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Sano Turning an Important Corner

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 12 February 2019 · 1,295 views

minnesota twins miguel sano
Miguel Sano enters the 2019 Major League Baseball season as one half of the Minnesota Twins largest question mark. The front office has tied the upcoming schedule to the production of both Sano and Byron Buxton. Needing to rebound from his worst year as a professional, it seems that an important development has taken place for the former top prospect. Commitment and accountability appear evident in a new report, and that’s always been the biggest question for the Dominican Native.

Recently the Star Tribune’s LaVelle E. Neal penned a piece on possible extension candidates for the Twins. Within the writing he noted that the Minnesota third basemen has lost 25 pounds, which would comfortably put him in the 265-275 range. At 6’4” he’s still a very large human being, but there’s no denying that it’s a more doable number and a development that should only relieve pressure on the titanium rod inserted into his leg. For this writer though, it’s never been about the weight.

Despite being signed as a shortstop, Sano bulked up and moved off the position quickly. He only continued to grow and add size as he progressed through the minors, and while much of that was muscle mass, the weight became an issue in recent years. Instructed by the Twins to take conditioning more seriously, in hopes of seeing a bump in production and renewed focus from the player, Sano failed to take the direction as anything more than advice. Despite being looked at as a key cornerstone, and knowing the investment made in him, the 25-year-old simply ignored his employer’s demands. With a trip back to Single-A and a .679 OPS in his rear-view mirror, the former All Star appears he’s finally had enough.

Obviously, there are physical limitations to what is realistically acceptable for a high-performing athlete to adhere to, but from purely a weight standpoint I could care less. What has always seemed most important from Sano is that he buy into the vision the organization has for him and believe in their process to get the most out of himself. After posting a .916 OPS in his rookie season, the .859 OPS during his All-Star campaign left room for improvement. Strikeouts are always going to be a part of a power hitters’ profile, but a consistent command of the strike zone and the ability to punish misses needs to be a key focus. Turning 26 in 2019, staving off a shift across the diamond or to a designated hitter role is also an integral piece of the puzzle.

So where does this all leave us in the year ahead? If process drives results, the fact that Miguel has committed to a conditioning program (and more importantly his employer’s wishes), suggests he’s on board with believing there’s more in the tank. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have him slated for just a .752 OPS. Obviously that number doesn’t account for his injury or the ramifications of his 2018 output. Using that as a baseline however, I’d like to bet on the over.

At his best, Sano is a monster in the batter’s box. He punished baseballs with a hard-hit rate north of 44%. Fly balls leave the yard over a quarter of the time, and he chases out of the zone less than 25% while also missing under 15% of the time. That profile doesn’t work for everyone, but a player having the strength and slugging ability that this one does, it’s a perfect storm of relevancy.

On top of his own decisions this winter, Miguel may find accountability in the form of a clubhouse confidant for 2019. 38-year-old countryman Nelson Cruz joins the Twins fold for the year ahead. He was never a top prospect and didn’t truly debut until he was 28 years old. With more than enough wisdom to his credit, imparting learned principles on Sano could be a valuable development that holds weight well beyond whatever time they spend competing together.

As a new manager, Rocco Baldelli’s greatest accomplishment in the year ahead is going to be how well he can connect with and what he can generate out of his expected stars. Right now, it seems like the one playing the infield is catching up to the one in the outfield as far as desire is concerned, and that’s more than half of the battle.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • NoCryingInBaseball, RaymondLuxuryYacht, howieramone2 and 1 other like this

I agree that the weight is a symptom, not the problem. The problem is he hasn't taken anything seriously so far. You can see that he usually is having a ton of fun out on the field. I love that. But he'll need to also start listening to others and developing dedication and discipline for his craft. If/when he does that, I'll be very much a buyer on Miguel.