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  • Miguel Sano Relegated to First Base Already? You Must be Joking.

    Last night I had a brief, and sort of strange, Twitter exchange with Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press. He tweeted "I'm still waiting for the Twins organization to hand Miguel Sano a first baseman's mitt." We exchanged a few respectful replies - this definitely wasn't a Twitter argument or war -- but it was still very confusing to me, and I still firmly believe I'm correct. (Here's the link to the first of the Tweets.)

    First, let's agree on one thing: Powers is correct that Sano's defense had nowhere to go but up. Improvement was expected, for sure. But let's look at the data: Sano currently has 21 errors on the season (in 111 games thus far); in 2012 he had 42 errors in 126 games. He's playing at higher levels in 2013 than in 2012, and his fielding percentage has increased from .884 to .932. In fact, he's likely to cut his errors almost in half. Yes, that's not deep analysis, but it's something.

    I've watched Sano in person about 10-12 games this summer. He is not going to be elite defensively, but I hope if you were fortunate to watch this past week's game on FSN, you saw Sano make a fantastic play coming in on a slow roller down the line. He fielded it expertly and made a strong throw to get the runner. He still makes bad plays, but fans who think he's some kind of stone-handed giant at the hot corner are simply wrong.


    Miguel Sano for the World team at the 2013 Futures Game.
    Image courtesy of me.


    [Originally published at Twins Fan From Afar]

    Sano's defense is not where it eventually needs to be -- just like his bat is not yet at the major league level. But would the Twins really move him, at age 20, to an "easy" defensive position and give up on him playing third base, which has been a position of need for this team for many years since I have been born (excepting the Gary Gaetti and Corey Koskie years)? In one word, that sounds foolish.

    Moreover, here is a short list of guys who could play first base for the Twins in 2014 that are not Miguel Sano: Justin Morneau (if the Twins got him for a year cheap); Chris Colabello (will he get a shot at a long stint in the majors starting to see if he is better than a AAAA player?); Joe Mauer (he almost certainly will play fewer games behind the plate in 2014 than in 2013, but the team needs that bat in the lineup); and Chris Herrmann (Twins fans, please pay attention: he is arguably the most versatile player on this team). The Twins certainly don't need him at first base, and that's certainly not his only shot to the majors.

    Let's talk about third base depth for just a minute. Trevor Plouffe, 27 years old, is hitting .231/.292./.386 for the Twins this season. He has 9 errors in 88 games at the hot corner, and his fielding percentage at third base is .959 this season. I'd be an idiot to state that his defense isn't better than Sano's -- of course it is. But is he that much better? Will he eventually be that much better on defense than Sano might? Open question, but I tend to think that the guy who is 20, a better prospect than Plouffe ever was, and -- let us not forget -- is still learning to play third base after growing up as a shortstop -- will eventually equal or surpass Plouffe defensively. Not to mention that Plouffe's hitting has been awful this season.

    Finally, I should mention Deibinson Romero for a second. I like him, and he has some pop in his bat. I watched him all last season at New Britain, and he's a fun guy to follow. This season, he has a .952 fielding percentage up at Rochester, to go with a .264/.369/.418 line. He'll turn 27 next month. I'd hardly call him a legitimate prospect, but it's possible he could see major league time. Hypothetically, though, if the Twins are going to invest time and innings (while the team is bad) in a prospect that needs to improve defensively (and offensively), wouldn't you rather Sano get the chance, than Romero? In fact, I'd rather Sano get the chance at some point in 2014 (assuming continued improvement in the minors) over Plouffe.

    The bottom line is this: when the Twins are next competing for a division title, Miguel Sano -- and not Trevor Plouffe or Deibinson Romero -- is going to be playing a crucial role. To give up on him at third base now, when things honestly don't matter since the reset of the team is so bad, is incredibly short-sighted.

    The idea that the Twins -- headed for their third straight 90 loss season -- would give up on their second best prospect, who just turned 20, at a position of defensive importance for the franchise -- is preposterous. Perhaps Powers was trying to drum up conversation or say something provocative, but I think it came off as crazy. Yes, maybe someday, if Sano doesn't continue to improve defensively, he will become a right fielder (he does have a good arm) or a first baseman. But that day won't occur in 2013. In fact, I'd be shocked if it came before the end of the 2015 season.
    This article was originally published in blog: Miguel Sano Relegated to First Base Already? You Must be Joking. started by Twins Fan From Afar
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. Twins Daily Admin's Avatar
      Twins Daily Admin -
      Don't forget Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe on that first baseman list.

      Yeah, it's silly to move him yet. It's silly to move him before he shows he can't in the majors. But I wouldn't be shocked if he is moved prior to the end of 2015, and maybe at the end of 2014. I'm getting a lot of mixed reviews on his D. He seems to be capable of making incredible plays, but maybe a bit inconsistent?
    1. Thegrin's Avatar
      Thegrin -
      If Miguel Cabrera can play 3rd base on a Pennant winning team, Miguel Sano certainly can.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Given how rare it is to find an elite third baseman...you only move him to first in an complete emergency.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I think you absolutely keep him at 3B. Reports I've been given and some others, he's probably already as good defensively as Plouffe. Is it great? No. Can he, at age 20, improve? Of course. He'll be fine.
    1. CharacterGroove's Avatar
      CharacterGroove -
      This seems a little out of the blue.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I don't get this. He's being pushed by no one and it's much easier to find a 1B who can mash on the FA market than it is a 3B. I get that his defense may never be stellar, but he's 20... Defense can and will improve, and I'll sacrifice a bit with the glove for a kid that can absolutely mash at that position. Good hitting 3B aren't nearly as easy to find as people think.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Well that "move Mauer to 3rd" crowd is going to need to move Sano somewhere by June-ish, so . . .

      But in reality, I would hope that Sano pushes Plouffe to where he should be--platooning *somewhere* with Parmelee.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Admittedly I haven't seen Sano play 3rd more than a couple clips. When you're comparing him to Plouffe, though, it seems like Trevor's fielding % is inflated a bit. He doesn't get hit with an error for being out of position (which he is frequently).
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Given how rare it is to find an elite third baseman...you only move him to first in an complete emergency.
      Sano should try to play 3rd, but I would say elite third basemen really aren't rare anymore. In fact, I'd say elite first basemen are rarer. Right now, there is a big talent wave at the hot corner. Miguel Cabrera, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Adrian Beltre, David Wright, and Evan Longoria are all at an elite level. Then there's a good group below them with Seager, Uribe, Arenado, Headley, Prado, Lawrie, Alvarez, and Zimmerman. That's 15/30 starters playing at a high level at 3rd base with 6 of them being elite.
      At first base, I'd only say Votto, Goldschmitt, and Davis are playing elite. That's 6 to 3 favoring 3rd. There's a quite a few good first basemen below them though. Swisher, Napoli, Craig, Trumbo, Freeman, Encarnacion, Belt, and Gonzalez add 8 more for 11/30.
      There's quite a few more great athletes playing 3rd base in the minors too and I think the trend will continue for some time. I wouldn't be surprised if we see some more Kris Bryant types being drafted high. What's most interesting to look at is that every elite third baseman is on a contender (except David Wright).
    1. Corntopper's Avatar
      Corntopper -
      Many infielders who later became thought of as having very good or great gloves made a lot of errors in the minor leagues. Koskie's milb fielding percentage was .924. Gaetti's was .925. George Brett's was .910. Twice Gaetti had more than 30 errors in a minor league season. Sano's fielding percentage this year is .930.
    1. Bob Sacamento's Avatar
      Bob Sacamento -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      Admittedly I haven't seen Sano play 3rd more than a couple clips. When you're comparing him to Plouffe, though, it seems like Trevor's fielding % is inflated a bit. He doesn't get hit with an error for being out of position (which he is frequently).
      Living in Ft. Myers I've got to see Sano play in the GCL, instructs (watching him work with Molitor every morning was kinda cool) and the FSL. He has definitely gotten better, less brick hands and more accurate throws. He'll never be an elite defender but should be at least adequate to stay there. The player I liken him to defensively would be Aramis Ramirez.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by admin View Post
      I'm getting a lot of mixed reviews on his D. He seems to be capable of making incredible plays, but maybe a bit inconsistent?
      That was the book on Florimon before this year, wasn't it? Maturity can sometimes smooth out the rough edges.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by CharacterGroove View Post
      This seems a little out of the blue.
      If you are referring to a specific post, please report it rather than try to police it yourself in the thread. I already deleted one post above yours for violating Comments Policy on insulting individuals, which may have been what you referred to, and another one was close to the edge.

      / edit - and then someone else coming after CharacterGroove's comment made me delete their post, apparently feeling that since moderation this morning hadn't been instantaneous, it was open season on personal attacks. Remember that the Comments Policy item asking for respect includes everyone, not just posters here. And Andrew's article is about Sano, not about a journalist, so staying on-topic is another reason to tone down the rhetoric.
    1. Teflon's Avatar
      Teflon -
      American League third basemen had 6,168 chances in 20,285 innings last year. This works out to 2.73 chances per game. Based on the actual opportunities for making plays at 3B, some might be overvaluing the value of defense at this position.

      On second thought - given the Twins pitchers' inability to strike out batters, I'll concede that this number is probably 10% more significant for us right now than for other teams.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      I hope everyone actually read the article and realize that this is only the opinion of Tom Powers and not the org. So far Sano is showing that he can at least play the position and Plouffe has done nothing to show that he should be part of the long term plans at 3B. After Plouffe there is almost nothing at 3B for the Twins. Romero isn't a starter and Harrison's defense is just as suspect as Sano's.

      If the Twins had an .800+ OPS average or better fielding 3Bman that was part of the long term plans then Sano would likely be ticketed to 1B. but, umm, yeah...
    1. Jdosen's Avatar
      Jdosen -
      Not that I think he should be moved off 3B by any means, but if the Twins were to have Sano make a change, wouldn't it behoove them to move him to RF, where his incredible arm strength wouldn't be wasted?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Well that "move Mauer to 3rd" crowd is going to need to move Sano somewhere by June-ish, so . . .

      But in reality, I would hope that Sano pushes Plouffe to where he should be--platooning *somewhere* with Parmelee.
      Mauer belongs at first. He could win a gold glove over there.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Mauer belongs at first. He could win a gold glove over there.
      That would be great, but a Gold Glove at first base doesn't mean too much, really. It certainly won't justify the contract. We need a power hitter there who can catch throws somewhat consistently.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jdosen View Post
      Not that I think he should be moved off 3B by any means, but if the Twins were to have Sano make a change, wouldn't it behoove them to move him to RF, where his incredible arm strength wouldn't be wasted?
      This does seem like a better idea. Not that awesome athleticism is required for RF, but almost no athleticism is required for 1B. (Hell, if Prince Fielder can do it, my 2 year old niece probably could.) By all accounts, Sano is quick, fast, and athletic. Why waste him at 1B?

      Of course, you're also right that this assumes he'd be moved off 3B. I don't think we're there yet.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      That would be great, but a Gold Glove at first base doesn't mean too much, really. It certainly won't justify the contract. We need a power hitter there who can catch throws somewhat consistently.
      Is a power hitter at first that necessary if you have one at third?

      I know you are being flip, but "catch throws somewhat consistently" does not sound good in the slightest. I can see Mauer being Morneau-esque at scooping throws, he has good height, and he is quicker than Morneau. Mauer has made some good plays in his time at first. I don't want to sit here and undervalue defense at first and overvalue defense at third.
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