Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Miguel Sano: Future at a Crossroads?

Miguel Sano has been hailed as the future of the franchise.  He has been compared to a young Miguel Cabrera. He has had all of that pressure put on his shoulders and up until now has done an unbelievable job.  He came to the Twins in 2009 as a 16 year old kid who signed for 3.15 million, which still to this day is the highest amount of money the Twins have ever given to a International Free Agent.  After signing in October of 2009 with the Twins he split the rest of the season between the DSL and GCL where he hit .307 with 7 homeruns and 29 rbi’s.  

Then in 2011 is where he took off as fellow super prospect Eddie Rosario put on a show in Elizabethton trading homerun after homerun.  Sano ended up hitting .292 with 20 homeruns and 59 rbi’s along with 18 doubles and 7 triples.  His .637 slugging percentage and .988 OPS just shows the amount of power he has.  In 2012 Sano moved onto full season Beloit then the Low A affiliate of the Twins in Southeast Wisconsin.  With the Snappers, Sano showed that his numbers at E-town were no fluke as he hit .258 with 28 homeruns and a even 100 rbi’s along with 28 doubles and four triples.  He had a .521 slugging percentage and a very good .893 OPS.  

Then the question became how would he fare in the bigger ballparks in the Florida State League as he was promoted to Fort Myers to start the 2013 season.  He made those parks seem small as he had his best numbers to date.  In 56 games with the Miracle, Sano hit .330 with 16 homeruns and 48 rbi’s along with fifteen doubles and two triples.  He had a career high .655 slugging percentage and another career high of a 1.079 OPS.  With those numbers Sano was promoted up to AA New Britain at age 20.  The questions started to mount would Miguel Sano be the Twins opening day third baseman in 2014.  He had made leaps and bounds on his defense and there were many myself included that felt he could be a league average defensive third baseman.  Seemed like the sky was the limit for Sano as he was headed for AA and his time in the minor leagues seemed limited until he got bit by AA like so many other players do.

When Miguel Sano got to AA I did not think he would have any trouble adjusting to the new level at all.  I looked at how he adusted from short season to full season and how he adjusted from Beloit to Fort Myers.  Because of those reasons I did not think this adjustment would be very hard at all.  So far boy have I been wrong as Miguel Sano has run into a wall called AA.  So far in 26 games with the Rock Cats, Sano is hitting just .195 with six homeruns and seventeen rbi’s along with three doubles and two triples.  He is just 16-82 in New Britain and has struck out a whopping 29 times which is 35% of his at bats.  That percentage is a good 5% higher than his career average.  His slugging and OPS is not bad because eleven of his sixteen hits have been extra base hits so he is the classic all or nothing hitter right now as his on base percentage is just .289 after being at .424 at Fort Myers.  To make matters worse he is three for his last twenty-seven at the plate.  Also after only having 11 errors in 56 games in Fort Myers he has a whopping seven errors in just 26 games in New Britain so its obvious that he is pressing right now. 
I was curious why he is struggling now after not struggling at any other level before.  This is by far the worst slump of his professional career.  So I went to a guy that I trust when it comes to prospects the great Seth Stohs and find out why he thinks Sano is struggling.  I asked Seth what factor is leading to his struggles and Seth said, “He is a guy that’s going to strike out a lot.  As he moves up levels and pitchers get better, they will continue to be an issue.”  He is right about the strikeouts as he has always been a high strikeout guy as he had 144 strikeouts in 2012 in Beloit and already has 90 in half a season in 2013.  It is a proven fact that batting average is hard to maintain when you strikeout as much as Sano does.  Fellow prospect Eddie Rosario strikes out about half as much as Sano and that is why he has a higher career batting average.  It is hard to get on base when you are striking out a third of your at bats.  At the same time though when Sano is right he can carry a ballclub as he has 77 career minor league homeruns in three and a half years.  In his last 2.5 years he has 70 homeruns which is 28 homeruns a year which is very impressive so to get the homeruns you have to put up with the strikeouts.  I asked Seth how many at bats he would need to see before he would consider sending Sano back down to Fort Myers and he responded, “They let him struggle work his way out of it at the level for all intents and purposes means the most.” 
Miguel Sano has had a brilliant minor league career so far and Baseball America just ranked him as the 3rd best prospect in all of baseball at just 20 years old facing guys that are four or five years older than him.  So readers my question should Twins fans be pushing the panic button with Sano or is this a phase that we just need to let ride out and we will laugh when he is mashing homeruns out of Target Field in a year from now.  Let me know your comments by either leaving a comment in the comment box or shoot me an email at texastwinsfan@gmail.com.     

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