Miguel Sano in the Twins organization has been turning some heads with some pretty good power numbers. He is also a guy that swings and misses a lot. Currently in A-ball, I wanted to get a look at Sano, so I watched a few of his games. Some have thought that the Twins will eventually have to move him from third, so I also wanted to look at his defense.
Sunday June 10th:
The first impression is that the guy is just huge, and could even get bigger as far as weight and muscle, but he would definitely have to move off 3rd if that happens.
Offense: At-bat 1: took curve for strike, fouled off high curve (was early on i), took inside curve, took high inside curve, took moving fastball in, chased low moving fastball in the dirt for a strikeout. I almost wrote that he wasn't just wildly chasing everything before he chased the last one. In his 2nd at-bat, Sano took a curve on the inside part of the plate for a strike before chasing a moving fastball low and away. A curve on the low inside part of the plate turned into another swing and miss. In 3rd at-bat, he finally swung at the first pitch curve in the zone, but it was a weak fly-ball to 2nd. In his 4th at-bat, he took a low breaking pitch out of the zone in the dirt to get ahead. A breaking ball then appeared to drift off the plate and Sano loaded but decided to not pull the trigger. The umpire erroneously called it a strike. The pitcher then hung a breaking ball, and Sano got around on it but was a tad early. He grounded out to 3rd base.
Defense: First batter in 2nd inning hit the ball to him, didn't have to move at all and made play easily. It looks like he has a cannon! Later in the inning, a ball was hit in his area again, and it appeared that it just hopped over his glove. He didn't get an error. In the 9th, the first hitter hit a chopper just to Sano's left. He got to it easily and threw it quickly and hard to get the out.
I wanted to see more of Sano, so I went back and watched part of his game on the 9th on Milb.tv. In his first at-bat, you don't really see anything different . The pitcher threw a curveball for a looking strike on the inside corner, followed by another one to get up 0-2. He then tried to get Sano to strikeout how we saw in the previous game, by throwing a breaking pitch low and away. Sano stayed off that one, but a curve in the same spot was chased by Sano for a strikeout. In the bottom of the 1st, the first hitter hit the ball hard to him at 3rd. He had problems with at first, bobbling it, but showed off the arm and got the runner out. If they really do have to move him from 3rd, I hope he is moved to LF/RF as that arm would basically be a waste at 1st.
In his 2nd at-bat, a wild breaking ball low and outside got Sano ahead 1-0. A low and away change-up was swung at by Sano, and missed. A 2-seam looking fastball was thrown middle-down in the zone and Sano missed that one too. Another low and away breaking ball was taken to even it at 2-2. A moving fastball hit the dirt to run it to a full count. A middle-low 2-seamer was hit very softly toward the 1st baseman, and Sano was an easy out as the pitcher made the play. Again, we see that Sano is not chasing wildly. In that sense he is not just absolutely overwhelmed at the plate. However, Class A pitching clearly has a plan against him: Throw nothing straight, keep it low, work mostly away, especially when ahead. Sano obviously has some very serious adjustments to make.
He got another chance defensively at 3rd base in the 4th, as the 2nd hitter in the inning. It was a soft grounder and he handled it pretty easily.
On Monday the 11th, I watched 3 more of his at-bats:
In the first one, he saw an outside and low breaking ball, a 95 MPH fastball outside and up hit for a foul. He then took a low pitch in the dirt for ball, before a curveball low in zone was hit for a soft single in the air to center field. He was then out on a double play. He doesn't have plus speed but doesn't seem to be a horrible runner.
In his next at-bat, he took an outside breaking pitch, then one on the inside corner before taking another one to make it 2-1. A low breaking pitch, not the curve, was chased to make it 2-2. Then a curveball in the dirt was chased for a strikeout.
In his next at-bat, he hit a grand slam in an at-bat that kind of capsulized everything Sano is. After swinging through two pitches to fall behind 0-2, the pitcher threw 2 pitches in the dirt that Sano laid off (he checked his swing on the first one). The next pitch was a curve that stayed up a little bit and Sano pulled it well over the fence.
So far this year in 64 games, Sano has a line that you would kind of expect, hitting .240/.349/.511. His ISO at .270 is actually down from what it was last year at rookie ball (an eyepopping .345). Its .278 so far in his minor league career, giving him a 96 power rating according to the Baseball Cube. His contact is at 20, and that is always going to be a problem. He has struck out 27.3 % of the time so far in his minor league career, and if his pitch recognition and plate discipline doesn't get better, that rate will only get higher as he moves up. His line drive rate is low, which you would expect considering his swing. Amazingly, over 50% of the time he makes contact, it is an outfield fly-ball. The guy has power, but he won't hit for much of an average. Whether or not he is able to make contact enough will not only determine what kind of player he turns out to be, but will also decide whether he is even a big leaguer or not.