Miguel Sano would be the #1 prospect, arguably, in about 27 of the 30 Major League Organizations, at least according to Baseball America. In the Minnesota Twins organization, he ranks a solid #2. I bet you can guess who will be named the Twins Daily #1 Twins Prospect tomorrow. It’s been a long time since the Twins have had a prospect with the kind of power that Miguel Sano has. He has a jovial personality, and that combination means that he has a chance to be a superstar.
What’s to Like?
A lot! First and foremost is the immense power of Miguel Sano. In 2012, in Beloit, Sano hit 30 home runs. Last year, he moved up Ft. Myers where he hit 16 home runs in just 56 games before adding another 19 homers in AA New Britain… as a 20 year old! Remember that the Midwest League and especially the Florida State League are considered fairly extreme pitcher-friendly leagues.
What is his power potential? Sano is 6-4 now and weighed in at 250 pounds at his Twins Fest physical, and he may still be growing. As you recall from the interview with him at Twins Fest, when I asked his if his home run goal for 2014 was going to be 40 (after 30 and 35, respectively, in the past two seasons), he said, “Maybe 45, maybe 50. More games… Maybe 55. I’m working hard, getting good pitches. That’s it.”
That is another thing to like about Miguel Sano. Yes, he will strike out, but his strike zone judgment has greatly improved. After walking just 6.2% of the time in the GCL and 7.8% at Elizabethton, Sano walked 14.5% of the time in Beloit. Last year, he walked about 12% of the time in Ft. Myers and then 13% in New Britain. The key has been his ability to lay off of those tough sliders down and away. With more experience, his ability to get his pitch should continue to improve.
Another area of great improvement for Sano came on the defensive side of the game. 2012 was his first season where he was a full-time third baseman. He committed 42 errors and posted an 88.4% fielding percentage. Of course, I always like to point out that nearly 30 of those errors came in the first half of the season. In 2012, he committed a combined 23 errors at the hot corner and his fielding percentage jumped to 93.2% There is still work to be done, but reports say that he greatly improved his range. He is able to play a little deeper because he has such a strong arm.
He also has some of the intangibles for greatness. Sano has great confidence, and he wants to be great, not just very good. He wants to lead the league in Home Runs and RBI. It can come across as brash at times. He has always had a lot of personality. Earlier in his career, some say he lacked a maturity. Now, most say that he is becoming more of a leader. He has a lot of fun playing the game and in the clubhouse. His English has also come a long way over the last couple of years.
What’s not to like?
As mentioned above, he still has work to do at third base. He will make some great plays and then stumble on some more routine plays. Often that is more of a concentration thing. So, he needs to become more consistent.
When Miguel Sano puts the ball in play, generally good things happen because he so powerful. However, putting the ball in play is still a concern. Sano struck out 26.7% of his GCL plate appearances, and then 26.3% at Elizabethton. In Beloit in 2012, he struck out 26.0%. In his 56 games with Ft. Myers a year ago, he struck out 25.1% of the time. However, when he moved up to New Britain, he struck out 29.3% of the time. Just for a glimpse of what that means, in 2006, Brandon Wood struck out 28.5% of his plate appearances at AA. So, although Sano has put up incredible power numbers, to dismiss his strikeout rate might be a little naïve.
Remember that I put Sano’s confidence in the positive category? I believe players need to be confident, bordering on arrogant, to become a truly great player. However, there is a certain line that shouldn’t be crossed, and that is typically showing up your opponent. Sano famously took his time rounding the bases last year in New Britain after a monster home run off of former teammate Bobby Lanigan. Clearly Sano was in the wrong in that case, and Jeff Smith and the organization were right in benching him for a few games. Hopefully that is a lesson learned for the still-just-20 year old Sano.
The only other concern came early this offseason when, after playing in just two games in the Dominican Winter League, he was shut down due to a UCL strain. Immediately many were concerned about the possibility that Sano could miss most, if not all, of the 2014 season if he needed Tommy John surgery. He not only saw Twins doctors, but he went and saw Dr. James Andrews, who prescribed the plan of resting it and then starting to rehab in January. Sano is now on a throwing program and experiencing no pain in his elbow. It’s obviously something to be aware of, thought there does not appear to be much concern.
Some of the readers at Twins Daily may be able to think back further than I, but in the last 25 years, power prospects have been few and far between in the Twins organization. I remember when Justin Morneau made his Major League debut and received a standing ovation from Metrodome fans. I was watching at my home… standing up, and clapping. In 2002, he had 16 homers, 12 in the Midwest League (63 games) and four in 53 games in Ft. Myers. In 2003, he hit 22 minor league homers and four big league blasts. In 2004, he hit 22 homers in 72 games in Rochester and 19 home runs in 74 games with the Twins.
Michael Cuddyer had 30 home runs in a full season at New Britain in 2001. In 2002, he played at AAA Edmonton and hit 20 home runs. That was good for 5th place on the team’s roster as Michael Ryan led with 31 and Michael Restovich had 29.
I think it’s fair to say that when Miguel Sano arrives in the big leagues, he will arrive with more fan-fare than any Twins player in their history, with the possible exception of Joe Mauer. Sano signed with the Twins in October of 2009 under a cloud of controversy and intrigue. It’s been impressive that he has met, and exceeded, many of the expectations placed upon him
So… When will we see him?
I expect Miguel Sano to return to New Britain to start the 2014 season. I also have my doubts that he will spend any time in AAA Rochester.
Assuming health, I would put the odds of Sano making his big league debut in 2014 at about 99.9% But when? There will be a couple of factors that play into this. First, the strikeout rate and the defense will need to continue to improve. However, if Trevor Plouffe were to be placed on the Disabled List for an extended period of time, I have little question that the Twins would not hesitate to call up Sano, whether that be in May or June. Otherwise, the Twins could wait until June and gain a year of pre-arbitration time. They could have him play in the Futures Game at Target Field in July and then just stay with the big league club. Since he would have to be added to the 40 man roster after the 2014 season anyway, I believe he would be called up in September unless things went terribly wrong.
Like TD Prospect #3 Alex Meyer, and like TD's #1 prospect that you'll learn more about tomorrow, and like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and Johan Santana, Miguel Sano is a cornerstone player. He is a guy who will, or at least can, lead the Twins organization back to prominence.
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