NASHVILLE ‑ Miguel Sano has informed his winter ball team that he will not play any more games so he can focus on conditioning and learning to play the outfield.
Sano, who was playing third base for Estrellas of the Dominican winter league, batted .241 in 15 games with two home runs and six RBI. He went into the offseason with a goal of losing 20 pounds so he could report to spring training at around 250. The Twins then asked him to start taking fly balls during batting practice to help with a move to the outfield.
Sano contacted Twins officials while they were in Nashville this week for the winter meetings to let them know he was thinking about shutting it down for the offseason. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan had no problems with that.
“Not because of us or anything I have talked to him about,” Ryan said. “I have heard that he’s decided that he was going to shut it down and just work on outfield and conditioning.
“He can do what he needs. I’m not going to dictate that stuff. No. 1, it’s not allowed. No 2, he’s a man. He knows what he’s got to do.”
Sano finished third in voting for American League rookie of the year after batting .269 with 18 homers and 52 RBI in 80 games. He was in the lineup as the designated hitter most of the time while Trevor Plouffe played third base. With the Twins committed to keeping Plouffe — plus the addition of Korean designated hitter Byung Ho Park as the primary designated hitter — the best way for Sano to be in the 2016 lineup is to learn to play one of the corner outfield spots.
Twins lose Zack Jones
There were 65 players selected during the Rule 5 draft on Friday, none by the Twins.
With their 40-man roster full and few enticing prospects on the list, the Twins decided to sit out the major and minor league phases of the draft. Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president in charge of player personnel, said they were interested in three players during the minor league phase of the draft. One was taken, and the Twins decided not to draft the other two.
The Twins lost hard-throwing righthander Zack Jones to Milwaukee in the second round of the major league portion of the draft. Jones was a Southern League All-Star during the first half of the season but struggled during the second half and finished 3-2 with a 6.00 ERA. Jones has a upper-90s fastball but has had trouble corralling his breaking ball.
“Zack was in our organization a long time,” Radcliff said. “He’s a hard thrower, and those guys get taken.”
Jones has to remain on the Brewers’ major league roster the entire season or be offered back to the Twins for half of the $50,000 drafting fee.
Santana the outfielder
The Twins remain in the market for a fourth outfielder, but they might already have one.
Danny Santana, who showed plenty of promise in 2014 but struggled and lost the starting shortstop job in 2015, is going to start playing more outfield. That gives the Twins another option if top prospect Byron Buxton has a poor spring training or if they need a backup outfielder.
Santana hit .319 in 2014. As a center fielder, he batted .316 with a .843 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. As a shortstop, he batted .295 with a .716 OPS. He started last season at short, batted .218 through 49 games and was sent to the minors for the first of two demotions. So the Twins are wondering if not worrying about playing shortstop will help him unleash his offensive potential.