After taking a year off to recover from elbow surgery, Miguel Sano is back in Twins camp and opening some eyes with his prodigious power. Folks around the compound have marveled at his strength during batting practice sessions in which he has routinely driven baseballs well beyond the outfield walls.
If Sano's bat isn't major-league ready, it is very, very close. Finding a place in the lineup for him will not be difficult. Finding a place in the field for him... well, that's another story.
More than two years ago, I posed this question: Is Miguel Sano too big to stay at third? At the time, he was 19 years old and listed at 240 pounds -- already as big as any third baseman in the majors. Taking all factors into account, I concluded that "the odds seem heavily stacked against him remaining at his current position, especially with an organization that values steady defense more than most."
Now, he's shown up to camp at a whopping 260 pounds, and he looks it. According to 1500 ESPN's Derek Wetmore, the gain occurred "because for parts of his recovery period from last year's Tommy John surgery ... [Sano] wasn't able to run or do workouts like he ordinarily would."
There's also the fact that the young slugger seems to have little interest in keeping his weight down. In his own words: "I eat everything ... I don't like the nutrition. [I eat] whatever I want. If there's something here I'm eating."
At age 21, Sano is already bigger than basically any third baseman in baseball. Pablo Sandoval is in the conversation; he's listed at 245 but is also five inches shorter than Sano. Nevertheless, it's rare for a guy that size to stick at the hot corner, and that's before you account for the questions that already surrounded Sano's footwork, accuracy and consistency -- not to mention the challenges he faces in learning to throw with a surgically repaired elbow.
For their part, the Twins are publicly trying to maintain optimism that Sano can stay at third, as best they can. But the skepticism shows through when you read quotes like this one from Paul Molitor:
"I was working today on the bunt defenses; he's trying," Molitor said. "There are things that are going to be a challenge for him. We've got to keep an eye on him. He's a big boy. He carries it pretty well, but you've got to have some athleticism. He's got to keep that ... if he wants to play a corner-infield position in the big leagues, especially third base."
The Twins had their frustrations with Trevor Plouffe's defense, at least up until last year, and there's a good chance that the hulking Dominican will make Plouffe's range and reactions -- even in those early days at third base -- look stellar by comparison. Even if he does carry his weight well, it's difficult to imagine Sano offering much in the way of lateral movement or spryness when it comes to, say, charging and fielding a bunt.
If (when?) the Twins decide that third base just isn't going to work out, there's been some talk of moving him to an outfield corner, but that seems like a less than ideal alternative. His lack of mobility would be an issue, particularly with Oswaldo Arcia patrolling the other side, and he also has zero professional experience playing anywhere other than the infield.
The more likely destination would be first base or designated hitter. This is unfortunate because it would mean putting his powerful arm -- rated by some scouts as an 80 on a 20-80 scale -- to waste, and even more so because it's going to be very tricky to find room for him at either of those spots.
Joe Mauer obviously is entrenched at first base, and while many fans have pondered the notion of moving him to an outfield spot, the Twins have never openly considered such a switch. More than likely, he's going to remain at first until his contract expires in 2018.
So we're left with DH, where Kennys Vargas is currently penciled in. Vargas is young and unproven enough that there could be an opening here, but obviously everyone is hoping he can stick and the idea of him and Sano in the same lineup is beyond tantalizing. Unfortunately, it's growing more and more difficult to see how that's going to feasibly work.
What do you think? Where can Sano fit in if the Twins want to get his bat up as quickly as possible?