Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Twins Have A Miguel Sano Sized Problem

Heading into the 2015 Major League Baseball season, the Minnesota Twins will be looking to turn around what has been four seasons of abysmal baseball. While that may seem like a daunting task, the 25 man roster has been tweaked and the Twins look to be one of 2015's surprise teams. When it comes to youth, few teams have more intrigue than Minnesota, and it probably begins with slugger Miguel Sano.

There was plenty of reason to believe that Sano could have contributed at the major league level a season ago. After suffering an elbow injury, and undergoing Tommy John surgery effectively ending his season, that notion was squashed before it began. Heading into the 2015 season, we can pick back up where Sano last left off. The problem for the Twins is, where do you put someone who stands 6'4" and weighs 235 pounds?

If positional continuity is to be a factor, the simple answer is third base. In his four seasons at the minor league level, Sano has played 329 of his 364 games at the hot corner. The argument against Sano staying at third base is relatively fundamental. Aside from the fact that a hulking man of his stature typically doesn't possess the reactions or agility to handle the position, the results also cause reason for pause. In 959 chances at the minor league level, Sano has committed 97 errors, good for just an .899 fielding percentage. Recent returns were better, as Sano posted a .932 fielding percentage with 23 errors across 337 chances in 2013, but the numbers still aren't where they need to be.

At this point in his evaluation, there's little concern about lack of arm strength across the diamond. Sano possess a cannon, and can fire a baseball at the same ability as some of the best major leaguers. Instead, the issue lies within range capability, and the urgency that a lack of agility may end up causing. Having to rush throws and quickly make up for small miscues, Sano finds himself in poor fielding situations far too often. The problem with those things is that they are physical characteristics, and remain unteachable for the most part. Also for every miscue, there is a play like the one he made in a recent Spring Training game. This brings us to a crossroads.

The Twins no doubt have thoughts of bringing Sano up to the big leagues during the 2015 season. I would make the argument that he should be making his debut no later than August. Regardless of when he surfaces however, the problem is where does he fit? Looking at the most likely positions, third base, first base, and designated hitter, the Twins surplus is working against the top prospect.

Trevor Plouffe took significant strides forward for the Twins a season ago. Brandishing an above average bat at the plate, and showing an advanced ability at third base, he still represents someone worthy of holding the position at the major league level. The Twins are tied to Joe Mauer at first base for at least the next few years, and Kennys Vargas is currently slated to fill in behind him. Rotating Mauer, Vargas, Josmil Pinto, and a host of others through the designated hitter slot also seems to present a logjam. However, the Twins certainly must find room for a guy in Sano who could immediately become one of the best power hitters in the major leagues.

There is no clear cut answer as to how things should play out for the Twins, and if everyone continues along the path of consistent production, it's probably a good issue to have. Do the Twins look to deal Vargas or Plouffe? What would be the value of either player? Could Plouffe move back out to the outfield, an area that the Twins seem to already have plenty of mouths to feed? Does Sano stay put at third base, or is he in waiting until an injury clears up a spot? All of these questions are met with difficult answers, but the time is coming.

As Spring Training wears on, the Twins will be pushed closer towards making a decision. After launching his first home run a few days ago, his bat will consistently push him towards an eventual debut. If he continues to make the plays like the one above, the Twins will be hard pressed to find a reason to overlook him. Coming back into the fold with a clean bill of health for the 2015 season, Miguel Sano is ready to contribute, and you can bet the Twins will have to find a place for him to play.