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Article: Miguel Sano's Defensive Future

miguel sano trevor plouffe terry ryan paul molitor danny santana
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#1 Cody Christie

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 06:31 PM

Miguel Sano is six-feet four-inches tall and weighs 260 pounds (or more). To the casual fan, the idea of him rumbling around the outfield seemed like a bad idea from the start. There were balls that were misplayed and routes run in the wrong direction as the young slugger tried to find himself while in a foreign defensive position.

Twins Territory might be able to sleep a little easier tonight as it is sounding more like the Sano outfield experiment might be reaching its conclusion.Twins general manager Terry Ryan was a little cryptic when talking to the local media before Saturday's game. When asked about Sano returning to the outfield, Ryan said,"I'm not sure exactly how it's going to play itself out here quite yet."

Ryan's tune had changed by Sunday morning as he was asked again about Sano coming back from injury. During a radio appearance, Ryan said that Sano won't play right field when he returns from his current hamstring injury. When asked about Sano's future, Ryan said, "No question, it's third base."

This is a much different tune than the Twins had during the offseason. Twins manager Paul Molitor was pretty clear that Sano wasn't expected to see any time at third base this season unless Trevor Plouffe was injured and the team needed to shuffle around some players. Of course this situation did occur as Sano started his first game at third when Plouffe and Danny Santana were both on the disabled list.

So far this season, Sano has played 38 games in right field, seven at designated hitter, and five at third base. In his limited time at third base, Sano has been worth one defensive run saved. The outfield has been a different story as his -9 defensive run saved is tied for third worst total among American League outfielders. SABR's Defensive Index, one of the databases used for selecting the Gold Glove winners, has Sano as the second worst right fielder in the American League.

Minnesota's 2016 roster was created with Sano set to be in the outfield. Byung Ho Park has struggled as the team's regular DH. When healthy, Trevor Plouffe has played at third base even with some offensive struggles. Now Max Kepler looks like he has settled into right field nicely in the absence of Sano. Park and Plouffe seem like the likely candidates to lose playing time when Sano returns since he won't be playing in the outfield.
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Another option for the team might be trading Trevor Plouffe. There is some value in him since he is still under team control for the 2017 season but he has struggled at the plate so far this year. His OPS is down over 100 points compared to last season and he's getting on base less than 27% of the time. Minnesota won't rush into a trade but a contending team could be looking for some help at third base.

Sano is never going to be known for his defensive prowess and there won't be any Gold Gloves in his future. He's in the Twins line-up for one reason... to hit the ball as far as he can. It doesn't matter what defensive position Sano plays as long as he finds a way to make his offensive numbers exceed what he costs the team on the defensive side of the ball.

With a man of Sano's size, tracking down balls in the outfield was only going to lead to more injuries. By shifting back to a more natural position, the hope is to keep Sano in the line-up and off the disabled list. Twins fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Sano won't be heading back to the outfield... at least for right now.

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#2 Han Joelo

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 07:16 PM

While I am not going to argue with those who will soon fill this comment section with I told you so's--you did, and you were right--I will suggest this is partially driven by a desire to not screw up the one developmental thing that might actually work out well for the Twins this year:  Max Kepler as Rightfielder of the Next Decade.  Rather than do something like move him to center, left, the bench, or Rochester, it seems like ending the Miguel Sano experiment, as well as the cutting of Arcia, is a clear indication that the Twins have a 'plan' to stick with Kepler.  We saw what he did after Arcia was cut and he wasn't bumped; who knows, maybe this will really buoy his confidence.

 

Or, maybe I am grasping at any sign of hope in this dismal season.

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#3 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 07:40 PM

Sano to third, keep Kepler in right. Sorry Plouffe, time to grab some bench and act like a professional (I am sure he will).
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#4 troyhobbs

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:05 PM

If this is the one positive that comes out of this season I'll take it. Sano in RF was a terrible decision. I would've genuinely questioned TR's sanity if he ran him back out in the OF.

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#5 Danchat

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:28 PM

It's good to see that TR has acknowledged the error in his ways. Thankfully Kepler is beginning to take RF over just like I hoped, so Sano won't have to embarrass himself out there. 

 

I find the link to DFS on Fangraphs interesting. The individual breakdown for the Twins is here:

 

Max Kepler +2

Byron Buxton +1

Eddie Rosario -2

Danny Santana -3

Oswaldo Arcia -4

Robbie Grossman -7

Miguel Sano -9

 

I'm interested to know how they calculate this stat. What gives Buxton just a +1? And how has Grossman already accumulated a -7?

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#6 Kwak

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:35 PM

Sano in RF was a failure--though would not have been so glaring if all concerned (Sano, Plouffe, and Park) had hit to "expectations". Plouffe's 3B defense will never be confused with "Gold Glove", his lack of hitting would make him a "non-starter" on a team that fancied itself a "contender". I expect the next roll of the dice will be with Sano at 3B. Eventually, we will conclude Sano really belongs at either 1B or DH. I hope that realization is made before the end of October 2016 so "adjustments" can be made before another season is flushed.


#7 TheLeviathan

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:37 PM

So, wait, the totally predictable thing happened....again?

 

Let's add that to the mountain of things many of us said this offseason were mistakes that have come to fruition.  This plan NEVER made sense.  It was abysmally short-sighted and misguided.  It shouldn't have taken two months of god-awful play and an injury to see this as a mistake.

 

And so much for all of you who said his move was about the team's perception of his ability.  Are we all ready to concede now?  The team moved him in early November meaning they made the following decisions at the START of the offseason: Plouffe was essential to keep (slaps forehead), Park was essential to sign (so far, not so good), and therefore Sano's only available spot is RF.  His move never had anything to do with what was best for him or his perceived defensive skill set.  He was moved to make way for Plouffe and Park.

 

Seriously, if you're on the fence about Ryan in any way, this should be enough alone to tip you to the side of "Thanks for everything Terry, you're welcome to consult with us, but you're done making decisions here" group.

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#8 DocBauer

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:37 PM

I've said it before...but...here we go again. Sano's position is 3B.

Coming up through the minors, it was reported he worked very hard on his fielding and took pride in his defense and improvement. The only negative reports I ever ready concerning his defense was long term, being a bigger man, that he would/might move to 1B eventually. And that's OK too.

Granted, my exposure to watching Sano play 3B is a couple years of ST games, his play there last season, and his limited time there this season. Has he always been perfect? No. Has he made mistakes? Yes. But he has shown time and again he can play the position at least fairly well. And I'd expect him to get better the more he plays it.

Forget other teams and other players for a moment and just focus on 2 of the best 3B the Twins ever had, Gaetti and Koski. Gaetti had hands of stone when he first came up, and Koski, himself not a small man, was considered stiff. Both worked hard and became excellent defensive 3B as well as prime offensive players. Current Twin Plouffe also was no wizard at the spot initially.

Put him at 3B for his sake, the roster's sake, and the future Twins sake. It's the right move all the way around.
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#9 Badsmerf

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:37 PM

Kepler is up to stay. That kid has amazing hands and great control of the zone. I almost bet he makes an all-star team before Buxton or sano.
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#10 h2oface

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:42 PM

Terry Ryan gets no love from me for finally fixing something he caused. It just further proves his time has been up for years. A classy man would have gracefully retired years ago. Of course Sano never should be in right field. Never ever.
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#11 ashbury

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:45 PM

And how has Grossman already accumulated a -7?

I've witnessed batters taking liberties with Grossman's arm and taking second base on a clean single, so maybe they are counting things like that. I didn't spot anything else about him.

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#12 h2oface

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:45 PM

It is hard to get that picture of Kepler looking back at the simple fly ball he had just run past this last series. It will take some time for me to be able to look at him as a plus defensive player now.

Edited by h2oface, 20 June 2016 - 08:50 PM.

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#13 ashbury

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:47 PM

I've said it before...but...here we go again. Sano's position is 3B.

I felt like an idiot this spring after last off-season saying "Sano won't see an inning in RF. Book it." :)

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#14 twinsnorth49

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 08:54 PM

"No question it's 3rd base", should have been his statement last November.

I still don't know why it wasn't, I wonder if he does?

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#15 tobi0040

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 09:06 PM

How sad is it that we make literally the worst personnel decision in a long time, it fails miserably and after 2.5 months I am pleasantly surprised the Twins moved this quick to reverse it?
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#16 Rezzy

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 10:44 PM

I was part of the group that was fine with Sano in RF... I didn't expect him to be great out there or even good but, I also expected his bat to make up for it. I also thought Plouffe would be at least decent and justify keeping both bats in the lineup. I was wrong. I'm still pretty sure Sano in RF isn't the reason why this team is awful this year.
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#17 Shane Wahl

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Posted 20 June 2016 - 11:30 PM

All because of the infatuation with Trevor Plouffe. Sano is just fine at third. Long-term planning would have had Mauer at third and Sano at first.

 

I still think trading Plouffe and not trading Hicks would have had a domino effect this year. Before the squad starts talking about Hicks 2016 in NY, keep in mind that there is a weird L/R split there this year and that playing every day would have moved those numbers up significantly. And then they could have kept Buxton down until now-ish. They would have been able to have Sano, Mauer, Park, and Arcia in the lineup together. Rosario could have been sent down sooner. Weird lineup manipulations at the top could have been avoided.

 

I would have liked the team to be rolling with:

 

Hicks, RF

Mauer, 1B

Sano, 3B

Arcia/Park DH in a semi-platoon

Dozier, 2B

Rosario, LF

Polanco, SS

Salty/Suzuki C

Buxton, CF

 

with Kepler being the main guy to rotate in for three OF positions and first base.

 

I will settle for:

 

Polanco, SS

Mauer, 1B

Sano, 3B

Park, DH

Dozier, 2B

Kepler, RF

Rosario, LF

Garver, C (promote to AAA today please)

Buxton, CF

 

by August 1st.

 

Plouffe, Nunez, Escobar, Suzuki all get traded for whatever can actually be had for them.

 

Bench of Santana, Beresford, Grossman, and Turner


#18 jokin

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Posted 21 June 2016 - 01:32 AM

 

All because of the infatuation with Trevor Plouffe. Sano is just fine at third. Long-term planning would have had Mauer at third and Sano at first.

 

I still think trading Plouffe and not trading Hicks would have had a domino effect this year. Before the squad starts talking about Hicks 2016 in NY, keep in mind that there is a weird L/R split there this year and that playing every day would have moved those numbers up significantly. And then they could have kept Buxton down until now-ish. They would have been able to have Sano, Mauer, Park, and Arcia in the lineup together. Rosario could have been sent down sooner. Weird lineup manipulations at the top could have been avoided.

 

I would have liked the team to be rolling with:

 

Hicks, RF

Mauer, 1B

Sano, 3B

Arcia/Park DH in a semi-platoon

Dozier, 2B

Rosario, LF

Polanco, SS

Salty/Suzuki C

Buxton, CF

 

with Kepler being the main guy to rotate in for three OF positions and first base.

 

I will settle for:

 

Polanco, SS

Mauer, 1B

Sano, 3B

Park, DH

Dozier, 2B

Kepler, RF

Rosario, LF

Garver, C (promote to AAA today please)

Buxton, CF

 

by August 1st.

 

Plouffe, Nunez, Escobar, Suzuki all get traded for whatever can actually be had for them.

 

Bench of Santana, Beresford, Grossman, and Turner

 

Don't look now, but JR Murphy is swinging a hot bat in the month of June:

 

.341/.408/.561/(.969)

 

Pretty sure Murphy's going to get a major look by Terry, soon, and probably through September,and well ahead of either Garver or Turner getting a shot. And since Terry seems enamored with Suzuki, Zuke seems more likely to be extended to 2017 (plus a remote chance that his contract vests).

 

Nunez? If he is the Twins ASG representative, would Ryan have the guts to trade a week or two later?

 

I gotta think Ryan is deciding between sending down/trading Park or trading Plouffe. Since pulling off deadline deals isn't exactly his trademark MO, look perhaps for Park to be sent down, and Plouffe to alter his role to CornerInf/DH, and split time with Sano and Mauer.

 

Escobar?Here's his line since he came off of the DL on May 23-

 

.333/.351/.519/(.870) En Fuego!

 

Hmmm, I wonder if there's a fringe contender or two that might make a solid/acceptable offer, especially if Escobar can stay anywhere close to his current hot streak? Plus, the acquiring team gets two more years of team control. I like the idea of giving Polanco an extended look at SS... But again, Esco seems like another one of those players the Twins seemingly can't live without, so I'm not holding my breath on a trade here, either. Log jam in the MI continues, Polanco languishes even more.

Edited by jokin, 21 June 2016 - 01:51 AM.

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#19 Platoon

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Posted 21 June 2016 - 04:46 AM

It's good to see that TR has acknowledged the error in his ways. Thankfully Kepler is beginning to take RF over just like I hoped, so Sano won't have to embarrass himself out there. 
 
I find the link to DFS on Fangraphs interesting. The individual breakdown for the Twins is here:
 
Max Kepler +2
Byron Buxton +1
Eddie Rosario -2
Danny Santana -3
Oswaldo Arcia -4
Robbie Grossman -7
Miguel Sano -9
 
I'm interested to know how they calculate this stat. What gives Buxton just a +1? And how has Grossman already accumulated a -7?

I don't know how they calculate it but my eye test says a poor outfielder that runs tentative routes and has a mediocre arm. We did not find Roy Hobbs. .
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#20 Platoon

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Posted 21 June 2016 - 05:00 AM

It was interesting Plouffe got to play 1st in front of the Yankees who need a 1st baseman, or six. And of course he lets one roll through his legs. Esco is on his usual hot streak after he sits, maybe a reason a lot of teams consider him a utility guy? The SP is going to be very very difficult to fix. The BP not so. And if they would get their act together, and get Rosario back and Polanco here, they would start to turn the corner. But they still are missing a middle IF and a catcher. I would still bring up our best defensive catcher and let him play. It's time to move on. The core of this team has proven they will never win.
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