Minnesota Twins Miguel Sano Part of a New Generation of Athletic Big Ballplayers

MIAMI, FL - JULY 11: Miguel Sano
MIAMI, FL - JULY 11: Miguel Sano /

The Minnesota Twins minor league system wins on Sunday moved them ahead in winning percentage as the best system in baseball in 2017

The Minnesota Twins placed slugger Miguel Sano on the DL on Monday due to stress caused by repeated foul balls off of his shin, which was capped by yet another one on Friday evening that he finally could not play through. There has been speculation about Sano’s size and whether this will cause issue with a lower body injury as he attempts to return to complete the season.

Sano’s injury history

Some have pointed to the long return that Sano had from a hamstring injury in May of 2016. However, much of that return was not due to the injury as much as it was due to a return to third base, and spending extra time at the hot corner in the minors to get re-acclimated to the position before returning.

However, outside of that time, Sano has missed 10 games this entire season, spread such to consider them certainly rest days over the course of a 162-game season (nevermind the suspension!). The most games in a row he’s missed was a 3 game break in early August after he was hit by a pitch and had a significant bruise on his left hand.

Other than his time off for his hamstring, his longest time off in 2016 was for what was eventually diagnosed as a strain in his back during the offseason, but something that Sano played through mostly outside of missing 7 games in September when the Twins were already far into the lead for the first overall selection in the draft.

In other words, Sano is typically a gamer…

Sano’s size

Some of you know that I do quite a bit of video scouting, and that’s something you’ll see more reports from this winter once the regular season wraps up, but in doing those reports over the years, I’ve had the chance to develop a network of current and former scouts and front office personnel that work in player evaluation.

I checked in with two with a ton of experience in the game on Monday in two separate conversations for other purposes (but purposes that will make Twins fans VERY happy!), and as Miguel Sano’s weight is suddenly a topic, I figured I’d talk with them about Sano’s size and baseball players size in general.

The comment on size in baseball from one scout was entertaining if not a bit frustrating:

"I don’t know what (Sano’s) weight really is, but he by no means is out of shape. Baseball lies so badly about their actual weight numbers still because they have a fear of being honest about the numbers…we’re no longer in the 1920s where a guy weighing 250 pounds was not able to still be the best athlete on the field."

When pressed about the “lying” on weights, his estimation is that if you averaged all players, listed weights in the program for a major league team are 10-15 pounds shy, but that’s only on average, because some guys are drastically lower. He said minor leagues are terrible as often a guy’s weight is not updated from when he is first signed to the team until he attends his first major league spring training.

The other (retired) scout was discussing the significant difference in build now compared to 40 years ago, when he was getting his start in the game. I asked him about the best player he’d ever written up a report on:

"John Elway. Bo was amazing, but Elway was a much more polished player of the game. He’d have been incredible with that right field porch in Yankee Stadium…biggest guy on the field, but he moved better than anyone else on the field as well."

I asked about that last part. Elway’s future, of course, lay ahead of him in football, and he was listed at 6’4″ and 205 pounds on his Baseball-Reference page while only roughly 10 pounds heavier on his Football-Reference page. How did he physically compare to some of today’s top prospects?

"Elway at that time was a monster on the field. Easily biggest guy on the field, but you could tell he was maxed out physically. I see some of the guys today, like the Acuna kid (Ronald Acuna in the Atlanta Braves system). Both guys are generational types as far as talent goes, but Acuna’s listed at something like 170 (his B-Ref page says 180), but he’s more 185-190 now, but he could easily hold 200-220 on his frame without losing a bit of athleticism in the way he’s built. Guys have wider body base now and can hold more pounds on the scale without them being bad weight."

Acuna is a very interesting pull as he’s a guy who has leaped into the discussion as the top overall prospect in the game this year, and there is certainly raw development left to him physically. For a guy in the Minnesota Twins minor league system, I’d mention Lewin Diaz. He’s listed at 180 pounds as well, though I’d wager that’s closer to 200 at this point, but his frame is such that he could certainly add another 20-40 pounds without worry. Heck, a couple levels above him this year, one of the things I’ve heard about one of the better minor league free agents the Twins found this year, Jonathan Rodriguez, who is listed on B-Ref at 6’2″ and 250 pounds (and looks all of the 250 pounds) is how incredibly athletic he is on the bases and around the bag at first base.

A new athlete

Elway leads to a good example. He was considered a good-sized, durable quarterback in his time in the NFL, which started roughly 35 years ago. Elway was listed at 6’4″ and 200-210 pounds coming into the NFL. John’s height would have been roughly average in the 2017 quarterback draft class, though on the high side of the average. However, he would have been lean in comparison to the guys drafted this year, the lightest of whom was Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, listed at 6’4″ and 214 pounds.

Basketball has seen a similar development. Michael Jordan was able to dominate in the 1980s because of his pure strength over other guards at 6’6″ and roughly 200 pounds. The #1 overall selection in the draft season was nearly the same size in Markelle Fultz, who is listed at 6’5″ and around 190 pounds, but he plays point guard, not the shooting guard position that Michael played. In fact, the guys who have the length that Jordan played with that play a wing spot and were drafted early, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson, both measure around 6’8″ and 200 pounds and both are expected to fill out another 15-25 pounds as they’re both teenagers and still growing.

More from Puckett's Pond

For some reason, we have been hesitant to admit it in baseball, but guys are much more athletic at much larger sizes now than they’ve ever been before. At 6’5″ and 225 pounds, Joe Mauer is average, if even a bit lean at first base in 2017. Going back to the 1987 season, however, Kent Hrbek was considered mammoth at 6’4″ and 200-210 pounds. The argument used in the collusion against Bob Horner in 1987 was that his injuries would be exasperated by his enormous size. Horner was 6’1″ and while B-Ref lists him at 195 pounds, he was roughly 210 at that point in interviews he’s done since, as he had a clause in his contract to meet at 215 and had stayed under that in all of 1986.

Next: Sano to DL - No panic needed!

We are in an era of much better training, which allows players to have a much more muscular physique, leading to a higher number on the scale. Perhaps rather than worrying about whether a number on the scale will hamper someone’s ability to recover, we should talk with that player, talk with his coaching staff, and allow them to determine his recovery time. Everybody is different, and every BODY is different, and thankfully, we’re in a time of training that has focused on the players and developing them as individuals, not as some sort of a cross-sport definition of acceptable body type.