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Twins Fan From Afar

How Are AA Pitchers Approaching Miguel Sano?

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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.

Comments

  1. jokin's Avatar
    Thanks for your obviously hard work in putting this article together. It shows what has been frequently happening to Sano last year and this year already at the lower levels. Nice stat on the pitches per PA. It looks like he's going to get a lot of practice trying to hit for power going the opposite way, like Cabrera does.

    I guess what we have to ask about plate protection is, does he need more than having just Pinto batting behind him? Is Kennys Vargas also needed in the 5th spot in the order, as well?
  2. clutterheart's Avatar
    Great work. I wish Pitch f/x data was available.

    From what I can see, pitchers are assuming he is free swinging and trying to get him to flail around. He is missing the inside stuff because I think he is struggling to adjust to how well pitchers at AA can move the ball around. Its possible he is a guess hitter and he needs to learn how to react to the ball. The NB Offense is so terrible, no pitcher will let him beat them. We will see over the long run, but I expect him to adjust and start making them pay.

    I would love to see you do something similar for Baxendale too. I am very curious why he is struggling so much in AA.
    Updated 06-18-2013 at 04:52 AM by clutterheart
  3. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
    Great article. Thank you TFFA. It's great to have you there. Good for us!



    • He's not striking out at a higher rate than he did at High-A.

    This is really good news. Surprising, even.
    What I find most surprising is how few of his pitches are near the knees. Pitchers are coached to keep the ball down as children.

    Very odd.
  4. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Oldgoat_MN
    Great article. Thank you TFFA. It's great to have you there. Good for us!



    • He's not striking out at a higher rate than he did at High-A.

    This is really good news. Surprising, even.
    What I find most surprising is how few of his pitches are near the knees. Pitchers are coached to keep the ball down as children.

    Very odd.
    Thanks for the comment. I think this pitch data is more useful to judge inside/outside rather than high/low. Some of these at bats make it look like everything is belt high, and that just doesn't seem possible.
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