Minor League Prospect Report: Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins slugging prospect Miguel Sano had two main questions to answer entering 2012. One: would he make sufficient contact against full-season pitching for his enormous raw power to carry forward? Two: can he handle third base?
I'll talk about the glove first. Sano played 125 games at third base, making 42 errors for a .884 fielding percentage, no doubt a quite poor error rate. However, he showed off a strong throwing arm, and when I saw him in person he looked better than the numbers would have you believe, showing good range and mobility for a player his size (he's listed 6-3, 190 but looks more like 6-5, 240), while handling several difficult plays without problems. Visually, it looked to me like he has the tools to stick at third base, but obviously he has a long way to go with his reliability.
If I were the Twins, I'd leave him at third for now. He might have to move eventually, but given his age (still just 19) and his tools, I'd be patient, especially given what he offers offensively.
Ah, yes, the bat. Sano ended up with a .258/.373/.521 line for Low-A Beloit, with 28 doubles, four triples, 28 homers, and 100 RBI in 457 at-bats. He drew 80 walks, but also struck out 144 times. Scouting reports continued to emphasize his bat speed and enormous raw power. Although he showed some ability to go to the opposite field in rookie ball, he was mainly a pull hitter this year. Check out this data chart from our own Doug Gray.
Doug is compiling a series of spray charts for us; here is his explanation on how it is derived.
If you have ever checked out a box score at Milb.com, you have also seen that there is a "recap" option to check out as well. That essentially describes what happened on each play (who did the batting, what the result was from the at bat, who fielded the ball and what they did with it once they did field it).
MLB Advanced Media (who also handles MiLB data) uses a database that outputs that information and in the same way that fans (or websites such as BrooksBaseball.net and others) can access the raw Pitch F/X files, the minor league play-by-play files are also available for download.
I spent a few days downloading all of the data for the 2012 season and created one large spreadsheet for every ball in play in the 2012 minor league season for teams in the US. That left me with over 550,000 plays in a spreadsheet. From there I spent about 15 hours writing code in order to take that data and turn it into actual baseball numbers.
There are some tweaks that do show up every now and again. For example, whoever fields the ball is credited with where the ball was hit. So if the center fielder dives for a ball and it gets past him and the right fielder does get the ball, even if it were in center field, it is credited as a ball hit to right field.
Ground-rule doubles and home runs, while not often, are credited in the files as hit to left center and right center. In those scenarios, I simply credit every other one to the corner position and then to center (in the case of the player only having one, it is credited to the corner spot). After all of the "counting" is done for hits (including the type of the hits), outs and sacrifices, it is simple to have the spreadsheet spit out the average (hits/balls in play), slugging percentage (total bases/balls in play) and Isolated Power (Slugging Percentage - Average) to each part of the field.
There will be more of that data to come.
In any event, Sano in person looked like a pull hitter, too. He tried too hard to crush outside fastballs. On the other hand, he made a good-faith effort to work counts, drew plenty of walks, and (when I saw him), did a decent job with pitch recognition, laying off the breaking stuff often enough to give me hope.
Sano has shown the ability to make adjustments, and indeed he got more effective in July and August. He hit .237/.351/.490 in the first half of the season, but he showed better discipline as the season progressed, hitting .284/.397/.558 in the second half. He cut his strikeouts from 34% of his at-bats in the first half to 28% in the second half. That's still high, but it is better, and it shows progress with his approach.
I don't think Sano will be a batting average guy, but the power should carry forward. The strikeouts are an issue, but (in my view) not a fatal one, given his other assets and the fact that he's shown the ability to make changes.