Thursday, February 27, 2014

14 Minnesota Twins to Watch in '14: Miguel Sano

"Chicks dig the long ball."  Everyone remembers that commercial from the 90s.  Well, maybe not everyone and certainly more than just "chicks" dig the long ball.  Home runs are massively popular.  A home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa is often credited with "saving" baseball after the 1994 strike.  I'm not sure how valid that claim is, but I know that I love a good home run.  Big, booming home runs are even better.  Of course, the franchise that I cheer for generally doesn't develop a lot of big boomers, so when a guy with massive power comes along, it's pretty exciting.

The 5th most important Twins player in 2014 is Miguel Sano.

Who is he? 

Sano is one of the top prospects in baseball.  In late 2009, the Twins signed Sano as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic.  He quickly moved to third base, as he is a huge individual.  Sano impressed as a 17-year-old making his pro debut in 2010, but he really broke out with Elizabethton in 2011.  He hit .292/.352/.637 with 20 home runs.  He hit 20 home runs in 66 games!  Then, he hit 28 home runs with Beloit in 2012 and 35 home runs split between Fort Myers and New Britain in 2013.  Basically, Sano hits home runs. 

When Sano signed as a shortstop, everyone knew that he would be moving to third pretty quickly.  He hasn't played a game at short since 2011.  However, many experts also felt that Sano's final defensive resting place would be first base or possibly DH.  Recent reports have been more favorable in regards to Sano's defense at third.  In fact, in their Minnesota Twins top ten prospect list, Baseball Prospectus wrote that his "glove could end up being 5+."  That basically means that he could be an above-average defender, especially when you factor in his monster arm. 

Why is he important?

Since the last time the Twins won the World Series, you can count the number of Twins players who have hit 30 or more home runs in a season on one hand.  Four different players have reached that number - Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau (he did it 3 times).  A Twins player has hit 30 home runs in a season just 24 times.  24 times in 53 seasons!  8 of those seasons came from Harmon Killebrew!  Sano has the power to hit 30 home runs consistently, and some think he might be able to hit 30 home runs in 2014.  Home runs are popular and for that reason alone, Sano is a very important player for this franchise.  Willingham proved in 2012 that right-handed power plays at Target Field. 

Sano gets compared to Miguel Cabrera because he has a ton of power and can fake it at third base.  This comparison is unfair.  Sano doesn't make contact like Cabrera, so he won't hit .350 in a season and he may never hit .300.  Defensively, Sano and Cabrera do not compare.  "Faking it" is the perfect way to describe how Cabrera played third.  He got by.  Sano can play third.  He's athletic and he's got a fantastic arm.  He's big, but he's not fat and he can move.  Right now, Sano is a powerful third baseman who appears to be close to MLB-ready at age 20.   So yeah, he's important.

Paul the Positive Puma's Take:

Oh man, I'm super excited for Sano.  The Twins have had potent offenses in the past, but they haven't had a guy who could consistently hit large quantities of home runs since Harmon Killebrew.  I wasn't alive when he was around, so I have never seen a guy with Killebrew's power in my lifetime.  Sano might have that kind of power.  The anticipation surrounding Sano is hitting a crescendo.  He didn't dominate AA last season, but he held his own at age 20.  It seems there will be a day in 2014 when Sano will make his MLB debut and if pumas were allowed at Target Field, you know that I'd be there. 

I'm really encouraged by reports I've read about Sano's defense.  With Joe Mauer at first for the foreseeable future, Sano needs to stay at third.  I wouldn't advocate keeping him there if he was going to be a mess because that isn't good for the team or for him.  I don't need Sano to be the best third baseman, but my hope is that he can make the routine plays, make some extra plays with his arm, and stay athletic enough to do those things for a number of years.  I'm sure he'll move to first one day, but I am confident that we won't see that day for quite some time.  I'm really excited. 

Peter the Pessimistic Puma's Take:

I have to admit, I like the idea of a guy on the Twins with some swagger and personality.  The bland, boring Twins of the 90s and 2000s have long put me to sleep.  However, I worry that Sano will be more style than substance when he gets to Minnesota.  Reports about his defense have been more encouraging, but none of them state with certainty that he'll be a quality third baseman in the Majors.  Even in a "better" 2013 season, Sano still made 23 errors.  Plus, he's only 20, so he might get bigger.  How many 260 lb third baseman can you find?  Miguel Cabrera?  Let's be honest, he shouldn't have been at third in the first place. 

It's not like Sano's a finished offensive product either.  He only hit .236 with AA last season.  I imagine he would hit under .200 with the Twins if given the opportunity in 2014.  He can't possibly hit 30 home runs with a batting average under .200.  I say that because only Mark Reynolds has done that in the last 30 years and it took him almost 600 plate appearances.  There's no way Sano gets 600 plate appearances with the Twins in 2014.  In fact, I'd be shocked if he gets one plate appearance with the Twins in 2014.  The Twins are notably conservative with their youngsters and Sano needs to work on his contact/strikeouts/defense.  He's got a bunch of tools, but he still needs to learn how to use them. 

What to look for in '14:

Sano could start 2014 in AA, AAA or in the Majors and it wouldn't be a surprise.  He hit 19 home runs in 67 games with New Britain in 2013, but he also hit just .236.  The Twins could send Sano back to AA and it would be a completely logical move.  It would be upsetting for many fans, but it would be logical.  I'm not sure anyone would be able to argue with sending Sano to AAA, so that seems to be his mostly likely destination for the start of 2014.  Oswaldo Arcia played 69 games with AA in 2012 and started his 2013 season in AAA.  It makes sense for Sano to start with AAA and if he hits like he has, earn a promotion at some point during the season. 

If he goes back to AA, he won't stay there long.  If he starts with AAA, his MLB debut-watch immediately begins.  If he starts with the Twins, well, that would be awesome.  He's not a finished product right now, but he's getting close.  His power is legit and his defense seems to be coming along.  Some additional time in the Minors is the logical move, but my fan brain is very illogical.  I'd love to see him with the Twins on Opening Day.  That way, I could get a look at his defense with my fan eyes and my fan brain.

No matter where he plays, this is still a development year.  He'll play most of this season at age 21 and it will be important to remember that fact.  If he struggles with the Twins in April, just remember that he's still a very young player and he has a lot of years to put everything together.  At his peak, Sano could hit 40-45 home runs in a season.  Maybe 50?  Nah, it's not fair to expect that.  Whatever number you dream of, he won't get there right now.  Be patient, there's no reason to think that Sano isn't the power hitter we've all dreamed of. 

I'll be back next week with the 4th most important Twins player in 2014.  Have a nice day, everyone!

Note - this was written prior to the news that Miguel Sano will miss the season due to Tommy John surgery.  I obviously did not have a taunting intent.  I'm actually very nice.  If you want to read my analysis of his injury, click here.

If you haven't been paying close attention, I'm counting down the 14 most important Twins players for the 2014 season.  This was just one part in a 14-part series.  If you missed any of the previous installments, just click here as I have put them all in one nice, tidy location for you.  I'm the best.


  1. Well, that sucks - guess you could take the Pessimistic Puma's prediction, and subtract 100 from it.

    1. Ugh, it was just awful news. I posted this about two hours before he felt that "twinge" in his elbow too.