Is it too soon to promote Miguel Sano? I know, I know, Sano is supposed to spend the whole year in Beloit. He’s not quite 19 years old. He isn’t very good defensively. He strikes out too much. The Twins are conservative about moving guys up. I get it! I’d like to see him promoted anyway.
The thing is, moving Sano up one level allows him to face tougher pitching. It allows him to grow as a player. Moving him up still leaves him 3 levels from the major leagues and he will still have time to develop defensively and work on his batting eye. It will alslo provide some hope to a newly beleagered fan base. Have you seen the major league team? They are 5-14 after losing last night’s game 7-6. This coming off of a 63-99 season. Moving Sano to Fort Myers will not help the team this year or probably next year but with a major league club that looks to be in full rebuilding for the next couple years, he might be the one guy to push.
Sano lasted just 20 games as a 17 year old in Dominican Summer League, hitting .344/.463/.547 striking out 17 times before being moved up to the GCL in 2010. Once promoted he finished the 2010 season with a .291/.338/.466 line with 43 strikeouts in the 41 games. Last season he hit .292/.352/.637 with 20 HRs and 77 K’s in 66 games for Elizabethtown. He was second in the league in HRs and third in the league in slugging as an 18 year old. So, how is he doing now? .271/.407/.614 line in his first 20 games is ridiculous. He had to go 0-5 last night to get his numbers that low.
He doesn’t even turn 19 until May 11th, so why move him already? There are 4 arguments against it.
Argument 1. Age: Last year Bryce Harper, who is 7 months older than Sano ripped up low A ball to the tune of .318/.423/.554 with 14 HRs and 61 Ks in 72 games. Harper is a freak and was given a chance to make the big club this year out of spring training. He is better defensively and strikes out a little less than Sano but Sano has shown even more power than Harper. Sano’s numbers come from a much better pitching league as well. Harper struggled a little with his 2-level promotion to AA last year, finishing with a line of .256/.329/.395 with 26 Ks in 37 games but he just wasn’t challenged enough in low-A. I am only suggesting the Twins move Sano up one level. Alex Rodriguez spent 65 games as an 18 year old in the Midwest League compiling a .319/.379/.605 before promotions to AA, AAA and the majors by the time he was Sano’s age. I am certainly not syaing Sano is at A-Rod’s level but I’m not advocating as quick a push either.
Argument 2. Defense: The Twins could move slowly with Sano similar to what the Yankees did with Jesus Montero. As a 20 year old, Montero hit .289/.353/.517 in AAA in 2010, but the Yankees sent him back there instead of handing him the starting catcher job in 2011. The main reason was to work on his defense. He hit well in 2011, but not quite as well with a .288/.348/.467 line before finally debuting at the end of the year. The Mariners are still trying to make him a catcher but he’ll probably end up as a DH. The Twins can keep trying Sano at third, but he may never be a third-baseman. It would be great to have his bat at 3b but it may not happen anyway. If his bat insists that he move ahead, he could always play 1B, LF or DH when he reaches the majors. Sano’s bat has been better than Montero’s so far.
Argument 3. Strikeouts: He does have 26 strikeouts in 20 games, so the Twins should take it slow with him because of his strikeout rates. Guys like Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds struck out a lot in the minors. They strikeout a lot now but have still had good careers. Sano is younger than either were at the level he has attained. It would help if Sano improved his strikeout rate, but giving him tougher pitching to hit should actually help to expose the holes in his swing and allow for potential correction. Sure, he strikes out a lot now, but he rakes when puts the ball in play.
Argument 4. The Twins are conservative with guys. That is normally true, but they weren’t with Joe Mauer. Mauer spent his entire age 19 season in low-A and moved two levels the following year. So why should the Twins promote Sano so soon? When Mauer was in A-ball, the Twins had a core of good young players and they had an all-star catcher in A.J. Pierzynski. Catcher is also a more important defensive position and the Twins wanted to take their time with him. His .302/.393/.392 line was nice, but again not what Sano has done. The Twins have offensive room on the major league team as soon as Sano is ready to be a part of the team and if they didn’t, they could make a trade like they did when Mauer was ready.
I want to be clear, I’m not saying Sano needs to play in the majors this year, I’m not even saying they need to move him to the majors next year. What a promotion would do would challenge him, provide a little excitement and break the Twins mold a little bit. Given how the near future looks for the Twins, breaking the mold a little bit might not be a bad thing.
Also check out my top #50 prospects here, Sano will be making the list shortly.