2015 has been an incredible year for rookies in major league baseball, and the Twins have experienced it first hand. For a few years now, Minnesota has known they had something special in Miguel Sano, but it wasn't until recently that he was truly put to the test. He missed the entire 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, but that clearly hasn't slowed him down one bit. Before he succumbed to the elbow injury last year, he told the Star-Tribune that he thought he could "hit 45 [home runs] this year. More games. Maybe 55, you never know."
While there's nothing wrong with having confidence in yourself, Sano seemed to be setting his own expectations higher than he should have, but after 42 games in the major leagues, he might not have been far off. He's proven to be as good, if not better than scouts predicted he would be; and his offensive prowess has shades of Giancarlo Stanton's rookie season.
This table isn't yet complete, as the Twins still have 40 games left in the season, but it provides us with some data to make (very) early observations about Sano. The first is that he has been better than Stanton, at least through his first 170 plate appearances. He's striking out at a higher rate than Miami's slugger did in 2010, but Sano has eclipsed him in every other category.
If these were the only statistics provided, it would seem that this comparison doesn't have much weight to it, other than the fact that they're both right-handed power hitters. By examining their batted ball data, the similarities become clearer.
In their respective rookie seasons, Stanton was a much more pronounced fly ball hitter, while Sano has a much more elite line drive rate (which may or may not stay up that high), but both hitters were comparable in terms of what type of contact they were making. The biggest difference was in their propensity to hit balls at a medium speed, though even that was fairly close. Their soft and hard-hit percentages on the other hand were much closer. According to ESPN hit tracker, the home run attributes of each player are very similar.
|Sano HR||True Distance||Speed Off Bat||Elev. Angle||Horiz. Angle|
|Stanton HR||True Distance||Speed Off Bat||Elev. Angle||Horiz. Angle|
Stanton has a larger sample size, but his and Sano's averages are nearly identical. For true distance, speed off the bat, elevation angle, and horizontal angle, the differences are just 0.60, 1.26, 3.87, and 3.01 percent. This table represents only home runs unfortunately, but thanks to Baseball Heat Maps we can know the average distance on all of their batted ball data, which once again appears to be similar.
If we focus on just fly balls, line drives, and home runs, the difference between Sano and Stanton is just 0.19 percent, with the former driving the ball 291.05 feet and the latter slightly behind at 290.48. If ground balls, bunts, and popups are included, the difference is still minuscule, as Sano came in at 281.77 feet and Stanton at 280.6 feet -- just 0.39 percent different.
Sano has a bright future ahead of him, and while the league will undoubtedly begin to adjust to his weaknesses as they become more evident, he seems to have all the tools to be able to handle the forthcoming changes. He's just 22 years old, and if his 170 PAs were enough to qualify, Sano's ISO would rank eighth in major league baseball. He still has a long way to go to make this comparison to Stanton stick, but Sano is on the way.
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Matt Goldman is a Featured Writer with Beyond the Box Score and a Contributing Editor at MLB Daily Dish. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheOriginalBull.