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  • TD Top Prospects: #2 Miguel Sano

    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 also has a jovial personality and that combination means he has a chance to be a popular 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 to Ft. Myers where he hit 16 home runs in 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" 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 him 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 when 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 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. He can come across as brash at times. He has always had a lot of personality. Earlier in his career, some say he lacked maturity. Now, most say he is becoming more of a leader. He has a lot of fun both playing the game and in the clubhouse. His English has also come a long way over the last couple years.

    What’s not to like?


    As mentioned above, he still has work to do at third base. He will make 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 is so powerful. However, putting the ball in play is still a concern. Sano struck out in 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. For for a glimpse of what that means: in 2006, Brandon Wood struck out in 28.5% of his plate appearances at AA. So, although Sano has put up incredible power numbers, dismissing his strikeout rate might be a little naïve and premature.

    Remember that I put Sano’s confidence in the positive category? I believe a player 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 line is consciously showing up your opponent. Sano famously took his time rounding the bases last year in New Britain after a monster home run off 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 Sano would miss most, if not all, of the 2014 season if he needed Tommy John surgery. He not only saw Twins' doctors, but he also saw Dr. James Andrews, who prescribed a plan of rest and then beginning 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, though there does not appear to be much concern.

    Looking Back


    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 fanfare than any Twins player ever, 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 on him

    So… When will we see him?


    I expect Miguel Sano will return to New Britain to start the 2014 season. I also have my doubts 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 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 doubt 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, at the latest, be called up in September unless things went terribly wrong.

    Like TD Prospect #3 Alex Meyer, and like TD's #1 prospect whom 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 has the potential to lead the Twins organization back to prominence.
    Comments 46 Comments
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Nice!
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      Is 45 or 50 home runs actually in jest? Why not?
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Twerp View Post
      Nice!
      The intriguing thing might be Sano's floor. If you assume he is a DH his whole career and hits .250, 35-40 HR, 90-100 BB, 100 RBI, well his floor is a rich man's Adam Dunn. Dunn will likely finish his career with over 500 HR, .365 OBP, .860 OPS.

      His ceiling is very high obvioulsy. I don't ever see him hitting .320 or .330 like Miguel Cabrera, but that is a comp with one of the best hitters of all time.

      Obviously Sano's value hinges a great deal on his ability to stick at 3B. Even if he sticks at 3B for the next 6-7 years. It would be pretty amazing to have a 3B that can hit .260, 35-40 HR, and take 100 BB a year.
    1. Ncgo4's Avatar
      Ncgo4 -
      Say what you want about Buxton, but it's Sano and his almost unimaginable power that has saliva running down my chin. Also he has a fire in his belly that screams, "Screw this Minnesota nice BS!" I recall he got beaned or brushed back in a game and came back the next AB and went yard against the same pitcher. While rounding the bases he was pointing or yelling or somehow making sure the pitcher remembered the night's events.

      He as the potential to hit a lot of HR's and bring in a lot of runs, but more important he has the personality to change the clubhouse attitude. I can see him driving Gardy absolutely nuts at times and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Fortunately, for us, Mauer will be able to help him harness his emotions in a way that they don't become destructive.

      i, for one, cannot wait for his arrival. I think a big key will be what happens in spring this year. If opponents toss him nothing but junk and get a youngster who is anxious to impress to go chasing it could set him back. But if he shows an improved discipline the expectations and frenzy could become really nuts. Both he and Buxton have the potential to make it very uncomfortable for Twins management in spring training this year. Here's hoping they do.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Nice write up Seth. If both he and Buxton start the year together at AA ... wow. Can you imagine how many scouts would be at all those games?

      Long term, I love Sano. He might struggle a bit at first but his power - esp his RH bat - should play well in TF.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      This might be a good time for potential season ticket holders to check out the upper deck in left field for seats.
    1. birddog's Avatar
      birddog -
      After three years of mediocrity at best, Twins fans have hope for the future and no one provides more excitement than Sano. I remember as a kid watching or listening to Twins games until the very end because Killebrew was coming up in the 9th. Or Puckett. Or (in his prime) Morneau. David Ortiz as a Twin was exciting to watch hit--even when he'd swing and miss. With the great ones is possibility that with every pitch he could hit one out. Willingham two years ago fit that mold. Let Sano be Sano and he'll be fantastic. Don't try to change him like we tried to change Ortiz to "use the whole field". The great home run hitters don't need to use the whole field. If Sano never hits a ball to right field, I'm okay with that. Just hit it hard somewhere and utilize the theory "You've got three swings. Don't be afraid to use them." Sano will strike out--but even his K's will be more exciting than any at bat a current Twin can provide, Mauer included.
    1. Dakota Dan's Avatar
      Dakota Dan -
      Quote Originally Posted by gunnarthor View Post
      Nice write up Seth. If both he and Buxton start the year together at AA ... wow. Can you imagine how many scouts would be at all those games?

      Long term, I love Sano. He might struggle a bit at first but his power - esp his RH bat - should play well in TF.
      Seth, please explain something for me. If you are correct and the Twins plan to bring Sano up to the majors this year, starting him in AA and skipping AAA, why not start him in AAA? I know teams often due just as you predicted. I certainly due not have enough baseball smarts to say that this is a bad idea, I just don't understand why starting in AAA would not make the transition easier.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dakota Dan View Post
      Seth, please explain something for me. If you are correct and the Twins plan to bring Sano up to the majors this year, starting him in AA and skipping AAA, why not start him in AAA? I know teams often due just as you predicted. I certainly due not have enough baseball smarts to say that this is a bad idea, I just don't understand why starting in AAA would not make the transition easier.
      Not Seth but I have a few guesses. First, his walk rates and power were just fine in AA but he did have some strike out issues and his avg fell to .236. Nothing wrong with letting him get a little more experience in AA. Second, it lets Sano and Buxton be on the same team. Third, the Twins have had no concerns promoting directly from AA (as have many other teams). And fourth, AAA is sometimes noted for its negative atmosphere as it is full of players who can't quite stick in the majors or feel they got a screw job by their team.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      Quote Originally Posted by birddog View Post
      After three years of mediocrity at best, Twins fans have hope for the future and no one provides more excitement than Sano. I remember as a kid watching or listening to Twins games until the very end because Killebrew was coming up in the 9th. Or Puckett. Or (in his prime) Morneau. David Ortiz as a Twin was exciting to watch hit--even when he'd swing and miss. With the great ones is possibility that with every pitch he could hit one out. Willingham two years ago fit that mold. Let Sano be Sano and he'll be fantastic. Don't try to change him like we tried to change Ortiz to "use the whole field". The great home run hitters don't need to use the whole field. If Sano never hits a ball to right field, I'm okay with that. Just hit it hard somewhere and utilize the theory "You've got three swings. Don't be afraid to use them." Sano will strike out--but even his K's will be more exciting than any at bat a current Twin can provide, Mauer included.
      Can we stop with the "Twins ruined David Ortiz power" business. He turned into a great hitter, partially because he could use the whole field in Fenway and because he started taking special vitamins and was hurt a lot less. He was an injury prone, inconsistent hitter with the Twins. That was on him, pure and simple. He needed somebody to blame it on and wasn't man enough to take the blame.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dakota Dan View Post
      Seth, please explain something for me. If you are correct and the Twins plan to bring Sano up to the majors this year, starting him in AA and skipping AAA, why not start him in AAA? I know teams often due just as you predicted. I certainly due not have enough baseball smarts to say that this is a bad idea, I just don't understand why starting in AAA would not make the transition easier.
      I am in agreement. I would start him in AAA. I know that they don't hesitate to promote from AA but he would face more experienced pitchers, some with prior MLB experience, in AAA. If he can't handle starting in AAA, all the talk of fast track promotion is really premature.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "Don't try to change him like we tried to change Ortiz to "use the whole field". The great home run hitters don't need to use the whole field" Type in Dave Ortiz and spray chart and also try "new approach" and let me know what you think. Better yet, look at baseball reference splits. 1275 of his 2023 hits were opposite field or up the middle. 202 of his 431 home runs were opposite field or up the middle. I would much rather Sano drive the pitch according to where it is thrown rather than trying to pull everything. If he resembles Killebrew that would be fine but I would prefer he resemble Cabrerra.
    1. DuluthFan's Avatar
      DuluthFan -
      By starting Sano at AA it allows for several scenarios to play out over the course of the year.

      1) If Trevor Plouff happens to have a big year, it leaves a level to promote Sano to if he also has a good year.
      2) Sano is not currently on the 40 man roster. If Plouff goes down with an injury and a call up is needed, and Sano is struggling at the time, they can then call up the AAA replacement rather than the AA player who may not be ready.
      3) There are other players in the Twins minor league system. While Sano is on his own advancement path, there are other players that also have their own paths to take. While they may not be the level of prospect as Sano, they still need to play at the level that they need to be at to continue to advance at their own pace. These players still have value to the Twins if only as future trade chips (Romero, Hanson, Waring).
      4) The Twins have several utility players on their 40 man roster. The players that don't make the team need to be assigned somewhere (Bernier, Escobar). Usually that is AAA.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      Quote Originally Posted by DuluthFan View Post
      By starting Sano at AA it allows for several scenarios to play out over the course of the year.

      1) If Trevor Plouff happens to have a big year, it leaves a level to promote Sano to if he also has a good year.
      2) Sano is not currently on the 40 man roster. If Plouff goes down with an injury and a call up is needed, and Sano is struggling at the time, they can then call up the AAA replacement rather than the AA player who may not be ready.
      3) There are other players in the Twins minor league system. While Sano is on his own advancement path, there are other players that also have their own paths to take. While they may not be the level of prospect as Sano, they still need to play at the level that they need to be at to continue to advance at their own pace. These players still have value to the Twins if only as future trade chips (Romero, Hanson, Waring).
      4) The Twins have several utility players on their 40 man roster. The players that don't make the team need to be assigned somewhere (Bernier, Escobar). Usually that is AAA.
      Number 2 makes sense to me. Number 4 not at all. I believe Escobar will be with the Twins, but organizational depth players like Bernier will have no bearing on where Sano ends up starting or ending the season.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      "Don't try to change him like we tried to change Ortiz to "use the whole field". The great home run hitters don't need to use the whole field" Type in Dave Ortiz and spray chart and also try "new approach" and let me know what you think. Better yet, look at baseball reference splits. 1275 of his 2023 hits were opposite field or up the middle. 202 of his 431 home runs were opposite field or up the middle. I would much rather Sano drive the pitch according to where it is thrown rather than trying to pull everything. If he resembles Killebrew that would be fine but I would prefer he resemble Cabrerra.
      Sorry, but this is misleading. I've researched this before specifically for David Ortiz. While he does get plenty of "opposite field" hits, his power is significantly favored to his pull side. In 2013, 26 of Ortiz's 30 HR's were to the right side of dead center field (pull side). 16 of 23 in 2012. 19 of 29 in 2011. 27 of 32 in 2010. 19 of 28 in 2009. 19 of 23 in 2008... 27 of 35 in 2007. 45 of 54 in 2006...

      Definitely don't want Sano to pull everything (just like with pretty much any hitter), but I think it has been clearly demonstrated that Minnesota's "use the whole field" push with Ortiz was detrimental to his power development and antithesis to what made him successful in Boston.

      And Cabrera is great at this because he is also a great "hitter." I don't think we'll quite see that with Sano. So I say let him do whatever is needed for him to be successful in his own way, instead of trying to make him something he may not be, like they did with Ortiz.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "So I say let him do whatever is needed for him to be successful in his own way, instead of trying to make him something he may not be, like they did with Ortiz. " Of course that is true and of course if they told Ortiz to hit to the opposite field then that is wrong. If all they did was coach him to go with the pitch then that is another thing. Doing that a natural pull hitter will still pull the ball more often but if a hitter TRIES to pull every pitch it is not a recipe for success. If you look at the splits he had as a twin they actually skew more to him being a pull hitter with the Twins than he was with the Red Sox. He was actually a pretty good hitter with the Twins and I was sorry to see him go but he did seem to get stronger with the Sox..
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Lein View Post
      Sorry, but this is misleading. I've researched this before specifically for David Ortiz. While he does get plenty of "opposite field" hits, his power is significantly favored to his pull side. In 2013, 26 of Ortiz's 30 HR's were to the right side of dead center field (pull side). 16 of 23 in 2012. 19 of 29 in 2011. 27 of 32 in 2010. 19 of 28 in 2009. 19 of 23 in 2008... 27 of 35 in 2007. 45 of 54 in 2006...

      Definitely don't want Sano to pull everything (just like with pretty much any hitter), but I think it has been clearly demonstrated that Minnesota's "use the whole field" push with Ortiz was detrimental to his power development and antithesis to what made him successful in Boston.

      And Cabrera is great at this because he is also a great "hitter." I don't think we'll quite see that with Sano. So I say let him do whatever is needed for him to be successful in his own way, instead of trying to make him something he may not be, like they did with Ortiz.
      I know this is unfair to an extent because many players used and baseball did not test for a long time. I am also aware this will probably rub some people the wrong way. But I do have some doubts about Ortiz's numbers in Boston (early on). The following are facts:

      -He could not stay healthy and was not a great DH here. Career high 20 HR and .839 OPS.

      -He then goes to Boston and hits 173 HR in 4 years.

      -He is best friends with Manny Ramirez, who used.

      -He was reported to have failed a test in 2003, by every major outlet.

      I can't say for sure, but I don't think we can 100% pin this on the Twins staff with these facts out there.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I know this is unfair to an extent because many players used and baseball did not test for a long time. I am also aware this will probably rub some people the wrong way. But I do have some doubts about Ortiz's numbers in Boston (early on). The following are facts:

      -He could not stay healthy and was not a great DH here. Career high 20 HR and .839 OPS.

      -He then goes to Boston and hits 173 HR in 4 years.

      -He is best friends with Manny Ramirez, who used.

      -He was reported to have failed a test in 2003, by every major outlet.

      I can't say for sure, but I don't think we can 100% pin this on the Twins staff with these facts out there.
      This. Plus this idea that it has been "clearly demonstrated" that the Twins made him use the whole field or go the other way is just not true. This is akin to political statements in Washington that get repeated enough until people begin to take them for facts. I'm sure they, like all organizations tell players that if they try and pull a slider on the outside corner you are going to roll over a weak grounder but they hardly can be blamed for his performance. Good grief, look at Trevor Plouffe - there is no way he plays for an organization that makes players hit the ball exclusively the other way.
    1. birddog's Avatar
      birddog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Linus View Post
      Can we stop with the "Twins ruined David Ortiz power" business. He turned into a great hitter, partially because he could use the whole field in Fenway and because he started taking special vitamins and was hurt a lot less. He was an injury prone, inconsistent hitter with the Twins. That was on him, pure and simple. He needed somebody to blame it on and wasn't man enough to take the blame.
      I have never seen a situation where David Otiz wasn't man enough. Ortiz showed flashes of being the hitter he would become with the Twins, only to have the Twins keep Mathew LeCroix and let Ortiz walk. I can't think of a bigger mistake made by the Twins, including the Nishioka debacle. LeCroix, more famous for eating cockroaches than his hitting or catching prowess, never became anything more than a good old boy who never came close to reaching his potential hitting the way the Twins preferred. My point was that Sano is not only a very talented, young power hitter like Ortiz; he is also a free spirit with a ton of self esteem who knows his style of hitting is just what Twins fans crave. He, like Ortiz, wants to become a leader. He is very young and will make mistakes just like Ortiz did when he first came up, but his style of hitting should eventually bring perennial numbers of .300, 30-40 HRs, and 100+ RBIs. Work on his plate discipline, but let Sano be the hitter he is. He, like Ortiz when the Twins let him go, is a very young man with way too much God-given talent to change his style of hitting.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Quote Originally Posted by Linus View Post
      This. Plus this idea that it has been "clearly demonstrated" that the Twins made him use the whole field or go the other way is just not true.
      This is just one example of an article talking about how the Twins tried to change him. From:

      http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/po...me-david-ortiz

      (it does also go on to say how they wanted him to utilize his power-frame more, but this is why I say it's been demonstrated)

      "Ortiz spent nearly all of 1999 at Triple-A, hitting .315 with 30 home runs, before going 0-for-20 in September. He hit .282/.364/.446, playing in 130 games but platooned a lot. But there was a reason he hit only 10 home runs.

      The Sporting News, April 30, 2001:

      A year ago, the Twins tried to get DH David Ortiz to shorten his stroke and punch balls up the middle and to the opposite field."
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