When you go from being an All-Star Game participant to receiving a Single-A demotion, you’ve hit rock bottom. And that’s the case for Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano, who was demoted to the team’s Class-A Fort Myers affiliate on Thursday. But it’s important that management doesn’t quit on Sano after this severe bump in the road.
This season has been a struggle, to say the least, for Sano at the plate. Before being sent down, he was hitting just .203 and recorded a team-high 66 strikeouts in just 148 at-bats; he’s been struggling to make consistent contact and make a profound impact in the middle of manager Paul Molitor‘s order like he has in years past. Granted he never played 120-plus games in the three seasons prior to 2018, Sano hit a combined 53 home runs from 2016-17, and had he not gotten hurt in the second half of last season, the Twins may have been able to secure home-field advantage in the American League Wild Card game — which they lost on the road to the New York Yankees, 8-4.
And even though he can play both corner infield positions, the fact that the 6-foot-4 Sano is a below-average fielder only worsens his case to stay in the everyday order; his presence is felt at the plate, not in the field.
The Twins didn’t just send Sano to Triple-A, they sent him down to their Single-A affiliate; that’s very telling as to where their mindset is. Sano is clearly going to have to adjust his approach at the plate and show the Twins that he can limit the strikeouts. It could be a long time before the Twins see him in the majors again, but perhaps this super-demotion is just what the third baseman needs?Even after a demotion to Single-A, the @Twins cannot give up on power-hitting infielder @SanoMiguel.Click To Tweet
Management has made it clear that they view Sano as a liability in their order for the time being and want him to gather confidence in the batter’s box again. Granted he may have to work his way through three leagues, if Sano can pull through and improve, the Twins will be getting the old version of him back in the fold — which would be huge for their potential playoff hopes.
When you look at the American League Central, nothing is a certainty. Sure, the Twins are 30-36 and have failed to work off their successful 2017 season. At the same time, they’ve been without a number of their prominent figures for an extended period of time such as righty Ervin Santana, first baseman Joe Mauer, outfielder Byron Buxton, and before being sent down, Sano. The Twins are five games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians — who have been far from the powerhouse team the league has become accustomed to over the last two years. Their lineup has been inconsistent and they are 29th in bullpen ERA (5.46); the Indians are certainly beatable this season. If and when they get to full strength and Sano begins to figure things out at the plate, Minnesota could make a run at the division.
The Twins lineup is made up of intriguing young up and coming players such as Eddie Rosario, Eduardo Escobar, Max Kepler, and when healthy, Buxton. And with proven commodities such as Mauer, Brian Dozier, and Logan Morrison, the Twins have a healthy balance of youth and veterans, they just haven’t been able to produce on a consistent basis which being 24th in runs (280) and 21st in team batting average (.237) backs up. Throw a revived Sano back into the mix, and the Twins could begin to produce baserunners and runs at a higher rate.
In terms of pure talent, Sano is a Major League player; there’s no questioning his skill set. This demotion is a matter of trying to get his confidence back. But it’s very possible that the All-Star could continue to struggle in the minors and hit for a very low average. Heck, he could never make it back to the Twins this season, but for the remainder of 2018 and the years to come, they have to remain committed to getting Sano back on track; you don’t quit on talent.
Miguel Sano was viewed as one of the premier third basemen in the game going into this season. No, he hasn’t performed up to expectations, but he is still just 25; the Twins shouldn’t call it quits with the third baseman after a rough 37-game stretch.