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  • What's Miguel Sano's Role Moving Forward?


    Cody Christie

    Miguel Sano is expected to come off the injured list this week, but things have changed in the Twins line-up. What is Sano’s role moving forward?

    Image courtesy of © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    Sano’s Slow Start

    Miguel Sano entered the 2021 season as the team’s first baseman, and he seemed locked into that spot after signing an extension entering the 2020 campaign. Prior to his injury, Sano was trying to find himself at the plate. He is hitting .111/.310/.244 (.555) with two extra-base hits, both home runs. One positive among these numbers is the fact that he has already drawn 13 walks, which is just five fewer than his walk total in 53 games last year.

     

    Sano is typically among the league leaders when it comes to average exit velocity, hard hit %, and barrel %. During the 2020 campaign, he ranked in the 99th percentile or higher in all three of those areas. This season he is at the completely opposite end of the spectrum with all three being below average. His hard hit % might be the most concerning as that has dipped to the 8th percentile.

     

    Kirilloff’s Emergence

    For most of his professional career, Alex Kirilloff has played in the outfield, but the Twins have been grooming him to get more time at first base. Sano’s trip to the disabled list has allowed Kirilloff to play first on a more regular basis and he is considered a better defender than Sano. In fact, Minnesota might have one of their best defensive infields in team history with Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons, Jorge Polanco, and Kirilloff.

     

    It also helps that Kirilloff has been killing the ball even though the results weren’t showing up until this past weekend. Among batters with at least 25 batted ball events, Kirilloff has been barreling up the ball at a higher rate than any player in baseball including Byron Buxton. His hit tool has always been advanced, and he might be putting it all together at the big-league level as a 23-year-old.

    https://twitter.com/NoDakTwinsFan/status/1389277969785425924?s=20

    Besides Kirilloff’s emergence, the Twins also need to continue to find regular playing time for another key player.

     

    The Arraez Puzzle

    Arraez was penciled in as the team’s utility player, but he has become an everyday player. Only two players, Jake Cave and Nelson Cruz, have appeared in more games than Arraez. He has played regularly in the outfield and at multiple infield positions. He started the season on a strong note at the plate, but his bat has cooled off as the first month progressed and now he is heading to the concussion IL.

     

    Injuries have allowed Arraez to be in the line-up on a regular basis and finding spots in the line-up tends to work itself out over the course of 162-games. Other players are going to get injured, and Rocco Baldelli prefers to give players regular days off. This means the Twins can rotate through players at multiple positions, especially with the team’s defensive flexibility.

     

    When everyone is healthy, Minnesota’s best line-up doesn’t include Sano. That being said, he will continue to be used at first base and designated hitter as the season progresses. It just might be tough for him to refine his offensive approach if Kirilloff continues to get at-bats at first base.

     

    What do you think Sano’s role will be moving forward? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

     

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    This 'loss' is completely on the so-called data-driven approach of Baldelli. I cannot understand how you bring Rogers out for the 9th. He needs rest in between appearances. When he is brought in for two consecutive appearances the data show that he gets raked. I thought we knew that already, and then he brings in the fresh from the minors Waddell for the 10th? Why? So he can demote him after the game and justify the move? Where is Alcala in all of this? Boy, this particular game really irritates me to no end... 

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    He’ll play first base. This is the kind of article I’d expect from the Trib. It’s not that complicated. Kirilloff will go to the outfield, and Arraez will move around spelling people and play nearly every day. And sometimes, against certain righties, etc, Kirilloff will be at first base. Sano doesn’t replace Kirilloff...and he doesn’t replace Arraez. He replaces Jake Cave.

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    Sano will be fine. He’ll go on a tear at some point and end the year with 35 HRs.

     

    He’s a convenient punching bag. But, why does a flurry of articles always come out calling for his job when he struggles? We haven’t seen that for Kepler or Garver.

     

    I don’t get the constant fawning over Arraez, either. Good hitter. Not great defensively. Negative power. He’s a fine player to have, but I’m not overly concerned about him not playing everyday (which he clearly can’t and stay healthy, anyway).

     

    Sano’s career OPS is actually about 10 points higher than Arraez.

     

    In 3 of the 4 seasons Miguel had more than 350 plate appearances he’s slugged over .500 and OPS’d over .850. Two of those were over .900. He was an absolute force in the summer of 2019. I’m not ready to write him off after a poor COVID shortened season and more 50 bad ABs in 2021.

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    Agree with jkcarew-Cave is the one that will have his playing time decreased when Sano returns. AK primarily playing LF, and occassional 1B for Sano. Garlick play against LH pitchers, Arraez, 2B, 3B, to give infielders rest maybe even DH. Don't see much of a role for Cave, Astidillo can at least play multiple positions and emergency catcher.

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    Not much changes from the original plan. Sano plays 1B primarily, Kirilloff plays LF primarily, and Arraez fills in elsewhere around the field. When it’s all said and done, all 3 will look like they played almost every day.

    Absolutely right. This was the original intent coming into the season, so why would anything change? If you play Kirilloff at 1B, then you need a LF. If you play Arraez in LF, then you need another utility guy. All of this while Sano rots on the bench? Making changes just creates an issue elsewhere, so why deviate from what you wanted to happen in the first place? That's how the roster was constructed going into Spring Training.

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    Seems like the goal with Arraez was to have him bat lead-off and "field wherever." With Buxton finally stepping into the leadoff batter role, I would think this bumps Arraez down the depth chart more than anything Sano and Kiriloff are doing. Provided Sano and Kiriloff can drive in runs and get on base, of course.

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    Sano, vs rest of lineup through May 5 (a small sample for everyone concerned)...

     

    Players with lower OBP than Sano:

    Garlick, Astudillo, Polanco, Kepler, Garver, Cave, Kirilloff, Jeffers, Rooker

     

    Players with HIGHER K-rate:

    Garver, Cave, Jeffers, Rooker

    Sano: 33.9% (against a 36.9% career average)

    Kirilloff this year: 29.5%

     

    Players with lower BABiP:

    None (accept Rooker)

     

    If Sano  continues exactly what he’s been doing in 2021, and his BAPiP and HR% normalize even close to career norms, he’ll help the club.

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