Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Miguel Sano And His First Hardware

For years, since he was 16 in fact, Miguel Sano has been billed as the next great star for the Minnesota Twins. Having been signed for a then record amount out of the Dominican Republic, the mammoth human being was eventually going to lay waste to major league pitching. Fast forward to 2015 and that time has come. Whether he has played the field enough or not, Sano is ready for his first piece of hardware.

Sano debuted for the Twins on July 2nd. So far, he has played in 50 games, and compiled 176 at bats. Those at bats have resulted in 13 doubles, 14 home runs, 41 runs batted in, and a slash line of .295/.403/.608. For a guy who seems destined to hit somewhere around .270 for his career, he's off to a ridiculous start.

What makes Sano's production maybe even more impressive, is just how strong he looks doing it. Sano's average exit velocity on balls put in play stands at a blistering 94.25 mph (second only to Giancarlo Stanton). He hit a ball 113 miles per hour once this year, and his *double* off the catwalk at The Trop left the bat at a ridiculous 110 miles per hour.

Looking through Sano's peripherals, it is the strikeouts that jump off the board as a problem. With 76 whiffs in 176 at bats, Sano is striking out at a 43% clip. While not at all ideal, he continues to produce because of how hard the ball is it when put in play. Although a .405 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) wasn't sustainable for Danny Santana a season ago, Sano's .432 mark should continue to remain high throughout his career.

On the season, Sano has batted as the designated hitter for 41 of his 50 games, playing the field just nine times. Logging 77 innings at third with five more coming at first, Sano's 82 innings have failed to establish him as an all around player in his first year. However, with the bat coming through, the Twins star has produced a 2.1 fWAR mark to this point.

So with such a strong season under his belt, Sano has to be the unquestioned AL Rookie of the Year right? Wrong (at least not in the minds of most). Carlos Correa, who has played SS in all 70 games since his call up this year, is seen as the more complete vote getter.

On offense, Correa owns a .279/.347/.518 slash line, with 17 doubles and 16 home runs. He has driven in 45 runs, and is a big part of the reason the Houston Astros find themselves atop of the AL West. As mentioned briefly however, it has taken Correa 20 more games than Sano to reach those marks. Quantified as a whole, Correa has compiled a 2.8 fWAR on the season.

With the main detractor for Sano being that he doesn't play the field, the defensive production of Correa should be examined. In just over 623 innings, Correa has been worth 0 DRS (defensive runs saved), while earning a -2.0 UZR (ultimate zone rating), and -5.5 UZR/150 (UZR per 150 defensive games). In other words, nothing that jumps off the page in the field.

Should you extrapolate Sano's production offensively to mirror the 70 games Correa has played, here is what you would come up with: 18 doubles, 19 home runs, 57 runs batted in, and 2.9 fWAR. Considering Sano has continued to push the envelope in terms of projections, those numbers may actually be share of what real performance would look like.

With 31 games left to go for the Twins, Sano still has plenty of time to make his final statement. The fact that his biggest competition plays the field though, should not be the detractor when it comes to deciding a winner. Despite significantly less opportunity at his disposal, Sano has caught up to Correa, and has him within striking distance.

At the end of the day, it's a fair argument that Miguel Sano deserves his first hardware in the form of the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year. What may be more important though is that the production continues to pave the way for Sano to be at the forefront of helping Minnesota to bring their own hardware to Twins Territory in the years to come.

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