Miguel Sano Isn’t Leaving 3rd Base Anytime Soon

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Miguel Sano #22 of the Minnesota Twins throws out Brandon Guyer #6 of the Cleveland Indians at first base during the third inning at Progressive Field on August 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Twins 10-0. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
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A quick Google search will pull up all of the evidence you need, to see that many around Twins Nation have already moved Miguel Sano over to 1st Base defensively, as soon as this coming 2020 season. It makes some sense. Historically, he’s had issues keeping his shape in that of an MLB 3rd Baseman. Naturally, he looks a lot more like he should play 1st. His struggles defensively are there if you look, too. According to FanGraphs.com‘s “Inside Edge Fielding” percentages, out of all MLB 3rd basemen who had 700+ innings at the position in 2019, Miguel Sano fields almost all balls hit his way, at a below-average level.

The “Inside Edge Fielding” percentages attempt to tell us how often fielders make plays that they should make, and how often they make plays they shouldn’t. Each ball hit to a fielder gets a percentage chance said player should make that play. The more difficult a play is, the smaller percentage chance the fielder will make that play. Those batted balls get put into their perspective category based on the chance they have at being fielded by an average MLB player at that position.

Here is how FanGraphs.com breaks it down:

Inside Edge Fielding is a set of statistics that measures how often a player has made a defense play of a particular difficulty. There are six categories of plays based on how often a fielder at that position would make the play in question…. In a basic sense, each play is rated based on how often a player at that position has made a very similar play. Those plays are grouped into six bins:

  • Impossible (0%)

  • Remote (1-10%)

  • Unlikely (10-40%)

  • About Even (40-60%)

  • Likely (60-90%)

  • Almost Certain / Certain (90-100%)

For full details on “Inside Edge Fielding”, CLICK HERE.

The highest Miguel Sano climbs up any of these “bins” , is to #13 in the “10-40% “likelihood of an out” category. In every other “bin”, the highest he gets is #22… When most players make the play, Miguel Sano might not. When most players won’t make that play… neither will Miguel Sano. If you look at his defensive rating last year, things don’t get much better. He ranked 24th out of all 3B last year with over 700 innings, at a -5.3 Defensive Rating…

With all of that being said though, Miguel Sano’s defense at 3B can be stomached if he’s hitting well. In standard fielding percentage, he finished average around the MLB, at 13th . Staying with standard stats though, he also finished 2nd to the bottom with 17 errors, finishing behind only Rafael Devers’ (BOS) 22. (stats from Fangraphs.com – anyone who played 700+ innings at 3B in 2019). So, Sano needs to improve if he wants to keep his 3B job into the future, but that’s where my logic comes in.

Sano isn’t moving away from 3rd base because thats’s where he wants to be. As long as he shows improvement this year (he will be there this year) and that’s where he wants to be playing in the future, that’s where he will be. That’s how Rocco Baldelli and this new Twins regime will operate. They want their players to have confidence and they will stand by them until the end, to help in that mental battle. As Dan Hayes of The Athletic pointed out late last night, the Twins are willing to go to great depths to display that standard.

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And that’s it. It doesn’t have to be much more intricate than that. I don’t even see the Twins shopping the 3B market that hard right now, just because they don’t want Sano to think they don’t have full-confidence in his ability to play the position. Until they decide, “that’s it, we’re moving him”, they will continue to instill nothing but confidence. There were reports linking the Twins to Josh Donaldson but those reports have been refuted… so, I’m not sold that they were ever really serious.

The key word in what Hayes wrote, is “potential”. Miguel has some of the most all-around potential and talent of any player in the league. The Twins believe that Sano will only reach that potential if managed with the utmost confidence, so he can have that same strong confidence in himself. Without that, they don’t believe he will reach his ceiling… and they are probably right, though you can argue the means of getting there.

Whether right or wrong, the Twins are going to roll with Miguel Sano at 3B in 2020. They’ll stick with him there beyond that too, if he shows improvement and the work ethic to keep hold of that hot corner. Only time will tell, but you can cross any “Sano moving to 1st base” rumors off of your follow list for the 2019-20 offseason.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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