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Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Third Base

A weighty issue. A giant question mark. An elephant in the room.

Whatever hackneyed wordplay you want to use, Miguel Sano is a radiating source of mystery in Minnesota Twins camp, and his enigmatic aura extends to the position he inhabits.
Image courtesy of Kim Klement, USA Today
Projected Starter: Miguel Sano
Likely Backup: Eduardo Escobar

Depth: Ehire Adrianza, Erick Aybar, Taylor Featherston
Prospects: Travis Blankenhorn, Andrew Bechtold, Jose Miranda

THE GOOD

It's all too easy to forget now, but just eight short months ago, Sano was the lone All Star rep from Minnesota's lineup. By the break, he already had 21 home runs with an OPS over 900, solidifying his status as long-term cog in the Twins infield.

Though clearly playing above his listed weight of 260 pounds, he still respectably held his own at third base, making the majority of routine plays and occasionally flashing excellence with his cannon arm.

Sano is an incredible talent. Let's not lose sight of that. He launched a pair of leisurely home runs on Friday in his sixth game of the spring, and that kind of thing should still be the expectation. If he's in the lineup, he's going to be a major threat. Even with his downslide after the All-Star break last year, the 24-year-old was on pace for 37 home runs before going down with a shin injury in August. With 71 career dingers in the books before age 25, he's on a rare pace.

There are forces working against Sano – some of his own making, others not. But he is young enough to overcome them and put them in the rear view mirror. If it's always darkest before the dawn, then perhaps we're on the verge of a true breakthrough, which in Sano's case would simply mean a full season's worth of games (he's yet to play more than 116 in an MLB campaign) while realizing his 40 HR, 100+ RBI potential.

In the event that Sano needs to miss time due to a suspension, setback with his leg, or some other affliction, the Twins are blessed with a pretty strong fallback option. Eduardo Escobar filled in brilliantly at the hot corner last year after the starter went down, slugging .529 with 10 bombs to basically mirror Sano's prodigious power output.

Escobar finished with a .758 OPS overall, and has slashed .257/.304/.413 over the past four seasons. He's a better contingency than most teams have behind their best hitter, and his presence has been a big factor in mitigating the sense of alarm around Sano's ambiguity.

THE BAD

Optimism aside, the alarm is well warranted. Sano has an assault investigation floating over his head, a steel rod in his shin, and plenty of skeptics surrounding him in the organization. Those might include his manager.

Always measured in his words, Paul Molitor conveyed some leeriness when talking to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press last month:

“I think the trend has been [Sano's] figuring some things out; some things have been a little harder to get through to him,” Molitor said. “At times I’ve tried to involve people that might be able to provide a voice that will penetrate. We’re just trying to get him to see the bigger picture.

“He loves to play. It’s all in front of him. He, as much as anyone in that clubhouse, wants what’s in front of him, but I’m not sure he understands what is required to reap those rewards — of competing, winning, financial security, taking care of his family. We’re trying."

Such sentiments toward Sano are nothing new, but it was easier to be sympathetic when he was a 22-year-old rookie. Today he's a 25-year-old who's shown up at camp with – in the kindest possible phrasing of his general manager – a "generous carriage." According to Pat Reusse, Sano is rumored to have weighed in this spring at 293 lbs.

Where would that heft rank among all major-league players? It's almost impossible to say, given the sweeping inaccuracy of official listings (again, MLB's site still has Sano at 260), but I think we can safely say he's among the top handful of players. There's not likely a larger fielder outside of first base in the game.

This isn't a knock against his all-around outlook as a big-leaguer, because I happen to believe that Sano can be a monster hitter even at three bucks, but the reality is that he's on the verge of becoming untenable at third base. A certain spryness requisite to the position becomes elusive for a man so large.

Barring a reversal in physical development, which might be unrealistic given his genetic makeup, Sano appears destined for DH. The question is when. Minnesota's front office is hoping he can hold out as long as possible, because right now the system is thin on replacements.

Yes, Escobar can fill in short-term. But he's eligible for free agency after this season. And the next in line behind him as a legit starting option at the position is... well, completely unclear. A trio of recent high draft picks stand out as the brightest long-term hopes: 2015 third-rounder Travis Blankenhorn (21), 2016 second-rounder Jose Miranda (19) and 2017 fifth-rounder Andrew Bechtold (21). But none will be arriving anytime soon.

So suffice to say it would be really nice if Sano could hold it down at third for at least a couple more years. Which might help explain why the Twins haven't really entertained the idea of moving him off the position, and in fact delayed any possibility of such an outcome by signing Logan Morrison.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It's all about Sano. If he can make a statement by proving himself healthy and at least serviceable defensively, the Twins will be more than happy to stick with him at third indefinitely. Sano's agility has always been better than you'd expect for his size, so maybe he'll surprise us even at this weight.

More likely, he'll need to put in work and slim down a bit to remain viable at the hot corner, but that's a perfectly feasible scenario. It's important to keep in mind that he was extremely limited in his ability to condition this past offseason. To pin the lack of weight loss on disinterest would be ignorant.

If things go amiss for the star slugger this season, Escobar provides a solid security valve, for now. After 2018, the front office may need to look at building out some better long-term depth at the position. Hopefully someone like Blankenhorn or Bechtold can take a big step forward.

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77 Comments

Weight is an issue for everyone.I fight it and so do the majority of people.Of course I am not in Sano's league, but it is a difficult problem to address - the decision requires a special commitment, discipline, and diet - more fun to eat a pizza and ice cream.For now he is okay,but as we age it gets more difficult and the impacts add up.His operation should have given him incentive.But I was curious about baseball players and their weight.Of course the NFL has the biggest players, but in baseball I found that Walter Young at 322 pounds is the largest recorded baseball player who played for the Orioles in Sept, 2005.

 

Walter Jumbo Brown was a relief pitcher "He led the National League in saves in 1940-41. He also posted ERA’s of 3.42 and 3.32- the 2nd and 3rd best of his career." https://superbasebal...r-of-all-time/  Of course CC Sabathia, before his recent weight loss might have pushed for this record if the teams really listed their actual weight.And Jonathon Broxton of the Reds - at 300 pounds on a 6' 4" frame. 

​And then there is Pablo Sandoval who also plays 3B and Prince Fielder and his dad, who burned out young at 1B. Adam Dunn was another power biggy - at 287.He had a 14 year career which is nice for any player.

 

And I did not realize that former Twin - Carlos Silva was 280 pounds.I do not remember any articles about him and his weight.https://www.sporting...in-the-mlb.aspx

 

Baseball can forgive fatness, but the heart and body eventually pay a price and that is the most important thing to remember. 

    • MN_ExPat likes this

 

 

Some people have suggested moving Sano to 1B, but I see 3B as more ideal – we need very good fielders at 1B more than at 3B – 1B touch the ball way more often than 3B do. Sano is at least average and has a great arm at 3B, something that would be wasted if he moved to 1B. DH is probably his final destination in MLB.

 

Not really. The delta between a bad and a good 1B is tiny, at least that's what the data implies at the stat's driven sites, and what they've typed up in many articles and answers in threads. 

 

I am not worried about Sano yet, in terms of on field play.

 

As for the backups/pipeline.....it's not pretty unless they move a SS, which did not seem to be addressed here at all. 

    • MN_ExPat and DannySD like this
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SgtSchmidt11
Mar 12 2018 10:28 AM

 

Concur, concur, concur. This team (until this year with Morrison) doesn't sign power hitters. He's the first power hitter they've developed since Morneau. And people can't ship him out of town quick enough...

I also think he'll be an All-Star again, and come close to 40 HRs.

Josh Willingham?

I'm a little concerned that there's not another prospect that could be ready to step in at 3B in the next two years. Because I think it's fair to be concerned about Sano's ability to stick at the position or in the organization and Escobar isn't a young guy any longer. People are worried about organizational depth at catcher; I'm worried about it at 3B. Right now, none of the middle infield prospects we have starting to claw their way up the ranks look like contenders to shift over there, and our best prospect looks to be a) several years away, and B) hardly a sure thing. (I'm rooting like hell for Blankenhorn, but he's got some things to work on)

 

For this season, we're in excellent shape. Next year? Two years from now? the poundage isn't the only weight resting on Sano.

    • Nick Nelson, Mike Sixel and howieramone2 like this

 

Concur, concur, concur. This team (until this year with Morrison) doesn't sign power hitters. He's the first power hitter they've developed since Morneau. And people can't ship him out of town quick enough...

I also think he'll be an All-Star again, and come close to 40 HRs.

I want Sano to get into better shape.I want him to play the position that maximizes his value to the Twins for as long as possible.That position is third base.I also want Sano to play more than 120 games this season, ideally around 150.As long as he is in the lineup, he will crush dingers.That's the easy part for him.  

 

I don't see anyone trying to "Ship him out of town."And I see zero issue with wanting to see the best possible Miguel Sano at the position that maximizes his worth to the team.

    • ken likes this
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howieramone2
Mar 12 2018 11:10 AM

 

I'm a little concerned that there's not another prospect that could be ready to step in at 3B in the next two years. Because I think it's fair to be concerned about Sano's ability to stick at the position or in the organization and Escobar isn't a young guy any longer. People are worried about organizational depth at catcher; I'm worried about it at 3B. Right now, none of the middle infield prospects we have starting to claw their way up the ranks look like contenders to shift over there, and our best prospect looks to be a) several years away, and :cool: hardly a sure thing. (I'm rooting like hell for Blankenhorn, but he's got some things to work on)

 

For this season, we're in excellent shape. Next year? Two years from now? the poundage isn't the only weight resting on Sano.

I'm more concerned with 3B also. He's only 19, but I can see Wander Javier being moved over to 3B to make room for Lewis.

    • gunnarthor likes this

 

As for the backups/pipeline.....it's not pretty unless they move a SS, which did not seem to be addressed here at all. 

Agreed.That's why it wouldn't shock me that, when contemplating signing Dozier, it would cross the FO minds to consider whether Dozier could be moved to 3rd...assuming they love Gordon and see Mauer with a different role.

 

I have no idea if that's a viable consideration at this point...but the bat plays there (currently anyway), and he's played a ton of professional baseball on the left side, including his first 83 games with the big club.I seem to recall that his move from SS to 2B was based on range, not arm.(I could be wrong.)

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Nick Nelson
Mar 12 2018 12:17 PM

 

"It's important to keep in mind that he was extremely limited in his ability to condition this past offseason. To pin the lack of weight loss on disinterest would be ignorant." So that's why Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson managed to stay in shape despite leg injuries -- they were ignorant? What does your shin have to do with how much you eat? Apparently I am ignorant too.

People are going to believe what they want on this subject. I'll just say this much: Peterson and (my goodness ESPECIALLY) Bridgewater are not built like Miguel Sano. Genetically he is simply a big kid, and his size fuels his incredible power.

 

Also, his rumored weigh-in this spring (per Reusse) is about the same as his exit physical in 2017 so it's not like he has added weight. It's just hard to lose a ton when you're unable to put in the physical conditioning work. 

    • h2oface and KirbyDome89 like this

Sano is heavier, shorter and arguably slower than Kennys Vargas. I'm not joking or exaggerating. Statcast's 2017 sprint speed has Sano at 26.9mph and Vargas at 26.6mph. Vargas has dropped weight and worked on his conditioning. Sano has gained and not been working out. Would anybody here suggest moving Kennys Vargas to 3B?

 

I've never seen Vargas throw so I don't know as Vargas has a cannon arm or anything, but lets be realistic of Sano's potential to play a full season at 3B without dropping 50lbs regardless of whether or not a fan watching a video thinks Sano looks good or is hiding his weight well.

 

Would anybody here suggest moving Kennys Vargas to 3B?

 

 

Of course not. Vargas isn't a third baseman. Sano, on the other hand, is. And he's played there, fairly well defensively, so far in his career. 

    • Brock Beauchamp, Mike Sixel, Twins33 and 1 other like this
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Deduno Abides
Mar 12 2018 01:04 PM
In addition to fitness and conduct concerns, Sano has strikeout and fielding issues. He needs to prioritize his fitness so he can maximize the opportunity to work on those. Sure, he’s got prodigious power, but so does Mark Reynolds. If Sano can’t work on his fitness when he’s injured, then it will be hard for him to work on his fielding and batting eye.
    • flyin fin likes this

 

It's not just Sano's extra weight that worries me. It's what that weight will do to his feet, ankles, knees, etc. Every step he takes with fifty extra pounds on his belt is a much heavier step, much greater impact. He will get injured carrying that much weight. 

Why do I get the feeling that everybody upvoting my comment knows what it's like to have sore feet from being overweight? ;-)

Like me, of course...

 

 

 There's not likely a larger fielder outside of first base in the game.

 

 

Aaron Judge listed at 282; he is larger.

 

Adam Dunn played OF well into the end of his career.He was listed at 285.

 

Matter of fact, now that Lynn is onboard Sano is not the largest player in the Twins as well.Nor was he last season; Colon was.But for some reason, Colon's weight was "cute".As was Puckett's and Newman's for some reason...

I just don't get the bias against Sano.Let's see what he does at the field and then start being critical.

 

    • Brock Beauchamp, Mike Sixel, h2oface and 3 others like this

 

Maybe. Escobar is a UFA after this season. And if I've learned anything this offseason, it's to not offer long term contracts to players entering their decline phase. So that would eliminate 30 year old Escobar in 2019...

 

I understand this sentiment, but, assuming the Twins won't be in on the Machado sweepstakes - and he wants to play SS anyway, Escobar and Marwin Gonzalez are going to be the youngest UFA 3Bs in their market (both in their age 30 seasons). A three year deal buys years 30-32.Gonzalez is probably going to cost a lot more.

 

With Escobar's positional flexibility, he could easily slide back to a swiss-army-knife role in the last year of that 3 year deal, if a younger player was pushing for the 3B role and decline was starting to set in.

    • Riverbrian and Vanimal46 like this
The weights not really an issue for me. He’s still young and those sort of things don’t catch up to you for years, Prince Fielder. By then he’ll be playing for some other team on a free agent deal.
    • Riverbrian likes this
If you look at the weight distribution on Sano, most of it is in his Sequoia sized legs and his Paul Bunyan sized shoulders and chest. He doesn't have the Kennys Vargas build at all. When Vargas moves, he looks stiff. Sano has some fluidity and flexibility in the field too. Sure, he could stand to loose some weight, but he didn't look bad at all titanium rod in his leg and all.) As for the 3B of the future; I think it'll be Bechtold that surprises some this year and he starts breaking into the Top 10 Prospects in the organization discussions by mid-season. That kid has a tremendous eye at the plate, a terrific hit tool, great defense, and can steal a base (24 in the season we drafted him). He's 21 and will enter his first minor league full season this year. Could be a sleeper to move up quickly in the system in spite of the Javier's, Lewis', etc. Oh....and he's my 2018 AAP so I may be a little biased.
    • Thrylos, TheLeviathan, bluechipper and 2 others like this
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Nick Nelson
Mar 12 2018 02:46 PM

 

Aaron Judge listed at 282; he is larger.

 

Adam Dunn played OF well into the end of his career.He was listed at 285.

 

Matter of fact, now that Lynn is onboard Sano is not the largest player in the Twins as well.Nor was he last season; Colon was.But for some reason, Colon's weight was "cute".As was Puckett's and Newman's for some reason...

I just don't get the bias against Sano.Let's see what he does at the field and then start being critical.

Ok, so you've named one player who might weigh more (and is also 3-4 inches taller) and another who retired three years ago and was a notorious atrocity defensively.

 

I said "fielders" in the excerpt you quoted, so Lynn and Colon aren't relevant. Also I suggest taking a look at some pictures of Puckett and Newman when they were Sano's age before bringing them up in this conversation. Not comparable cases. 

    • Carole Keller likes this

 

I'm more concerned with 3B also. He's only 19, but I can see Wander Javier being moved over to 3B to make room for Lewis.

I have been thinking about Rooker, though I know little about his defensive abilities.

 

Any talk about trading him doesn't bother me at all because I know that Falvine is way too smart to even think about trading him. He is already Big Papi-like in size, stats, and charisma. He is at least adequate at 3B and his bat offsets any deficiencies he may have defensively. If he is hitting in the 9th inning in a noncompetitive game, I'm sticking around to watch him hit. I would Buxton also, but who else generates that much excitement for Twins fans?

 

We'd all feel much better if he took better care of himself, but we felt the same way about Hrbek and Puckett and they turned out okay. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt that the metal in his leg prevented him from working out like he wanted to and when healthy he will tip the scales at a number we all can live with. Many of us still have nightmares that we gave up on Papi. IMO Sano is much too valuable and exciting to trade him for anything short of one of the top 15-20 SP in baseball. I hope and expect he's at 3B for at least another 3-5 years.

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TheLeviathan
Mar 12 2018 03:29 PM

I want Sano to get into better shape. I want him to play the position that maximizes his value to the Twins for as long as possible. That position is third base. I also want Sano to play more than 120 games this season, ideally around 150. As long as he is in the lineup, he will crush dingers. That's the easy part for him.

I don't see anyone trying to "Ship him out of town." And I see zero issue with wanting to see the best possible Miguel Sano at the position that maximizes his worth to the team.


We all want this for all of our players, but only Sano gets villified to such a degree.

I appreciate those in this thread who point out the three simple facts that matter: Sano is a ferocious power hitter, the team needs his ability, and he has been a capable fielder.

Some who want him to be Villain #1 might be wise to remember that.
    • Carole Keller, Thrylos, gunnarthor and 2 others like this

 

We all want this for all of our players, but only Sano gets villified to such a degree.

I appreciate those in this thread who point out the three simple facts that matter: Sano is a ferocious power hitter, the team needs his ability, and he has been a capable fielder.

Some who want him to be Villain #1 might be wise to remember that.

Name me any other Twins players on the verge of being moved off their most valuable position based on their lack of conditioning & I will light them up just the same.  

 

Concur, concur, concur. This team (until this year with Morrison) doesn't sign power hitters. He's the first power hitter they've developed since Morneau. And people can't ship him out of town quick enough...

I also think he'll be an All-Star again, and come close to 40 HRs.

 

Team leaders questioned a young Morneau's maturity too. I don't remember the pitchforks coming for him.

 

(I understand that Morneau didn't have an MLB investigation at the time, but people were saying this stuff before that news broke as well.)

 

    • Vanimal46 likes this
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TheLeviathan
Mar 12 2018 03:41 PM

Name me any other Twins players on the verge of being moved off their most valuable position based on their lack of conditioning & I will light them up just the same.


No threads here blasted Glen Perkins like this. Certainly not with the intensity and frequency. Nor did our favorite local Sano basher. (Reusse)

And his move from 3B seems entirely driven by speculation of TD posters, so Im not sure what value that really has other than a self-created reason to attack our best player.
    • Carole Keller, Thrylos, gunnarthor and 2 others like this


No threads here blasted Glen Perkins like this. Certainly not with the intensity and frequency. Nor did our favorite local Sano basher. (Reusse)

And his move from 3B seems entirely driven by speculation of TD posters, so Im not sure what value that really has other than a self-created reason to attack our best player.

Blasted Perkins for what? He injured his arm. You’re either in the lineup or you’re not. Hard to help the team from the sidelines. Same as it’s hard to be a team’s best player only playing 120 games a season.

 

Statcast's 2017 sprint speed has Sano at 26.9mph and Vargas at 26.6mph. Vargas has dropped weight and worked on his conditioning. Sano has gained and not been working out. Would anybody here suggest moving Kennys Vargas to 3B?

You mean feet per second...

 

This is a great example of bias based on what a player looks like.You assume (you are not the only one...not close to the only one) that these times are slow because these guys are so large.

 

26.9 fps is in the top half of speed for ML third-basemen.In fact, 26.9 is close to the average speed for MLB overall...all positions.(Incidentally, Vargas's time is easily in the top half for first-basemen.)

 

Not that strait-line sprint speed has much to do with playing a quality 1B or 3B.

 

https://www.mlb.com/...ion/c-238290228

 

    • Thrylos and Broker like this

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