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Miguel Sano, Superstar?

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Miguel Sano
Miguel Sano
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins is now 42 games into his major league career, with 145 at-bats pushing him past rookie limits. In those 145 at-bats, he is hitting .290/.400/.572 with 10 homers, 28 walks, and 61 strikeouts.That comes out to a 168 wRC+. .He's been DHing primarily but in the seven games he's played at third base he's actually done pretty well, making no errors while showing better-than-expected range.

The huge power is completely expected given his track record and the plus/plus power scouts have seen since before he signed. Yes, the strikeout rate is quite high, which was also expected, but he's drawing a goodly number of walks.

Last week over at Fangraphs, Paul Swyden looked at Sano's fast start and compared it to similar fast starts in big league history. He finds 27 players who have debuted with similar numbers to Sano through a similar amount of playing time. Go look at Swyden's table of data. Here is his conclusion:

Here, we have 27 players of varying quality, making it easy to draw the conclusions you like from this table. If you’re an optimist, you look at this table and see players like Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Brian Giles and conclude that Schwarber and Sano are destined for greatness. If you’re a pessimist, players like Bob Hazle, Phil Plantier and Chris Dickerson look like cautionary tales. And there are plenty of players in between.

Swyden goes on to note that Sano's walk rate is among the best in the group.

Sano had a great walk rate. Sano swings at five percent fewer pitches than the league average hitter, and his 4.25 pitches seen per plate appearance ranks ninth in the majors among hitters with at least 100 PA. Sano is willing to wait for his pitch. The question he will need to answer heading into next season is whether he is too willing to wait for it. Sano has swung at less than 60% of the pitches in the strike zone, and as such pitchers are not having a tough time getting ahead of him in the count

Strikeouts are "the only major flaw in his game at the moment."  Further,

Sano doesn’t hit a ton of grounders, he is capable of taking the ball the other way, he has proven adept at handling most pitches (for instance, he ranks 27th against four-seamers, 10th against two-seamers and 18th against curveballs at the moment) and he has even done well in clutch situations

I agree with Swyden's analysis. Put another way, generally speaking a patient hitter who could stand to be more aggressive has an easier time making adjustments than an over-aggressive hitter who needs to be more selective.

Sano has always been respected for his power of course, but when I saw him in the Midwest League back in 2012,  I felt his pure hitting skills were pretty decent. He wasn't just a brute force slugger; he went to the plate with an idea of what he was doing, and while he swung and missed a lot, he didn't look lost at all. He was reading pitches well and wasn't getting fooled by junk stuff very often.  This is the report I wrote in 2012 after seeing him play in person:

Miguel Sano, 3B: Age 19, still officially listed at 6-3, 195 but looks more like 6-5, 230. Despite his size, he moves with some grace on the field. Arm strength and range look just fine for third base and he handled a couple of difficult plays without any problems. He's made 21 errors already, but I didn't see any reason (based on these two games) why he can't improve defensively and be an average defender, at least. Hitting-wise, Sano has tremendous bat speed, among the best I've ever seen, with huge raw power, at least 70. He also swings and misses a lot. He actually did a decent job working counts and laying off breaking pitches and changeups, but he swung and missed on outside fastballs that he was trying too hard to pull. The Burlington pitchers didn't give him any sort of hittable fastball, pitching to the outside corner and past it, refusing to throw stuff on the inner half to him. Given his youth, I think Sano will make the proper adjustments. If things work out: Miguel Cabrera. If they don't: Joel Guzman.

He has made the necessary adjustments in my view. It is easy to prevaricate, caveat, and hedge your bets too much in the prospect trade, but I won't in this case.

Small sample size be damned; Miguel Sano will be a superstar, the Miguel Cabrera of his generation.