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  • For Better or Worse: Miguel Sano

    Following in John’s footsteps, I thought the For Better or Worse series might be fun to bring to a couple of the minor leaguers. Today, we’ll take a look at Minnesota Twins top prospect Miguel Sano. I’ll take a look at his 2012 season, give a few reasons why he could be better in 2013 and a few reasons why he could be worse in 2013. And then at the end of the article, you’ll be asked, “What do you think? Will he be better, or will he be worse?”

    2012 Recap

    Coming off of a 20 home run season in 2011 in short-season Elizabethton, Sano was one of the youngest players in the Midwest League in 2012.

    He began the season as an 18-year-old. He led the league in walks and strikeouts, but he also led the league in home runs.

    He came into the season as the Twins top prospect, and Baseball America ranked him as the 18th best prospect in baseball. He did nothing to lessen his prospect status on the field. In 129 games, he hit .258/.373/.521 (.893) with 28 doubles, four triples, 28 home runs and 100 RBI.

    He made the transition from third base to shortstop full time. He played 125 games at third base and committed 42 errors. His fielding percentage was just .884.

    He was the #1 overall pick in the Dominican Winter League. Although he has not played a lot for Estrellas de Orientes. Although his playing time has been somewhat sporadic, he has had 49 at bats in 20 games. He hit .265/.373/.571 (.944) with three doubles and four home runs.



    Why He’ll Be Worse


    First and foremost, he will be moving up a level to play in Ft. Myers. The Florida State League is more advanced than the Midwest League. He will again be one, if not the, youngest players in the league. Although he has the world of potential, he did strikeout 144 times, or ever 26.0% of his plate appearances. He has tremendous power, but the ball parks in the Florida State League are bigger than in the Midwest League as well.

    Why He’ll Be Better


    In reality, if Sano puts up the same numbers in a more advanced league, that is like an improvement. Sano is an incredible athlete. He’s about 6-3 and assumed to be around 245 pounds. He is like a shorter version of Lebron James. He has tremendous power to all fields. He may hit a few less home runs, but he also could hit a bunch of doubles. Although his strikeout rate is high, observers noted that he seemed to have much better control of the strike zone in 2012 than in 2011. He will need to continue to lay off tough pitches. However, Sano also walked 14.5% of the time in 2012 and had an Isolated Discipline of .115. That said, having Kennys Vargas hitting behind him all season should allow him to see a few more pitches. Sano is huge and powerful, but he is quite fast and runs the bases very well.

    Defensively, Sano had a lot of errors, but he was much improved in the second half. After posting 30 errors in the season’s first half, he had just 12 in the second half. Having seen him play in early June and then again in early August, he looked so much better at the hot corner, much more relaxed, and ready before each pitch. If he would stop growing, he could take big strides with the glove on the immaculate fields in the Florida State League.

    So, which will it be? Will Miguel Sano get better or worse in 2013? Let us know what you think.

    Something to Consider


    In 2002, Joe Mauer spent the entire season in the Midwest League (for Quad Cities). He turned 19 in mid-April. In 2012, Miguel Sano spent the entire season in the Midwest League (for Beloit). He turned 19 in mid-May.

    In 2003, Joe Mauer spent the first half of the season in the Florida State League for Ft. Myers. He then spent the second half in New Britain. The Twins traded AJ Pierzynski following the season so that Joe Mauer could be their Opening Day starting catcher in 2004, at the age of 20.

    Is it possible, in your mind, that Miguel Sano could be on the same path? If he starts the season in Ft. Myers and plays in New Britain in the second half, could he be the Twins Opening Day starting third baseman in 2014, at the age of 20?
    This article was originally published in blog: For Better of Worse: Miguel Sano started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 38 Comments
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I don't mind the split between Fort Myers and New Britain, but I think another split between New Britain and Rochester would be due at least until September 2014. Part of this is because of the likely move to first base (and for those who say he should move to the outfield, that involves learning a completely different skill and while he is capable of that, it would slow down everything). And Sano has a good height for 1st base anyway. Let him NOT worry about anything other than first base and smashing the ball. It's pretty simple.
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      To answer your last question, yes it is definitely possible for Sano to pull a Mauer and skip AAA and start. I strongly feel that he will be lucky to make his Major league appearance in 2 years though. His glove is no where near ready to play in the majors and he still could use some work with the bat. He's just not a polished player like mauer, Harper, or even trout were. He very well could put together a great season this year and make the jump to AA.

      My guess is that his strike out rate is higher because he got pitched around often (you know this with your Vargas comment but I just feel like expanding on the idea) in low A and that lead to impatients at the plate. My rough guesstamation for his 2013 stat line (split between A+ and AA) would be .285/.380/.575 (.955). But he could have 20 errors as well which would mean time in AAA to develop his glove.



      Anyone think he will start at any other position than 3rd this year? Which one?
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      "A shorter version of LeBron James"? Maybe a bit of a reach.
    1. Waverley Wildcat's Avatar
      Waverley Wildcat -
      Baseball players progressing through the playing levels in Australia may be looked at differently but they are generally promoted on performance so promotional talk about Sano I find interesting, over the past 2 seasons he has played at 5 & 6 level MLB leagues. His stats show raw power at that level of pitching with many home runs but having a closer look his contact % is not good with more Ks than hits, also he has made some 70 odd errors so where do you field him? The question only the future can tell is will he as the higher competition gets harder perform at a level to deserve promotion on merit not based on being a "No 1 prospect"?
    1. lightfoot789's Avatar
      lightfoot789 -
      Why Not Sano? Only 12 errors in second half of A Ball is promising. A previous article also said he looked much improved and more mature defensively at Instructionals this Fall. He will end up at 3rd - given the solid coaching at the minor league level and eventual maturity of an athletic (19) year old witha strong arm.
      In comparison:
      Derek Jeter Fielding Errors in Minors
      1993 - A Ball - 56 errors
      1994 - A+ thru AAA - 25 errors
      1995 - AAA - 29 errors
      1996 - MLB - 22 errors
      Just saying - Give the kid a chance (Wow)
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I'm of the opinion that the Twins should be in no rush to get Sano here at the expense of moving him to first base. At third, he's much more valuable and if it takes an extra season to find out that he just can't hack it there, so be it. Finding first basemen is easy. Finding third basemen is extremely difficult.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      What is causing him to k so much? is there a certain pitch he struggles with? or adapting to pitch sequences? or pitch placement? I also don't know how much work he needs defensively before he should make the show. But his power is ready now that much is a given.
    1. jwestbrock's Avatar
      jwestbrock -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      "A shorter version of LeBron James"? Maybe a bit of a reach.
      Seth just gave Sano a new nickname. Mauer is Baby Jesus, Sano is Short LeBron.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      "A shorter version of LeBron James"? Maybe a bit of a reach.
      Without as many tattoos? Having stood next to him several times, shaken his hand, the man is a beast. He is strong. No body fat (also, I think, a slight exaggeration). Yet, he is incredibly athletic.
    1. DakotaTwins's Avatar
      DakotaTwins -
      Quote Originally Posted by lightfoot789 View Post
      Why Not Sano? Only 12 errors in second half of A Ball is promising. A previous article also said he looked much improved and more mature defensively at Instructionals this Fall. He will end up at 3rd - given the solid coaching at the minor league level and eventual maturity of an athletic (19) year old witha strong arm.
      In comparison:
      Derek Jeter Fielding Errors in Minors
      1993 - A Ball - 56 errors
      1994 - A+ thru AAA - 25 errors
      1995 - AAA - 29 errors
      1996 - MLB - 22 errors
      Just saying - Give the kid a chance (Wow)
      Comparing someone's fielding abilities to Derek Jeter's is not necessarily a good thing. Unless the ball is hit directly at him.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I definitely think that Short LeBron can stay at 3B, as long as he doesn't get taller! His athleticism, arm and shortstop history will help a lot. I think the big thing with him will be in his head. If he wants to be a good fielder, he can be. It's as much about focus/concentration than anything.

      As for his strikeouts, there are a couple of reasons. I said he was better at laying off of those tough breaking pitches just off the outside corner (remember Torii Hunter in his early years)... I also saw a guy who was trying to be patient at the plate, and sometimes too patient. This is going to sound dumb for a power hitter, but a couple of times I saw him strikeout because his swing at times can get too big, too long.

      I mean, lots of people think he went back to Instructs to work on his defense at 3B, but no one should think he's ready as a hitter yet either.

      I brought up the Mauer timeline comparison, but I do agree with others that say it is unlikely that he would be able to do the same, in large part due to the strikeout rate. Mauer, even at age 19, was able to control the strike zone, take walks while not striking out at lot. His approach and demeanor made it possible for him to be in the big leagues at 20. I don't see that with Sano. Some may be disappointed by that, but if he's ready at 21 or 22, that's still really good. That said, and I hate to over-play anything, he is a special player with special talent, so if he did do it, I wouldn't be completely shocked either.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      I'm a little uncertain what to think at the moment, Seth. I like your writeup here on Sano, but it certainly conflicts with other reports, for instance the Fangraphs notes about instructionals (Reports From Instructs: Miguel Sano | FanGraphs Baseball) which was linked in a previous forum thread.

      From that article:
      Sano’s 6’3, 235 pound frame is still growing but is without shouting distance of what he’ll look like in the big leagues. His hands are okay, but his feet are just not quick enough to play third base. Sano is a below average runner that’s a little better underway and right field or first base look like his positional possibilities. Right field will expose his slow first step more but allow his plus arm to play while first base does the opposite.
      Compared to your:
      Sano is huge and powerful, but he is quite fast and runs the bases very well.

      Defensively, Sano had a lot of errors, but he was much improved in the second half. After posting 30 errors in the season’s first half, he had just 12 in the second half. Having seen him play in early June and then again in early August, he looked so much better at the hot corner, much more relaxed, and ready before each pitch. If he would stop growing, he could take big strides with the glove on the immaculate fields in the Florida State League.
      I mean, those two reports are almost completely contradictory to each other. I'm inclined to lean your way, mostly because I want Sano to stick at 3rd where he's so much more valuable, but tons of people have already written him off as ever being a 3B. As I'm unlikely to ever watch him play until he's actually with the major league team, all I can do is read scouting reports and whatnot, and right now they're all over the place with Sano. About the only thing they agree on is he can crush the ball.

      Anyway, that was mostly a longwinded way of saying, "I don't know."
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Sano did make considerable improvements over the course of the season and I agree with giving him an opportunity to stick at 3B, even if it delays his arrival in Minnesota a year. Frankly, the Twins have several guys in their organization that people seem quick to say will need to be moved to 1B and/or DH. I don't think it will do the 2015-16 Twins much good if they have five 1Bs/DHs, no matter how well those guys hit.

      MWL pitchers definitely pitched around Sano, even when Vargas hit behind him. I have no idea whether that had the effect of Sano getting impatient and swinging at bad pitches or whether he just didn't have a great feel for the strike zone. I'm hoping FSL pitchers will challenge him more and we'll find out. I'm not real worried about the bigger ballparks cutting his HR totals much. I don't think too many of his HRs just eeked over the fence. If his HR totals drop, I suspect it will be due to facing better pitching.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Without as many tattoos? Having stood next to him several times, shaken his hand, the man is a beast. He is strong. No body fat (also, I think, a slight exaggeration). Yet, he is incredibly athletic.
      Have you ever stood next to LeBron James? I think it would change your definition of "incredibly athletic."
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      No way Sano follows the same path Mauer did. The Twins are huge on defense and Mauer had no such concerns coming up through the minors.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Sano will make room at whatever position or level he is ready for or needs to be moved to. I think 2014 will make the Twins decision on whether or not he will stick at 3B since they will have seen him play well over 200 games at the hot corner in full season ball. They should have a pretty good idea if it will work out. I'm alright planning on a full season in Ft Myers but having the flexibility to promote him if it's time.

      The bigger issue is how do you determine if it's time to promote him. He destroyed the midwest league in April but cooled off in May/June. Cooled off is defined by a .775ish OPS... However he was batting .220 and striking out almost 30% of the time. His final two months were probably his most impressive though since he cut his K rate to 22% and cut down on his errors in the field. Very encouraging signs going forward.

      My call is that 2013 is better and the board basically goes ballistic with promote him rants. The Twins finally relent in late July and promote him.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      If Sano does well in Ft. Myers in the spring, bring him up to New Britain in June or July and give him a Sept. callup so he can experience "the show". 2014 he needs to start in Rochester and stay there unless he has real good numbers. I think Twins should leave him at 3B and let him play 2 more years in the minors to improve his defense. Besides, Parmalee looks to be our 1B in 2014 and beyond.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Most 'experts' I read say RF is more likely than 1B, citing that he's athletic enough for it and the fact that his 1 major defensive asset is his arm, which would be wasted at 1B. BUT, there's also a lot more of them saying he's going to stick at 3B now - they've always stated his defensive problems seemed to stem from lack of focus, which he appears to be changing for the better.

      I don't think the FSL is going to kill his power much, it's great enough for the stadiums not to matter.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      I have only seen the Documentary "Pelotero" and some occasional video clips of him going yard. I rely on "you guys" who have actually seen him for my opinion on his defensive ability.

      Having never watched him... The picture being painted isn't rosy... but one thing tells me to stick with him at 3B.

      He was originally a SS from the Dominican Republic. I'm not trying to stereotype at all but a SS in the Dominican Republic tends to have some skill. It's a SS factory down there.

      I'm sure the academy diamond that he played on was fairly well groomed but the majority of fields in the DR are very poorly cared for. The DR shortstop has to learn to handle all kinds of unique hops because of the conditions they play on.

      This suggests to me that Sano should be able to master 3B. Of course... I have no idea on this particulur individual. Just a blind comment on an assumed general thought. The individual will trump that every time.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      To ericchri:

      I just saw him play 3B in two games in June and four games in August. My comment on his speed was more, home to first, and from 1st to 3rd or home. A couple of times, I really saw going. I'm not comparing him to Billy Hamilton, to be sure, but for someone with that much power, I was quite impressed.

      You make a good point about the first-step quickness. That is very important at 3B. That may have been why Cuddyer didn't last there, and frankly, it may be why Sano won't stay there. I didn't personally see it as an issue in the 6 games I saw, but that's clearly not enough for me to make any strong judgment either way. I was really referring to the pre-pitch prep that I saw him. early in the season, he was kind of all over the place. Later in the season, every pitch, he was into. The footwork looked good, and the focus definitely was more there. I really believe that if he puts his mind to it, he can be solid over there.

      As others have said since then, they can't move everyone to RF or 1B, so my main point is that I saw enough to definitely keep working with him. I didn't see hard hands. I did see him working in BP at shortstop. Tommy Watkins said that once he started doing that, he got back to being more athletic, and playing 3B more like SS, which I think is a good thing. No one is questioning his arm. Absolute rocket! And yes, the power is definitely there in the bat.
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