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Article: Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Third Base

miguel sano eduardo escobar travis blankenhorn andrew bechtold
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 11 March 2018 - 08:43 PM

A weighty issue. A giant question mark. An elephant in the room.

Whatever hackneyed wordplay you want to use, Miguel Sano is a radiating source of mystery in Minnesota Twins camp, and his enigmatic aura extends to the position he inhabits.Projected Starter: Miguel Sano
Likely Backup: Eduardo Escobar

Depth: Ehire Adrianza, Erick Aybar, Taylor Featherston
Prospects: Travis Blankenhorn, Andrew Bechtold, Jose Miranda

THE GOOD

It's all too easy to forget now, but just eight short months ago, Sano was the lone All Star rep from Minnesota's lineup. By the break, he already had 21 home runs with an OPS over 900, solidifying his status as long-term cog in the Twins infield.

Though clearly playing above his listed weight of 260 pounds, he still respectably held his own at third base, making the majority of routine plays and occasionally flashing excellence with his cannon arm.

Sano is an incredible talent. Let's not lose sight of that. He launched a pair of leisurely home runs on Friday in his sixth game of the spring, and that kind of thing should still be the expectation. If he's in the lineup, he's going to be a major threat. Even with his downslide after the All-Star break last year, the 24-year-old was on pace for 37 home runs before going down with a shin injury in August. With 71 career dingers in the books before age 25, he's on a rare pace.

There are forces working against Sano – some of his own making, others not. But he is young enough to overcome them and put them in the rear view mirror. If it's always darkest before the dawn, then perhaps we're on the verge of a true breakthrough, which in Sano's case would simply mean a full season's worth of games (he's yet to play more than 116 in an MLB campaign) while realizing his 40 HR, 100+ RBI potential.

In the event that Sano needs to miss time due to a suspension, setback with his leg, or some other affliction, the Twins are blessed with a pretty strong fallback option. Eduardo Escobar filled in brilliantly at the hot corner last year after the starter went down, slugging .529 with 10 bombs to basically mirror Sano's prodigious power output.

Escobar finished with a .758 OPS overall, and has slashed .257/.304/.413 over the past four seasons. He's a better contingency than most teams have behind their best hitter, and his presence has been a big factor in mitigating the sense of alarm around Sano's ambiguity.

THE BAD

Optimism aside, the alarm is well warranted. Sano has an assault investigation floating over his head, a steel rod in his shin, and plenty of skeptics surrounding him in the organization. Those might include his manager.

Always measured in his words, Paul Molitor conveyed some leeriness when talking to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press last month:

“I think the trend has been [Sano's] figuring some things out; some things have been a little harder to get through to him,” Molitor said. “At times I’ve tried to involve people that might be able to provide a voice that will penetrate. We’re just trying to get him to see the bigger picture.

“He loves to play. It’s all in front of him. He, as much as anyone in that clubhouse, wants what’s in front of him, but I’m not sure he understands what is required to reap those rewards — of competing, winning, financial security, taking care of his family. We’re trying."

Such sentiments toward Sano are nothing new, but it was easier to be sympathetic when he was a 22-year-old rookie. Today he's a 25-year-old who's shown up at camp with – in the kindest possible phrasing of his general manager – a "generous carriage." According to Pat Reusse, Sano is rumored to have weighed in this spring at 293 lbs.

Where would that heft rank among all major-league players? It's almost impossible to say, given the sweeping inaccuracy of official listings (again, MLB's site still has Sano at 260), but I think we can safely say he's among the top handful of players. There's not likely a larger fielder outside of first base in the game.

This isn't a knock against his all-around outlook as a big-leaguer, because I happen to believe that Sano can be a monster hitter even at three bucks, but the reality is that he's on the verge of becoming untenable at third base. A certain spryness requisite to the position becomes elusive for a man so large.

Barring a reversal in physical development, which might be unrealistic given his genetic makeup, Sano appears destined for DH. The question is when. Minnesota's front office is hoping he can hold out as long as possible, because right now the system is thin on replacements.

Yes, Escobar can fill in short-term. But he's eligible for free agency after this season. And the next in line behind him as a legit starting option at the position is... well, completely unclear. A trio of recent high draft picks stand out as the brightest long-term hopes: 2015 third-rounder Travis Blankenhorn (21), 2016 second-rounder Jose Miranda (19) and 2017 fifth-rounder Andrew Bechtold (21). But none will be arriving anytime soon.

So suffice to say it would be really nice if Sano could hold it down at third for at least a couple more years. Which might help explain why the Twins haven't really entertained the idea of moving him off the position, and in fact delayed any possibility of such an outcome by signing Logan Morrison.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It's all about Sano. If he can make a statement by proving himself healthy and at least serviceable defensively, the Twins will be more than happy to stick with him at third indefinitely. Sano's agility has always been better than you'd expect for his size, so maybe he'll surprise us even at this weight.

More likely, he'll need to put in work and slim down a bit to remain viable at the hot corner, but that's a perfectly feasible scenario. It's important to keep in mind that he was extremely limited in his ability to condition this past offseason. To pin the lack of weight loss on disinterest would be ignorant.

If things go amiss for the star slugger this season, Escobar provides a solid security valve, for now. After 2018, the front office may need to look at building out some better long-term depth at the position. Hopefully someone like Blankenhorn or Bechtold can take a big step forward.

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#2 highlander

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Posted 11 March 2018 - 11:00 PM

It is with great anticipation I watch for Sano to play a full season and what numbers he will put up. A personal dietitian might be necessary to help with the weight. If he can play 150 games it wouldn't be unreasonable to see a run at 60 Big Flys. Maybe a Cecil Fielder check swing accidental Big Fly.
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#3 jimbo92107

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 12:47 AM

It's not just Sano's extra weight that worries me. It's what that weight will do to his feet, ankles, knees, etc. Every step he takes with fifty extra pounds on his belt is a much heavier step, much greater impact. He will get injured carrying that much weight. 

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The door opened. A woman screamed. Someday, my mom would learn to knock.


#4 by jiminy

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 04:45 AM

"It's important to keep in mind that he was extremely limited in his ability to condition this past offseason. To pin the lack of weight loss on disinterest would be ignorant." So that's why Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson managed to stay in shape despite leg injuries -- they were ignorant? What does your shin have to do with how much you eat? Apparently I am ignorant too.
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#5 clutterheart

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 06:32 AM

The weight thing is what it is.If he hits, he can play.The sexual assault is his biggest red flag.That story makes me very concerned about that guy.I hope he performs great this year, Twins win the World Series and he gets traded.  

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#6 laloesch

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 06:39 AM

 

The weight thing is what it is.If he hits, he can play.The sexual assault is his biggest red flag.That story makes me very concerned about that guy.I hope he performs great this year, Twins win the World Series and he gets traded.  

 

Correction. Alleged assault, not rape, not sexual assault...just alleged assault.No criminal or civil charges.....yet.

Edited by laloesch, 12 March 2018 - 06:39 AM.

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#7 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 06:42 AM

When will Sano run out of "chances" with the team, media, and fans? Maybe he is what he is - an (undisciplined) and talented DH. With talent so great you put up with the rest of it and hope he matures someday and eventually "gets it."
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#8 Doctor Wu

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 06:45 AM

Very good write-up! One passage in particular struck me:

 

There are forces working against Sano – some of his own making, others not. But he is young enough to overcome them and put them in the rear view mirror.

 

Sano certainly is still quite young, so perhaps a new found sense of maturity and responsibility, combined with (another good suggestion someone just made) paying more attention to his diet will enable Sano to "shape up" in all respects and consistently give us the player we expect him to be. Gotta keep hoping. When it's all clicking this guy is a force to be reckoned with.


#9 rdehring

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 07:05 AM

Let's get all this behind us.Then let him put up a great first half or year.Then in either July or next winter, let him be the center of a major trade to bring back that true ACE.  

 

Way too many questions surround Sano that he should continue to be the foundation this team is built upon.

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#10 gunnarthor

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 07:13 AM

Jeez, he's our most dangerous offensive weapon. He could lead the league in homers. He was a legit all-star last year who played on a broken leg for a bit before going down. He held his own at third last year. The FO signed Morrison so they don't seem to worried about him not playing third. Despite the rumors of his weight, he's looked good so far in ST, he's crushing the ball (OPS over 1.100). Maybe we should wait with the pitchforks until he's actually failing?

 

He'll be fine. He'll be an all-star again this year and finish top five in home runs. He's a freaking stud.

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#11 adorduan

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 07:24 AM

I wonder if this seasons free agent market, or lack thereof, could motivate Sano.He'll make a lot less when we hits the market if he's just a DH, compared to if he's still playing a passable 3B.

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#12 nicksaviking

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 07:49 AM

 

The weight thing is what it is.If he hits, he can play.The sexual assault is his biggest red flag.That story makes me very concerned about that guy.I hope he performs great this year, Twins win the World Series and he gets traded.  

 

 

Correction. Alleged assault, not rape, not sexual assault...just alleged assault.No criminal or civil charges.....yet.

 

Moderator note:

 

We have multiple threads to continue this line of discussion in the sports bar. This article is discussing the 3B position and Sano's ability/inability to play it. If anyone instead wishes to talk about due process vs. the rights of the public, please take it to the more appropriate threads instead of derailing this one.

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#13 slash129

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 08:02 AM

As soon as I saw the article title and then the lead in, I knew this would end up being another rip-on-Sano thread.

 

To loosely quote another TD contributor (Thrylos) from another thread:

 

All that matters with Sano is .359 wOBA / 124 wRC+ .  

 

If he sticks at 3rd for a couple years, then great.At present, DH and 1B are only filled in 2018 and possibly 50% filled in 2019.If Sano has to move to either of those positions, so be it.The team is looking at some available payroll in 2019, if they want to go 3B shopping.

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#14 RegularJoe62

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 08:20 AM

Kind of tired of everyone blaming Sano's weight on his inability to train during the off season. You don't get to 300 lbs. by lack of training, you get there by eating everything you can reach. As someone noted earlier, that extra 50 lbs is going to catch up with him, if it hasn't already, in injuries.

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#15 Loosey

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 08:21 AM

I was watching the game yesterday and Sano did not look to be 300 lbs in my opinion.He looked similar to what he has always looked like to me.Genetically, he is a large man with a large frame.I don't think he will ever be looking like Byron Buxton no matter how much discipline, diet and exercise he puts in.

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#16 Vanimal46

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 08:32 AM

Jeez, he's our most dangerous offensive weapon. He could lead the league in homers. He was a legit all-star last year who played on a broken leg for a bit before going down. He held his own at third last year. The FO signed Morrison so they don't seem to worried about him not playing third. Despite the rumors of his weight, he's looked good so far in ST, he's crushing the ball (OPS over 1.100). Maybe we should wait with the pitchforks until he's actually failing?

He'll be fine. He'll be an all-star again this year and finish top five in home runs. He's a freaking stud.


Concur, concur, concur. This team (until this year with Morrison) doesn't sign power hitters. He's the first power hitter they've developed since Morneau. And people can't ship him out of town quick enough...

I also think he'll be an All-Star again, and come close to 40 HRs.
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#17 jkcarew

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 08:36 AM

I'm hoping Sano holds his own at 3rd defensively as he did last year.Offensively, it's an important year for him to show the ability to make the adjustments to reign in the K rate a bit.  If that happens, his value goes through the roof.

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#18 bobs

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 08:58 AM

"A giant question mark" indeed.Both literally and figuratively.C'mon everyone.We've seen Sano now for 3 years.I mean this as a serious question, not to be neagative....Does anyone really think Miguel Sano will still be playing 3rd base by 2020?I do not.He's a DH/part-time 1B.And, if he can stay healthy...in the lineup for 150 games...hit 35 HR and drive in 100, we should probably just be happy with that.


#19 bobs

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 09:00 AM

 

I'm hoping Sano holds his own at 3rd defensively as he did last year.Offensively, it's an important year for him to show the ability to make the adjustments to reign in the K rate a bit.  If that happens, his value goes through the roof.

Agree 1,000%.I think a lot of his issues have to do with work ethic/maturity.Hopefully he starts to figure some of that stuff out.


#20 bobs

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 09:02 AM

 

I was watching the game yesterday and Sano did not look to be 300 lbs in my opinion.He looked similar to what he has always looked like to me.Genetically, he is a large man with a large frame.I don't think he will ever be looking like Byron Buxton no matter how much discipline, diet and exercise he puts in.

Very, very true.I'm as concerned that he puts in the work to better command the strike zone and cut down on the Ks as I am his conditioning.




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