaguer, Sanó was poised to turn things around. He started his path to redemption by playing for his hometown club Estrellas Orientales to claim its first national title of the Dominican Winter League since 1968. He made some Instagram posts in which he was much thinner than what he had been when he finished last season and raised a lot of questions. But when he showed up at camp this year all the suspicions were confirmed. It was reported that he had lost roughly 25 pounds, after finishing 2018 at 290 pounds, according to MLB.com.
But apparently he couldn’t just catch a break. During the celebrations of his hometown team title, Sanó suffered a heel laceration. At first, he was expected to miss only the first week of spring training, but he ended up missing the whole thing. Since the healing of the wound didn’t go according to plan, he needed to undergo a procedure that would most likely have him sidelined until May.
Which brings us to today and our first question: how will Sanó come back from all this? Will the Twins have the same 2018 version of him? After all, he did miss out on the entire spring training and hasn’t seen actual everyday activity for months. Some might be scared that he will have this year the same kind of year that Ervin Santana had last year. It would be terrible for us fans to witness that, but even worse for Sanó himself.
On the other hand, what if none of those setbacks were able to break his spirits? What if he was hungry enough to prove himself that he dedicated himself twice as much? What if, instead of having an Ervin Santana’s 2018-like year he will destroy all the skepticism, like his teammate Byron Buxton is doing right now? That could turn the Twins lineup into an even scarier threat.
If he struggles, what should be done?
Let us work with all the scenarios now. Say he struggles when he comes back. What then? Do you trade him? Do you give him another chance? Each fan would have his own opinion here, so it would be difficult to predict a definite outcome. A number of fans are looking at this year as Sanó’s last chance in Minnesota and if he comes back in May and doesn’t play at the same level that the Twins hitters are playing right now, I don’t see a lot of those fans wanting him around.
In his defense, you could say that Marwin Gonzalez, the Twins current everyday third baseman, is not hitting nearly as well as most of the lineup. But he is providing stellar defense. It would be a very tough decision. So, do you try to work out a trade involving him? I guess many people would try that, but it’s hard to imagine a lot of teams interested in Sanó if he doesn’t play well enough during the two months before the trade deadline.
In that case, I believe that the preferred way to go for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine would be to keep him within the organization, especially because he has got one minor league option remaining. There’s no point in letting him go in exchange for nothing. I think it would be wise to take into consideration the fact that a lot that has happened to him earlier this year wasn’t really in his control.
If he plays well, what should be done?
Moving to a more optimistic scenario now. Let’s imagine he has a slow start, but then catches up with the slugfest Twins hitters have been having lately. Do you give him the everyday job? Do you have him share PA’s with Gonzalez and Willians Astudillo at third, or Nelson Cruz at DH?
All those questions are impossible to answer, but let’s imagine La Tortuga’s batting average never drops. Let’s imagine Cruz keeps up the incredible season he’s having. Who do you have? If you make him the everyday 3B, what do you do with the loss on defense, since you won’t have Gonzalez there that much? I’m sure that if Cruz doesn’t slow down, it will be a rarity to see him have more than one or two days off every week.
In the Astudillo end, things aren’t any easier. If Mitch Garver keeps feasting on opposing pitchers the way he is right now (even better than Astudillo, as of late), you won’t have the option to give him some PA at third, because now you have Sanó’s old self and Gonzalez’ defense. Rocco Baldelli and his staff would have to come up with a way in which they would provide all those hitters with regular PA, in order not to affect their productivity. That would be a pickle.
If he does play well, who’s the odd man out?
I believe that if the Twins had anything close to a 2017-like Sanó, no one would think twice about who would be the one to be dropped: Ehire Adrianza. Even nowadays, seeing very little playing time, it’s hard to imagine he will stick around long. But that’s not the hard question here. If you have a good, healthy Sanó and a four-man bench, who’s the odd man out if the club finds itself in need of a thirteenth arm during the season?
A 13-man pitching staff has already become the normal around the league. Do the Twins dare to go with twelve, if all the bats are working? That, to me, is the hardest question so far. And it becomes even harder to think of an answer, if you imagine the Martín Pérez experience not panning out the way the front office planned. If he struggles as a starter, you risk overloading the pitching staff too much if they are carrying twelve arms. Assuming all of them are performing as well as they are right now in this hypothetical future, who do you let go of among Astudillo, Garver, Gonzalez and Jake Cave, the Twins only backup outfielder?
Have your way on the comment section and give your opinion. What would you do?
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