What If Miguel Is Really Kyle?
Image courtesy of © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsIn 2016, Schwarber played a whopping two games for the Cubbies. Coming back from injury, he was handed five plate appearances to round out the regular season. Turning in zero hits, he was put on the shelf as somewhat of a secret weapon. Despite not playing in any other rounds of the postseason, Joe Madden turned him loose in the World Series.
Across five games and 17 at-bats, Schwarber posted a .412/.500/.471 slash line in the Fall Classic. As the DH for over half the series (thanks to the American League hosting and having the sensible rule), Schwarber was able to make an impact on the series that was felt throughout the country. While at that moment, his value was at it's peak over his short time in the big leagues, it wasn't unsubstantiated either.
A year prior, in his rookie season, Schwarber posted an .842 OPS for the Cubs. While not hitting for a glowing average, he showed he could get on base, and the power would play through his bat. Sixteen homers in his first 69 big league games was something to write home about, and Chicago obviously had something, even if it wasn't a catcher.
Despite there being a hangover of excitement from the World Series, it immediately hit me that Schwarber wouldn't be best suited for any role he could play with the Cubs. Void of the designated hitter, Chicago would have to play him in the outfield, a position in which he posted a -9 DRS a season ago. Maximizing on his immediate success, and knowing Chicago was set to be needing pitching, it stood to reason that there was an opportunity.
Obviously we know how that story played out. Schwarber is still a Cub, and Chicago will need some big pitching performances to regain their elite status atop the National League in 2018. With a .782 OPS a year ago, Schwarber has been documented as being in "the best shape of his life" this offseason due to a strenuous workout regimen. Although he still looks every bit an American League DH to me, that ship has probably sailed for the time being.
Tying in Miguel Sano, it's been widely reported that his name has been floated in trade talks. There's no denying Sano is a game changing player for the Minnesota Twins. Coming off an All-Star appearance, and a trajectory that had him on pace for the team MVP through the better part of the year, Sano is one of the best young players in baseball. Despite having a rod inserted into his shin, I think the bigger question is what does he project as going forward?
Finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting following the 2015 season, Minnesota's slugging third basemen had a .916 OPS to hang his hat on. Through his first 310 big league games, he's already clubbed 71 homers, and his career .348 OBP is a clear message that you should stop worrying about his strikeouts. On paper, everything that Miguel Sano is lines up to a perennial all-star, and a game changing player for an organization (namely the Twins).
What isn't determined on paper however, is what the future holds. A year ago, Sano posted a -5 DRS in just shy of 700 innings at the hot corner. Among qualified third basemen, that would've been 16th, ahead of only Mike Moustakas (-8), Jake Lamb (-13) and Nick Castellanos (-14). The caveat to those numbers, is that each of them played at least 1,090 innings in the field.
Although Sano wasn't an abomination at third last year, the reality is that he's limited with his range, and his arm has to make up for a significant amount of what he lacks. Whether health or physical stature remains intact going forward, both the eye test and the analytics suggest that there's little room for error before a position change comes knocking. That ends up leading us to this point: Is a first base or designated hitting version of Sano worth moving away from in trade for an impact starter in an organization starving for them?
That question is the one that both Thad Levine and Derek Falvey will have to answer. I do believe that Miguel Sano has a significant impactful big league career ahead of him. He's just 24 years old, has elite hard-hit rates, and posted the fifth best HR/FB (27.5%) rate in baseball a year ago. He's the first player in a long time who appears to be able to threaten Harmon Killebrew's records with Minnesota, and that's something to salivate over.
In a vacuum, I'd argue that a power hitting corner infielder (or DH) is more replaceable than a front-line starter. By that measure, dealing Sano for something of fair market value is a proposition that's hard to ignore. My gut says that the Twins hold off making a move however, and the hope would be that years from now, we can look back and call it the right one. I'm not sure that there's any denying the Twins have a Kyle Schwarber opportunity on their hands however, and that the execution of a decision either way could be franchise altering.
- Oldgoat_MN and h2oface like this