Speaking to reporters at Target Field after Torii Hunter’s retirement press conference yesterday, Molitor stressed that the team does not plan on using the 22-year-old slugger as his regular designated hitter and said that even 40 starts in the spot next season would be a stretch.
In 80 games as a rookie last year, Sano was penciled in as the Twins designated hitter 69 times. He came up through the minor league as a third baseman; Trevor Plouffe had a firm grasp on that position, but Minnesota just couldn’t ignore Sano’s bat any longer. He slashed .269/.385/.530 and threw himself head on into the highly competitive American League Rookie of the Year race, even without playing the field.
While trading Plouffe will be an option this offseason, he’ll need to garnish a big return after leading the Twins in runs batted in the past two seasons. If Minnesota doesn’t trade Plouffe – a steady fielder at the hot corner – and are serious about getting their future star away from the DH position, they’ll need to try their hardest for this outfield thing to work out.
But Sano doesn’t fit the mold of a typical outfielder, standing at 6’4” and weighing 260 pounds; he also isn’t that quick on his feet. At the same time, the Twins also have a trio of young Gold Glove caliber outfielders in Byron Buxton, Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario, which makes this winter ball experiment very interesting.
Molitor also made it clear that Plouffe moving to the outfield would not be an option in 2016 despite past experience there. The 29-year-old did start 26 games in corner outfield spots between 2011 and 2012 but it didn’t go over well. That was during a time when the Twins were struggling to find a spot in the field for Plouffe, who has started at least 15 games at all four infield positions in his career as well.