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  • Miguel Sano: Boom, Bust, or Both?


    Ted Schwerzler

    Last week Minnesota Twins first basemen Miguel Sano underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Expected to be out a handful of weeks, we’re looking at what’s likely the end of the line for the former top prospect. As he hits free agency this offseason, what is to be made of his Twins career?

    Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

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    Miguel Sano is under contract through the 2022 season and has a $14 million team option for 2023. Carrying just a $2.75 million buyout, it’s all but certain the front office will move on from Sano. Once ranked as high as the 4th best prospect across all of baseball by MLB.com, Sano now is a big leaguer with nearly 700 games under his belt.

    Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a teenager, Sano’s initial contract was one of the most contentious topics in the sport at the time. From questions about his true age to decisions regarding which team he’d agree with, a full feature-length film was made about the process. Coming stateside in 2010, Sano has been a part of the Twins organization for over a decade.

    His minor league numbers were always gaudy. Tabbed a shortstop only through initial athleticism, but with the understanding future size would move him to a corner, Sano put up a .932 OPS in 491 minor league games. Debuting with the Twins on July 2, 2015, Sano became a fixture at the hot corner. He was asked to play right field in an odd move just a few seasons later and has since settled in holding down first base.

    Across 691 Major League games, Sano has launched 162 career home runs and posted an .809 OPS. His 117 OPS+ is above league average, and while he’s tallied over 1,000 strikeouts, there’s no denying his bat is one of the most explosive in the game. Sano finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting back in 2015, being beaten out only by Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. He made the All-Star Game in 2017 and also competed in the Home Run Derby.

    Never a strong defender, Sano has been passable at best in the field. Aside from the abomination that was his right field experiment, he’s been far from a butcher but hardly sniffed any sort of accolades. He’s taken to the new role at first base well and has shown a level of athleticism that originally highlighted the opportunity to succeed at the hot corner. He’s fluctuated on the scale and that has also led to both criticism and improved opportunities for success.

    It’s foolish to believe Sano has played his last game for Minnesota, there will be opportunities when he returns. What capacity the opportunities come from remain entirely linked to those currently holding things down. Jose Miranda is a top prospect with a good bat. Luis Arraez is a dependable utility player. Alex Kirilloff was supposed to be the next mainstay in Minnesota’s lineup. Any combination of those three could take at-bats away from Sano, but at least two of the three have plenty of earning yet to be done.

    When the dust settles the expectation should be that Sano tacks on a few more home runs. While his production leaves plenty to be desired right now, having just a .379 OPS, there was good reason to believe a patented outburst was coming. A streaky type of player that can break out in a big way, Sano was still looking for the other shoe to drop early on in 2022.

    There shouldn’t be a career-altering amount of change coming the rest of the way for Sano, however, and that opens the door to evaluation. What has Sano been for the Minnesota Twins? A former top 10 prospect across all of baseball puts up nearly 200 homers and an .800 OPS by the time he turns 28 and that gets evaluated how? His work ethic, character, and play style will likely always drag him further down for some, but have the positives been enough to find yourself happy with the overall trajectory?

    This is where you chime in. Was Miguel Sano a bust for the Twins, or did he do enough to justify the hype?

     

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    What has always been most frustrating about Sano is his lack of growth over the years in the majors.  He would have stretches of great production, and long slumps, but we always thought what if he just figures it out.  Each year we would say this is his year.  He would start off slow, but then pick up his numbers for awhile.  He just never got to that next level of play.  

    I always felt if he could have adopted a Miguel Cabrera type approach he would have been great.  Not as good as Cabrera, but much better than what Sana has been.  Sano had the power to drive ball out of all fields but for some reason always wanted to pull everything out.  He would get overpowered by fastballs. 

    I always felt if he would have been willing to drive the fastballs to right and turn on the off-speed stuff he would have been amazing. He would have stretches where he would do that and you would see homeruns to right.  I also felt he never had a plan during his at bats.  So many of the great hitters would have a plan, have a thought of how the pitcher wanted to pitch them.  Sano always felt like he was a see ball hit ball mode and never thought I am going to look for pitch x in location x and swing. 

    He never will be what we hoped, but he is still a MLB player, just may not be for us. 

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    It's a heartbreaker. To me, he still looks like Frank Thomas in a uniform. He still looks like the guy I'd imagined he one day be back when he was a young prospect. I can still see all that potential and he turns just 29 tomorrow. He should be mid-prime.

    He's only produced like a star player in small bursts and when he's bad, he's awful. It really does feel like it is time to stop hoping and move on. This year was make-or-break.

    However it goes from here, there will be a bad aftertaste in my mouth. I wanted better for him.

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    I think everyone could/can see the tantalizing potential, but it just hasn't materialized on anywhere near a consistent basis. As was said earlier...there's been absolutely zero growth and progress with him. At this point, I can't see it happening. Unfortunately, he's stayed exactly the same, or even regressed, since he first came up in 2015. Wow...if he could turn on a switch and somehow figure it out, he could easily be a 40-50 HR, 100 RBI guy, and even if he could hit .240-.250, it would be worthwhile. It's time to let him go somewhere else and become some other teams project. I wish him the best, but I want him gone

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    The 36.4 K% is just appalling. He is right down there with Joey Gallo in terms of MLB career worst K%. This year might be the end of the line for both of them. 
     

    i am somewhat surprised he has not been put on the 60 day DL, as the Twins are down to there last available bat on the 40 man roster. 

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    He certainly wasn't a bust. He may not have been everyone's favorite style of player (I hate 3 true outcomes hitters), but he was most definitely a useful player over the course of a full season. His problem was always the streakiness where he'd have 2 weeks of striking out 75% of the time and 2 weeks of hitting bombs seemingly every other AB.

    There's no reason to not give him more ABs in the warm weather when he gets back to see if he can get hot and carry the team for a month, but there's also no reason to pick up his option for next year. Expectations have really killed the perception of his career to this point. He's been an above average hitter, but when you're compared to a top 5 right handed hitter of all time throughout your entire minor league career it's hard to meet those expectations. I hope Miguel moves on after this season and does become "the next Ortiz." Why would we not want someone to succeed? It's unfortunate he could never quite put it all together here, but I hope he gets on one or two last scorching streaks to end this season with the Twins and moves on to a new spot and continues to mash 450 foot HRs.

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    Geez--please don't put Sano and Frank Thomas in the same paragraph.  Thomas looked to hit solid line drives and some of them went out---and he consistently tried to take the ball where he could by the pitch location.  He wasn't a pure pull hitter and did not swing to hit homeruns.  None of those traits stick with Sano.  He will go with the ball and hit opposite field for short spurts---but always goes back to being a hard pull hitter.  

    If you are going to be one dimensional---just a plate guy--you need to be very good at it.  He is not--not consistent, not clutch and not coachable.  He only averages 23 HR's a year and is CONSTANTLY INJURED.  

    The big question is can any number of replacements do as good or better of a job, and BE AVAILABLE, for less than $14M/year? I think the answer is obvious.

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    Legit major leaguer who had moments of great play, but suffered from a lack of consistent, reliable production.  Couple that with below average fielding and consistently absurd strike out rates, and we are left with disappointment. So sadly, more bust than boom given expectations.

    What is perhaps most sad, is that this is a huge contact year for Miguel.  There was rightly a lot of optimism that he would be focused on producing to earn one more big contract.  The incredibly slow start now followed by the injury makes a big new deal unlikely.  That’s too bad for Miguel - I was really cheering for him,  

     

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    You can have a home run hitter. But he does less good if he doesn't hit them with me on base. 

    If he hits 50+ homers, you can praise him for the ones that only make him run around the bases. 

    But in the scheme of things, if looking for someone to hot 20-25 homers a season and playing one of the corners on the diamond, a place in the outfield, or desiognated hitter...you can find them any and every season for what you would have to pay Sano in 2023.

    Are we afraid that he will go elsewhere and shine? If he does, it will happen because of coaching, a better batting order (perhaps), and Sano wanting to have a much longer career. But with his current trajectory, it looks like he will have to settle for a lower salary come 2023, work his butt off to succeed, and might end up at a team that has played him worse than the Twins in his career...played him where, I don't know. Will a contender grab him (or maybe the Twins can trade him to the National League when he comes off the IL) or will he end up in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or Kansas City. Maybe Oakland. Possibly Colorado would like to see if he would be a monster mash.

    What I am (sadly) most happy about is that the Twins can now see how they can work without Sano. Without worrying about keeping him in a position because he needs to play on the field than wander the dugout. How they only have to cringe at the bad swings of Sanchez in a game instead of the swings of two batters.

    They can see how he works to stay in shape for his return. How he plays during a 10-game stint (at least) in the minors. They will be able to maybe dangle him as tradebait.

    Maybe he'll end up like Oswaldo Arcia, going to foreign ball and ending his career in the lowly indy leagues looking for that return to the majors. 

    But I will tell you all this...I am tired of watching him swing at the low outside-the-strike zone pitches. Maybe he goes a week holding back. But he is always doomed to return what he thinks is best in his batters box.

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    I think the Twins have gotten as much as they are going to get out of Sano. He turns 29 tomorrow and history is not kind to sluggers his size as they approach and pass 30, just look at the Fielder's, Cabrera, Hrbek, Luzinski, and several others that I know I am forgetting. Even Thomas and Papi and Albert each battled injuries and production issues after and into their 30's. 

    Thank you Miguel Sano, but I believe it is time to move on and let him have an opportunity elsewhere.

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    To answer the final question, Sano has been neither a bust, not has he justified the hype. All you have to do is read through the answers already given to come up with a one word description of Sano's career with the Twins: disappointment.

    I think the talent is there, and I don't "hate" Sano; he seems like a decent team-mate. But for whatever reason (too much pub as a kid, becoming enamored with HR distance, having it too easy early to put in the work, lack of hunger, I just don't know), he has been resistant to advice/coaching (Rod Carew's opinion, not just mine), and I don't think the full potential will ever be met. He is what he is unless the jolt of not being renewed lights a fire.

    And what he is, is thoroughly replaceable; if not during this season, then definitely in the offseason. I think he still gets too much credit here for what is rapidly becoming a distant past. Check his page on Baseball Reference (link below), and you will find of his 7.9 career WAR, he'd earned 5.5 of them by 2017 (aka 5 years ago). He really has only had one good year since, 2019, when he added 2.5. That means in the past three seasons (including what he has played of this season), Sano is a -.1 WAR, or just less than average. And almost all of the positive there was earned in the last half of last season when the Twins were essentially eliminated and dumping players.

    I'm not for cutting/releasing Sano as long as he remains a good teammate; he still could pop a decent hot streak that helps the team this year. But I'm ready to move on, and I expect the Twins are as well.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/sanomi01.shtml

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    1 hour ago, PopRiveter said:

    He's only produced like a star player in small bursts and when he's bad, he's awful. It really does feel like it is time to stop hoping and move on.

    Thinking about it, this is the piece that underlies my negative opinion of Sano. The good times are great, if infrequent. But the bad times are abysmal. Kind of a black hole in the middle of the lineup, sucking up outs for a week at a time.

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    13 minutes ago, PatPfund said:

    To answer the final question, Sano has been neither a bust, not has he justified the hype. All you have to do is read through the answers already given to come up with a one word description of Sano's career with the Twins: disappointment.

    I think the talent is there, and I don't "hate" Sano; he seems like a decent team-mate. But for whatever reason (too much pub as a kid, becoming enamored with HR distance, having it too easy early to put in the work, lack of hunger, I just don't know), he has been resistant to advice/coaching (Rod Carew's opinion, not just mine), and I don't think the full potential will ever be met. He is what he is unless the jolt of not being renewed lights a fire.

    And what he is, is thoroughly replaceable; if not during this season, then definitely in the offseason. I think he still gets too much credit here for what is rapidly becoming a distant past. Check his page on Baseball Reference (link below), and you will find of his 7.9 career WAR, he'd earned 5.5 of them by 2017 (aka 5 years ago). He really has only had one good year since, 2019, when he added 2.5. That means in the past three seasons (including what he has played of this season), Sano is a -.1 WAR, or just less than average. And almost all of the positive there was earned in the last half of last season when the Twins were essentially eliminated and dumping players.

    I'm not for cutting/releasing Sano as long as he remains a good teammate; he still could pop a decent hot streak that helps the team this year. But I'm ready to move on, and I expect the Twins are as well.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/sanomi01.shtml

    The Twins need production not moral support, ultimately they have younger more promising players who need those at-bats so moving on from him will be addition by subtraction. It would be great if they could find a trade partner for him. I think people think he will become the Sano of the past but it seems like what we see now is the real Sano, or he regressed from his more productive days. Hopefully he can fit in on another team and get a second chance.

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    2 hours ago, Trov said:

    What has always been most frustrating about Sano is his lack of growth over the years in the majors.  He would have stretches of great production, and long slumps, but we always thought what if he just figures it out.  Each year we would say this is his year.  He would start off slow, but then pick up his numbers for awhile.  He just never got to that next level of play.  

    I always felt if he could have adopted a Miguel Cabrera type approach he would have been great.  Not as good as Cabrera, but much better than what Sana has been.  Sano had the power to drive ball out of all fields but for some reason always wanted to pull everything out.  He would get overpowered by fastballs. 

    I always felt if he would have been willing to drive the fastballs to right and turn on the off-speed stuff he would have been amazing. He would have stretches where he would do that and you would see homeruns to right.  I also felt he never had a plan during his at bats.  So many of the great hitters would have a plan, have a thought of how the pitcher wanted to pitch them.  Sano always felt like he was a see ball hit ball mode and never thought I am going to look for pitch x in location x and swing. 

    He never will be what we hoped, but he is still a MLB player, just may not be for us. 

    Can't help but feel that this is pretty spot on.  Sometimes, guys just don't figure it out fully despite prodigious God given talent.  I won't ever say, "Sano... it's all your fault." because baseball is just cruel and unforgiving even in the best of times.  Not every player has that "plan" for when their talent alone isn't enough, and at that level it never is.

    God speed to wherever life and baseball takes Miguel, but I believe you are right Trov... it probably isn't in MN any more. 🤷‍♂️

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    1 hour ago, chpettit19 said:

    He certainly wasn't a bust. He may not have been everyone's favorite style of player (I hate 3 true outcomes hitters), but he was most definitely a useful player over the course of a full season. His problem was always the streakiness where he'd have 2 weeks of striking out 75% of the time and 2 weeks of hitting bombs seemingly every other AB.

    There's no reason to not give him more ABs in the warm weather when he gets back to see if he can get hot and carry the team for a month, but there's also no reason to pick up his option for next year. Expectations have really killed the perception of his career to this point. He's been an above average hitter, but when you're compared to a top 5 right handed hitter of all time throughout your entire minor league career it's hard to meet those expectations. I hope Miguel moves on after this season and does become "the next Ortiz." Why would we not want someone to succeed? It's unfortunate he could never quite put it all together here, but I hope he gets on one or two last scorching streaks to end this season with the Twins and moves on to a new spot and continues to mash 450 foot HRs.

    Very well said Chpettit :) 

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    1 minute ago, rwilfong86 said:

    The Twins need production not moral support, ultimately they have younger more promising players who need those at-bats so moving on from him will be addition by subtraction. It would be great if they could find a trade partner for him. I think people think he will become the Sano of the past but it seems like what we see now is the real Sano, or he regressed from his more productive days. Hopefully he can fit in on another team and get a second chance.

    I'm not asking for moral support. But he is a potential asset as long as he is not an active detriment (hence, the 'good teammate' comment). One of the ways he could help the team with a hot streak, is making himself viable as a late season rental for another team. Might not score much, but unless he plays enough to show himself a major leaguer, his current trade value is zero. And while I think the Twins have potential successors right now, Kirilloff still smells like a minor leaguer since his wrist injury, and Miranda has shown some promise, but hasn't locked himself in either. Sano may still be the best short term play when he gets back (though I hope not).

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    40 minutes ago, Nashvilletwin said:

    Legit major leaguer who had moments of great play, but suffered from a lack of consistent, reliable production.  Couple that with below average fielding and consistently absurd strike out rates, and we are left with disappointment. So sadly, more bust than boom given expectations.

    What is perhaps most sad, is that this is a huge contact year for Miguel.  There was rightly a lot of optimism that he would be focused on producing to earn one more big contract.  The incredibly slow start now followed by the injury makes a big new deal unlikely.  That’s too bad for Miguel - I was really cheering for him,  

     

    I hoped that him losing weight and looking in shape coming into this season would have helped him in light of it being a contract year but it didn't seem to do much.

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    20 minutes ago, PatPfund said:

    I'm not asking for moral support. But he is a potential asset as long as he is not an active detriment (hence, the 'good teammate' comment). One of the ways he could help the team with a hot streak, is making himself viable as a late season rental for another team. Might not score much, but unless he plays enough to show himself a major leaguer, his current trade value is zero. And while I think the Twins have potential successors right now, Kirilloff still smells like a minor leaguer since his wrist injury, and Miranda has shown some promise, but hasn't locked himself in either. Sano may still be the best short term play when he gets back (though I hope not).

    The thought of Sano being the best option is a horrifying thought. 😅

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    Each year we heard - loss of weight, new attitude, new adjustments, but in the end the long droughts really hurt the team.  He did not learn. Instead he was enamored with statcast - how hard he hit the ball and how far - and never realized the HR that goes in the first row behind the bench counts as much as the one that leaves the stadium.

    I think he hears the complaints, he is aware, but so far the adjustments have not happened, but they could and maybe being released or traded will be the incentive to change.  New voices might help him.  

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    41 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    Instead he was enamored with statcast - how hard he hit the ball and how far - and never realized the HR that goes in the first row behind the bench counts as much as the one that leaves the stadium.

    Don't know how you got ahold of the team psychologist's paperwork, but it's illegal. :)

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    As far as his future with the Twins, does anyone see him getting traded at some point?  I have always thought Sano was a streaky hitter.  When he is hot, he is among the best in the game; when he is cold, it is ugly.  If we could get a decent prospect or two for him, why not make a deal?

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    I agree "disappointment" is probably the word that best describes Sano's career, at least to this point for sure. But he's not a bust. How many top 100 prospects and high draft choices have failed to reach the ML level or wash out quickly with abysmal results? So the fact that he has played a "decent" 3B/1B and produced the OPS he has for his career might be disappointing for all that was anticipated/hoped for, but he's not a bust.

    I cant' explain his inability to be better than he has been, though I do agree he long ago seemed to disregard any attempt to just put the bat on the ball and let his natural strength do the work for him. I can't explain his slow starts every year. I do know that if you can live with him providing little value through mid May to the 1st of June, you get a POWERFUL and DANGEROUS hitter for the rest of the season that will carry your team for a week or two at a time even. And his final numbers will be very solid, though I'd still have a hard time batting him higher than 5th.

    But if you have a team that wants to challenge for titles, and has as much young talent arriving as the Twins have now, can you afford a streaky hitter who all but disappears the first month and a half to two months of the season? I've never been a hater, often a defender, of Sano. And while he will probably still play and contribute before the season is over, it's just time for both parties to move on after 2022. And that's disappointing.

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    To be honest it's clear he put in some work this offseason. He didn't go back to the DR, stayed in Florida with a trainer, and got himself in great shape, and even had a solid spring. I expected he'd be good as it's a contract year, or at least make the buyout decision interesting. He may be ready to play by late July or August, but I hope the Twins don't consider bringing him back next year. Maybe he needs a change of scenery. Or to follow Cruz.

    Neither a boom or a bust, but closer to a boom. He was drafted as a teenager, made the majors, and was an all-star. 8 career WAR. Definitely better than a lot of top prospects. I mean, is Nick Gordon going to have 8 career WAR? 

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    Very frustrating to watch him work. Potential always there. He isn’t smart at the plate. He’s instinctive and streaky. He’ll never figure it out because he doesn’t think. Given his power, nobody wants to give up on him, but the meter is running.

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    To answer the question in the article: Sano's positives have "not" been enough to find me happy with his overall trajectory. I don't personally know these players, but some are to be admired for selfless play and dedicated training and hustle and positive talk in interviews and charitable works and team before self attitudes. Some are to be pitied for a "me first" attitude, lazy play, lack of hustle, over indulging in food and/or drink or drugs and a lifestyle out side baseball which is troublesome. As Will Rogers was famously quoted: "All I know is what I read in the newspapers." With Sano, there have been problematic newspaper reports of some troubles. Yes he was young, yes one can't believe everything one reads in the newspaper, yes some of the problems were "he said, she said", but I do recall some of you, whom I respect,  vigorously  defended your female friend in one set of allegations which were made against Sano some years ago. There was a period of time when it seemed it was one thing after another with Sano. In summation I have not been pleased overall with Sano being a member of the Minnesota Twins. Have I cheered when he homered 162 times, yes. But I have also groaned three thousand times as he swung, especially a slider low and outside, and missed, or took a strike. I, for one, am ready to move on. 

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