Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Recent Blogs

Photo

Article: Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Third Base

miguel sano marwin gonzalez
  • Please log in to reply
48 replies to this topic

#1 Nick Nelson

Nick Nelson

    Owner

  • Administrators
  • 3,767 posts

Posted 03 March 2019 - 08:14 PM

The heat is on at the hot corner. Miguel Sano is entering a pivotal season in his career, and perhaps a decisive one as his future with the Twins is concerned.

Despite his precarious outlook, the front office appeared ready to move forward without much of a contingency plan at third base. Then Marwin Gonzalez came along.Projected Starter: Miguel Sano
Likely Backup: Marwin Gonzalez

Depth: Willians Astudillo, Ehire Adrianza, Ronald Torreyes
Prospects: Jose Miranda, Yunior Severino, Charles Mack

THE GOOD

From 2015 through 2017, Sano slashed .254/.348/.496 with 71 home runs and 195 RBIs for the Twins – all before turning 25 years old. Last year he totally collapsed, the cumulative result of mounting bad health breaks, worsening habits at the plate, and perhaps some general lapses in personal commitment.

He needed to put that season behind him and start fresh. It's very early, but signs are positive on this front. The bad health breaks haven't ceased (he's getting a late start this spring after lacerating his heel in January) but the heightened commitment is evident to those who've seen him at camp, where he showed up in his best shape since 2015.

Sano is very accomplished, and still on the young end of "primeness" at 25. This is a point where many great hitters throughout history have made the jump from experiencing success in spurts, to pulling it all together. One example is Justin Morneau, who turned 25 and then launched a five-year reign of dominance that included four All-Star nods and one MVP.

The same game-changing offensive ability resides within Sano, whose .276/.368/.538 line at the 2017 All-Star break was eerily similar to Morneau's .298/.372/.528 from 2006 through 2010. And while Sano may be destined to move across the diamond at some point, for now he's the man at third, giving Minnesota the luxury of 30-HR power at both corners.

Prior to Gonzalez's arrival, it wasn't clear exactly what the Twins would do if Sano was hurt or out of sorts. Theoretically Astudillo was an option, though his defensive chops at third are dubious. Some speculated that Schoop could slide over there, given his arm strength, but he hasn't played third base in four years. Adrianza and Torreyes would be woefully inadequate offensively.

So bringing Gonzalez aboard is a big difference-maker here, even bigger than at second base. He has made 93 career starts at third in the majors – more than Astudillo, Schoop, Adrianza and Torreyes combined. He's also probably a better hitter than the lot of them.

Obviously we're all hoping to see the pre-2018 version of Sano, because that's the kind of development that would instantly legitimize the Twins as a contender. But luckily, with Gonzalez around, they won't be sabotaged if Sano doesn't quickly return to form.

THE BAD

The lost weight and leaner physique are good to see, but it's discipline at another dish that will dictate Sano's value. By the end of 2018, his once-admirable plate approach had deteriorated to the point of ruin. After returning from his mid-season minor-league banishment, Sano was barely an improvement over the whiffing mess that had earned a demotion.

He was mired in a September slump when he inflamed his surgically repaired left leg on a slide in Houston. He sat out two weeks, then played one game, striking out four times, and didn't play again.

"Little bit of a puzzle we haven’t been able to solve yet," said a befuddled Paul Molitor after another set of MRIs came back clean on the hobbled third baseman near season's end. His leg has been a recurring source of mystery for the Twins, who also dubbed him fit to play at the end of 2017 (then too, it was quickly apparent he wasn't).

That's all a bit ominous. Granted, the Twins mostly overhauled their medical staff, but this leg ailment is a tricky animal for any trainer to contend with. Both team and player have seemingly underestimated its severity time and again, leading to repeated setbacks. And we all know that if a hitter doesn't have his lower half, he doesn't have much, which is how a guy with Miguel Sano's ability puts up a .228/.320/.417 slash line in 99 games between the majors and Triple-A in his age-25 season.

The same thing we said about Schoop at second, though, applies here as well: The rebounding-after-injury narrative is a tidy one, but it doesn't always play out that way. And in this case, that narrative ignores the fact that we haven't seen sustained dominance from Sano since the early weeks of the 2017 campaign, which is suddenly a long time ago. His need for a recalibration at the plate precedes and supersedes his leg ailment.

The unpleasant fact is that pitchers have increasingly found ways to defuse this explosive threat. And our hopes that a slimmer Sano, with renewed focus, will blow up once again are just that. Now, his lacerated heel delays the process of getting back up to speed in time for March 28th, potentially setting him up to open on the Injured List.

So, thank goodness for Marwin. But the real issues at third base emerge as you look down the line. There's no position in the Twins system with less depth at present. The top prospects I've listed (Miranda and Severino) are raw and very far away. In fact the teenaged Severino hasn't even played any third base yet, though it's believed he'll outgrow the middle infield and that seems a logical destination.

Even if things go well with Sano, he'll probably have to move off third at some point. Who will succeed him – beyond Gonzalez in a near-term scenario – is anyone's guess at this point.

THE BOTTOM LINE

All eyes are on Sano. It's been a long time since we've seen him on top of his game but he's certainly young enough – and seemingly driven enough – to find that gear once again. And if he can, there's MVP-caliber potential in that strong, sturdy, incredibly powerful frame.

The Twins are very much invested in him being that player again, or some semblance, because depth at the position is less than stellar. Gonzalez provides an interstitial backup plan, but the franchise lacks a substantive roadmap beyond those two. Maybe a year from now it won't seem like so much of a problem.

***

Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Catcher
Twins 2019 Position Analysis: First Base
Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Second Base

Click here to view the article
  • mickeymental likes this

#2 jimbo92107

jimbo92107

    Señor Member

  • Members
  • 3,945 posts
  • LocationSan Diego

Posted 03 March 2019 - 11:04 PM

"...we haven't seen sustained dominance from Sano since the early weeks of the 2017 campaign, which is suddenly a long time ago. His need for a recalibration at the plate precedes and supersedes his leg ailment."

 

Sadly, we must concede that if Sano's knee intercedes before he succeeds, much less exceeds expectations, then the knee must be free of problems before his heroic arc proceeds, lest his potential greatness recedes into the mediocrity.

 

Did I get all the seeds? Transcede, no....zecede, nope... Spring Training!

  • Nick Nelson, birdwatcher, Kevin and 2 others like this

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


#3 mickeymental

mickeymental

    Junior Member

  • Members
  • 1,135 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 01:40 AM

if my name was schoop, i'd be staying after practice and taking as many grounders at third base as they'd give me.

  • Twins33, 70charger, Homer Hanky and 2 others like this

#4 beckmt

beckmt

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 2,369 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 08:22 AM

Gonzalez is the backup plan for now.Schoop for this year is a second baseman, I suppose that could change, but would need a breakout from Gordon or Arrenz this year to change it (Gordon possible, Arrenz less possible) but either could happen.My feeling is if this was to happen the Twins season probably went into the toilet early.

Sano does not have a lot of time left, and another bad year will bring lots of questions and a ton of pressure on him for next year.I hate to give up on him as I remember both Ortiz and Hicks who just took a few extra years to develop before getting to the next level.


#5 Post-Concussive Blues

Post-Concussive Blues

    Junior Member

  • Members
  • 75 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 08:22 AM

If Sano starts the season on the DL, which seems likely, I wonder who we carry on the 25 man? Adrianza?
  • Minny505 likes this

#6 rdehring

rdehring

    Chattanooga Lookouts

  • Members
  • 880 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 08:26 AM

Great article, Nick.All baseball with a realistic look at the situation.

 

Sano-Buxton, Buxton-Sano, Sano-Buxton.The Twins had to count on a recovery from both to propel them to the playoffs this season.Stay tuned to see how it turns out.

 

The really good news, however, is that with many options for a decent 4th outfielder and Gonzalez, they have given themselves solid players to fill in should either or both be injured or fail in 2019.The replacements won't have the ability to lead the drive to the playoffs, but they also won't be anchors.If Sano-Buxton fail, a lot has to go right elsewhere for the team to make the playoffs. 

 

Lets pray that isn't the case and Sano-Buxton have career seasons and the Twins play well into October!


#7 nasu1970

nasu1970

    Cedar Rapids

  • Members
  • 142 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 09:11 AM

Thanks, Nick.

 

Are Trey Cabbage, Travis Blankenhorn and Andrew Bechtold pretty much not being counted on long term in the pipeline at this position?That's a lot of recent misses there at 3B, if that is the case.I only ask since Charles Mack is listed third and put up a .588 OPS in the GCL (albeit as a freshly drafted 18 yo).


#8 Nick Nelson

Nick Nelson

    Owner

  • Administrators
  • 3,767 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 09:25 AM

 

Thanks, Nick.

 

Are Trey Cabbage, Travis Blankenhorn and Andrew Bechtold pretty much not being counted on long term in the pipeline at this position?That's a lot of recent misses there at 3B, if that is the case.I only ask since Charles Mack is listed third and put up a .588 OPS in the GCL (albeit as a freshly drafted 18 yo).

They're all in the same mix. Cabbage made zero starts at third last year, Blankenhorn played more 2B than 3B, and Bechtold reeeally struggled to hit. I listed Mack mainly because he's the shiny new object. But the three you mentioned are all parts of the reason depth at this position is so shaky at present. 

  • nater79a, caninatl04 and nasu1970 like this

#9 JLease

JLease

    Ft Myers

  • Members
  • 399 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 09:31 AM

3B is definitely the position I think is the weakest for the Twins system-wide. Just not a lot of depth there, and certainly no one that projects to be a high flyer down in the low minors with any confidence; it's hard to get enthusiastic about Severino being the future there when he's never played it. Maybe Miranda? But the jump from A to AA can really weed out a lot of guys that look hopeful.

 

We're in pretty good shape for the MLB club for the next couple of years, especially with Marwin in the fold; he's a fine 3B and a fantastic insurance policy against Sano crapping out.

 

I'd be interested to see what Astudillo can do here; haven't seen enough to get a feel for where his defense really is, and we've seen a lot of guys struggle defensively at 3B who later became more than solid (Trevor Plouffe and Corey Koskie both looked shaky early before having some nice defensive seasons).


#10 Brandon

Brandon

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 1,902 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 09:31 AM

The good news for this season is that we have 6 or 7 20 HR guys in the offense or 4 who have hit 30 and a 5th with 28. Sano won't be the out every opposing pitcher is focused on this year as our 1 big power hitter. That lowers the pressure on Sano a little and makes a .240/ .320/. 480 a fine season.

#11 clutterheart

clutterheart

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 1,564 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 09:43 AM

All eyes on Miranda. If he struggles 3B depth is very weak.

Hopefully Sano can stay healthy and at third for a year or 2.
  • bluechipper likes this

#12 Vanimal46

Vanimal46

    Opener Poster

  • Members
  • 11,450 posts
  • LocationAustin, TX

Posted 04 March 2019 - 09:44 AM

Sadly the rest of the league is flush with MVP caliber 3B... I'm not sure Sano even cracks the top 10 best in MLB with an improved season.

#13 Minny505

Minny505

    Elizabethton

  • Members
  • 21 posts
  • LocationAlbuquerque, NM

Posted 04 March 2019 - 10:14 AM

There really are few 3B prospects in the lower levels of the minors in all of MiLB. Most MLB three baggers are former SS in AA and often even AAA that don't have the range to play the 6 at the game's top level.

 

So you might say that we have a plethora of 3B prospects between Javier, Lewis and Gordon, plus Polanco already inked for the long term. Any one of them would probably make stud defensive 3B and if they develop as expected, would produce enough on offense to not be a hole. 

  • Carpetboy, ChrisKnutson, chpettit19 and 1 other like this

#14 Aerodeliria

Aerodeliria

    Cedar Rapids

  • Members
  • 156 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 10:14 AM

Rosales doesn't have the big bat (except in spring training apparently), but is he decent defensively? (We grabbed him to play 3rd as well, I imagine, didn't we?)

#15 gman

gman

    Cedar Rapids

  • Members
  • 185 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 10:16 AM

Hopefully with the veteran hitters the Twins signed this offseason, Sano won't feel the need to try and hit a 5 run homer every time up. I like to see him settle in to the order at 6 or 7 and gradually move up if warranted not because the rest of the lineup is wailing and failing. Also it would be great to see him play an average or better third base. He might end up at first or DH for most of his career but the Twins will be better the longer he stays at third.

  • caninatl04 likes this

#16 PDX Twin

PDX Twin

    Chattanooga Lookouts

  • Members
  • 646 posts
  • LocationPortland, Oregon

Posted 04 March 2019 - 10:37 AM

"And we all know that if a hitter doesn't have his lower half, he doesn't have much, which is how a guy with Miguel Sano's ability puts up a .228/.320/.417 slash line in 99 games between the majors and Triple-A in his age-25 season."

 

This makes me appreciate all the more what Tony Oliva accomplished after his debilitating injuries. 

  • ashbury, Nick Nelson, Carpetboy and 2 others like this

It's great to get out of the cellar ... as long as you bring something with you.


#17 Kelly Vance

Kelly Vance

    Junior Member

  • Members
  • 578 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 11:56 AM

Nick comments like this are unfair:

 

"After returning from his mid-season minor-league banishment, Sano was barely an improvement over the whiffing mess that had earned a demotion."

 

Sano was not banished or punished.He had a bad leg injury and a surgery and needed more conditioning. It was a move taken for his own good, not as punishment or banishment. And portraying the move the way you did is unnecessary to the entire story.You don't need to do that.

 

Players coming off injury often over compensate by trying too hard. That is what Sano did. His heart was in the right place but he didn't make the right adjustments. That happens with young players. I think his showing up slimmed down answer all of the questions about his attitude. 

  • SomeGuy likes this

#18 spycake

spycake

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 14,825 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 12:23 PM

 

The good news for this season is that we have 6 or 7 20 HR guys in the offense or 4 who have hit 30 and a 5th with 28. Sano won't be the out every opposing pitcher is focused on this year as our 1 big power hitter. That lowers the pressure on Sano a little and makes a .240/ .320/. 480 a fine season.

FWIW, you could have made a similar argument last spring. Remember both Dozier and Morrison were coming off 30+ HR seasons, and Rosario/Kepler were pretty much at their current power levels too.

 

I do like Nelson Cruz, but I'm not sure this year's lineup will translate into meaningfully less pressure on Sano. (If there's any less pressure on Sano, it would probably be due his 2018 performance lowering expectations.)


#19 caninatl04

caninatl04

    Chattanooga Lookouts

  • Members
  • 675 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 12:30 PM

Nick wrote:

"the franchise lacks a substantive roadmap beyond those two."

 

Aren't Miranda and Severino both among the Top 20 prospects? 

 

But, yes, this is an area where the minors could use a boost.Maybe through the draft (Rece Hinds) but hopefully for a trade from an area of strength (OF, AAAA SP) among minor leaguers.

  • howieramone2 likes this

#20 Nick Nelson

Nick Nelson

    Owner

  • Administrators
  • 3,767 posts

Posted 04 March 2019 - 12:40 PM

 

Sano was not banished or punished.He had a bad leg injury and a surgery and needed more conditioning. It was a move taken for his own good, not as punishment or banishment. And portraying the move the way you did is unnecessary to the entire story.You don't need to do that.

It actually is necessary because part of the story here is that we can't pin Sano's deteriorating plate discipline entirely on his injury. In 2017, from June 1st until he suffered his leg injury, he had a 7% (non-intentional) BB rate in 65 games. When he was a rookie two years earlier, that figure stood at 16%. Last year with the Twins his walk rate was slightly better, at 10%, but his K-rate was also way up because he was still chasing everything. 

 

Patience is a vital aspect of Sano's game that had gone amiss before he hurt his leg. I think it's fair to say his demotion to the minors was about improving pitch recognition as well as working on his conditioning. 

  • spycake and Sconnie like this



Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: miguel sano, marwin gonzalez