• How Are AA Pitchers Approaching Miguel Sano?

    Last week, I was in the right place at the right time: the AA debuts of top Twins' prospect Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario. One big takeaway from Sano's and Rosario's first couple AA games was that their reputations preceded them; in other words, pitchers knew who these guys were. Take a look at the (grainy amateur) video I shot of some early at-bats -- the pitches weren't even close. As a result, Sano and Rosario, but Sano especially, seemed to only get maybe 1 pitch per at-bat in his wheelhouse. I suspect this is a problem that has plagued him his entire career, and probably won't stop until he he has someone equally or more talented hitting behind him.
    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.
    This article was originally published in blog: How Are AA Pitchers Approaching Miguel Sano? started by Twins Fan From Afar
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      Really not worried about it yet. We'll see how he does after a few months.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Kinda what I figured, given Sano's reputation for crushing baseballs. Pitchers clearly were told, "Don't you dare give him anything below the waist." Thus, the first several at-bats everything was up, basically no strikes at all. Sano probably understood this going in, wondering how long it would last and who would be the first to venture under the belt line. Next, some intrepid souls decided to try down and in, which is okay so long as you don't put it there too often.

      Keep it high, high and away (out of zone), or low and in. Is Kennys Vargas coming up soon? Sano could use somebody a little more dangerous batting behind him. Meanwhile, he's seen this before, where pitchers are simply too terrified to challenge him, and in AA more of them have the precision to spot it in difficult locations.

      It's kind of sad, but the days of down-the-middle fastballs and hanging curves is over for Miguel Sano. This is when we find out if all that Sano hits is a pitcher's mistakes. Can he work the count like Joe Mauer? Can he hit junk like Vlad Guerrerro? It will be interesting to see.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Basically looks like what is expected, though I am surprised to see so many misses up high - to me that says they're absolutely avoiding going after him and trying to make him do too much, and somewhat succeeding at that. But he'll be fine.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      I really don't trust the pitch height of the Gameday data as much as I do the inside/outside depictions. There's just no way pitchers could be throwing almost above belt to him.
      That's why I call it a tool.
      But who knows, I could be wrong, too.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Great article!
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      I watched the Video you provided... Thanks for that BTW... Anyway... I watched the Video and the thought that invades my skull is this... Holy Crap does he look LARGE from a long ways away.

      Pitchers pitching him carefully is boring for us because we want video game numbers from our potential video game player. However... Pitchers pitching him carefully is great for his development.

      A Power hitter of Sano's ability with added patience at the plate will produce an amazing MLB baseball player. Every pitchers pitch that he lays off is a lesson in discipline.

      If he is as good as they say... The MLB Pitchers won't be giving him much either eventually.

      In my opinion... Your theory of protecting him at the plate is a great idea but it's premature. We can worry about protecting him at the plate in Minnesota. For Now... Let him work on a little plate discipline.

      Did I mention that he looks large... lol... I got dreams of 40 plus homers in the Bigs.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      I watched the Video you provided... Thanks for that BTW... Anyway... I watched the Video and the thought that invades my skull is this... Holy Crap does he look LARGE from a long ways away.

      Pitchers pitching him carefully is boring for us because we want video game numbers from our potential video game player. However... Pitchers pitching him carefully is great for his development.

      A Power hitter of Sano's ability with added patience at the plate will produce an amazing MLB baseball player. Every pitchers pitch that he lays off is a lesson in discipline.

      If he is as good as they say... The MLB Pitchers won't be giving him much either eventually.

      In my opinion... Your theory of protecting him at the plate is a great idea but it's premature. We can worry about protecting him at the plate in Minnesota. For Now... Let him work on a little plate discipline.

      Did I mention that he looks large... lol... I got dreams of 40 plus homers in the Bigs.
      No problem -- I'll try to get better with the video, too.
      I think you're right about the plate discipline. It's just a little frustrating from the fan perspective because you want to see him get pitches to swing at, but it of course is much more important for his long-term development to really learn the strike zone, pitch recognition, etc.
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