Today I thought I would take a look at the very, very sample size that has been Sano's AA career. I want to see how pitchers are approaching his at-bats. As of the writing of this article, Sano has compiled 19 plate appearances for the Rock Cats: 1 hit, 6 walks, 3 Ks, and 9 other outs on balls in play. I'm going to use screenshots. As a caveat, please be aware that the Gameday information is imperfect: it's a good tool, but is, of course, subject to human error. That being said, let's take a look.
1: 5-pitch walk. Arguably 1 pitch to hit, and he fouled it off.
2: 2-pitch ground out to third
3: 3-pitch sac fly. All hittable pitches. 2 called strikes and the fly ball.
4: 4-pitch swinging K.
5: 5-pitch sac fly. The 3 balls appeared pretty far off the plate.
6: 6-pitch called strikeout. Looked like some hittable pitches up in the zone.
7: 5-pitch flyout to left.
8: 3-pitch flyout to right.
9: 1-pitch single to left. Looked like a good pitch to hit.
10: 2-pitch groundout to shortstop:
11: 5-pitch walk.
12: 3-pitch flyout to center.
13: 8-pitch walk. Looks like he was consistently worked outside.
14: 6-pitch walk. Again worked outside.
15: 6-pitch pop-out to first base. He was worked inside. Perhaps only the second or third plate appearance of thus far where a pitcher deliberately challenged him on the inner half.
16: 6-pitch walk. Again worked inside by Harrisburg starter Blake Treinen.
17: 3-pitch grounder to shortstop. Treinen went inside on the third pitch.
18: 3 called strikes.
19: 6-pitch walk. Check out those inside pitches.
Some quick takeaways from this very small sample size:
- With the exception of the final game (appearances 15-19), teams are really working Sano outside. Not a big surprise. But the strange part is that the inside pitches, thus far, haven't produced big results. Sano is probably used to being pitched outside so much that the inside pitches might surprise him.
- Sano has swung at the first pitch in 7 of these 19 plate appearances.
- He has a strange, strange line of .091/.368/.091. This suggests at least 3 things: 1) the sample size is so small as to be meaningless; 2) Sano is not hitting yet; 3) he is reaching base via the walk at a high, high rate.
- He's not striking out at a higher rate than he did at High-A.
- Sano is taking good at-bats, even if they aren't ending with hits. He has only 1 one-pitch at-bat (it was his lone hit, by the way); he's averaging 4.3 pitches per plate appearance (for comparison, right now Joe Mauer is 6th in baseball with 4.24 pitches per plate appearance).
My quick take: Sano is doing what he should be doing. He's seeing pitches from pitchers that are new to him; he's managing to reach base at a good clip despite not getting base hits; he's "just missing" -- his words not mine -- baseballs. In other words, just be patient.
I'm curious what others think, or can glean, from these screenshots (again, taking them for what they are -- an imperfect tool). It's going to be interesting to see how pitchers plan to approach Sano as spring becomes summer, and as Sano eventually starts to see some of these guys a second time. It will also help matters greatly if those batting behind Sano prove a formidable threat.