Minnesota Twins 2018 positional recap and 2019 predictions, part 5- Third base
By Matt Smith
In the latest part of an ongoing series recapping the Minnesota Twins’ 2018 season, we wrap up the infield as we examine third base.
The Minnesota Twins are well into their offseason and we are well into our coverage of it. If you’ve missed any previous episodes of our position by position recap of the Minnesota Twins’ season, here are some links to help get you caught up-
Third base was a fairly unstable position for the Twins in 2018. In total, 8 players saw time at the position- Eduardo Escobar, Miguel Sano, Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo, Gregorio Petit, Taylor Motter, Eddie Rosario, and Chris Gimenez. Escobar, Sano, and Adrianza received the vast majority of the playing time at 3B this year, so those three are who we’ll focus in on for the majority of this article. First up, let’s look back at the season-
2018 was supposed to be a “prove it” year for Miguel Sano. In 2015, he debuted and contributed right away, hitting .269 with 18 home runs in 80 games, only to follow up that performance with a .236 average with 25 home runs across 116 games in 2016. Then in 2017 he was effective once again, hitting .264 with 28 home runs in 114 games. Strikeouts had been an issue for Sano all along, but to some extent that was inevitable given the type of hitter Sano is. At any rate, many hoped that 2018 would bring in a full season of baseball to Sano (he had topped out at 116 games in a season previously in his career) where we would find out the type of player Sano is going to be, once and for all. There have been times where he’s looked unstoppable at the plate, and there’s been times where he’s looked completely lost. In 2018, we hoped to find out what he was going to be.
Unfortunately, we never got that chance. Sano ran into issues off the field after an abuse claim was made against him before the season started. Ultimately nothing came of the ensuing investigation, but it was disappointing to see Sano’s name attached to such news.
When the season started, Sano couldn’t seem to get going. By the end of April, he was hitting just .213 with 5 home runs in 20 games. He then went down with a hamstring issue that would keep him out of the major league lineup for nearly a full month (April 28 to May 24).
In the meantime, Eduardo Escobar took over at third base, shifting over from shortstop. Escobar was one of the few Minnesota Twins players to swing a hot bat in the first few months of the season. At the end of May, his slash line sat at .267/.324/.492 with 19 doubles in 49 games. Although Sano was out of the picture for the time being, third base was stable while Escobar held down fort.
Upon Sano’s return in late May, the Twins elected to shift people around a bit. Escobar split time between third base and shortstop while Sano was rotated between third base, first base, and DH. Over the next month, Sano was again unable to get it going at the plate, hitting .191 with 2 home runs and 30 strikeouts in 17 games. Then, the Twins made a statement, demoting Sano all the way down to high-A. The reasoning for such a drastic move was as much for Sano’s physical fitness as his performance. Throughout the season, there had been news regarding Sano being in less than ideal physical shape. Thad Levine expressed disappointment upon Sano’s report to spring training, stating Sano had brought a “generous carriage” along with him. The plan was for Sano to spend the majority of his time in Fort Myers focusing on physical fitness, while playing in A+ games every few days.
Meanwhile, Escobar once again became the Twins’ everyday third baseman. He continued to play well, posting a .272 average with 18 doubles and 7 home runs across June and July. Then, however, he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks before the trade deadline, as a result of being an upcoming free agent and the Minnesota Twins not appearing to be in any sort of position to consider a potential playoff appearance.
Sano was called back up to the big leagues shortly after. He had played well in A+, and then a few games with AAA before being recalled, and it was time to give him another chance. Unfortunately, it was more of the same. From the last few days in July to the first few days of September, Sano slashed .202/.303/.404 with 6 home runs in 33 games. Marginally better, but still a long ways short of the expectations for him.
His disappointing season was capped off with another stretch of hamstring issues that caused him to appear in just one game after September 4th. Sano finished the year with a batting average of under .200, with just 13 home runs and 115 strikeouts in 71 games.
In the absence of Eduardo Escobar in the second half of the season, the Twins used a handful of players at third base. Sano got a bit of time, but Ehire Adrianza got a significant amount of playing time, as well as a few appearances from Willians Astudillo and Gregorio Petit. Adrianza played decently well, Astudillo had an impressive season while appearing at a variety of different positions, and Petit didn’t do much to make note of.