It isn’t ideal to project a player based on just over a full season’s worth of games, but it doesn’t look like Miguel Sano’s future is all that complicated. He’s gonna swing, he’s gonna strike out, and when he isn’t striking out, he’s gonna hit the baseball hard. Easy enough, right?
Through Sano’s first 164 major league games, he’s amassed a .261/.361/.513 slash, along with 38 home runs, 102 RBIs and a 14.0 percent walk rate, all equating to a 3.8 fWAR and 137 wRC+. While Sano has made some progress in limiting his chase rate from 2015 (25.9 percent) to 2016 (23.7 percent), he still strikes out at a pace (34.5 percent) that would make even the Dunn-iest of Adams tip their cap and wink in approval. Still only 23 years old, the Twins will certainly take the otherworldly good with the devilishly bad.
Despite the strangeness that’s accompanied Sano (and the depression that’s gone with the Twins as a whole), one of baseball’s highest upside sophomores is currently in the midst of his best stretch of games this season. In 11 games, Sano has tallied a 204 wRC+, resulting from a 1.158 OPS and .452 ISO. Obviously, Sano’s most noticeable trait is his swoon-inducing right-handed power, but in August, the path to gracing barrel with baseball hasn’t taken an unconventional route.
The high strikeout rate might make you think otherwise, but Sano is gifted with one of the most technically sound swings in baseball. You know, the kind of Baseball 101-swing that every teacher wants to pass down to their respective students. His ability to make the proper alterations both in and out of the strike zone allows him to have such a high contact rate outside of the strike zone, somewhat buffering his lofty swing-and-miss frequency.
But during this stretch of games, Sano isn’t making the same kind of out of the zone contact akin to previous months this year. As you can see, it’s never been lower. And for a guy whose love of the fastball produces his most outward results, the number of fastballs he’s seen has begun to dip.
All those breaking balls? He’s swinging at those, and he’s missing on the higher side of ordinary, which is a lot. Fewer fastballs, more breaking stuff and an growing number of whiffs forms a success equation with few answers. But somehow, for Sano, the solution has been simple.
Sano’s been having so much fun as of late because he’s been allotted a number of pitches right where he wants them: straight, and on the inner-half of the plate where he can really show off his hallmark power. For the last couple of weeks, there have been a lot of swings like the above.
Sano has been taking advantage of the rare middle of the plate fastball, but as of late they haven’t so sparse. With such few fastballs coming his way since the start of August, Sano has punished pitchers daring to chance the mechanical wonder. Even still, juicy fastballs aren’t necessarily automatic. Sano may very well have popped a few of these fastballs up, see a pair fall short on the warning track, or any number of unfortunate events. But this is a pure, gifted hitter, and so those mishit fastballs are few and far between. For a 23 year-old with fewer than 700 plate appearances to his credit, guarantees don’t exist. But Sano doesn’t miss many mistakes, and that is as near to fact as baseball will allow.
It’s a shame a sore elbow has immediately sidelined the big fella, because Sano’s pull-power theatre created a show much of the upper Midwest had been waiting in line to see for much of the year. Any sort of ailment to a previously reconstructed elbow is a good reason to be cautious, however. Continuing with the trend, whether it’s talk of demotion, injury, positional changes, or an organizational overhaul, the life and times of Miguel Sano and the Twins remain in an oblivion of weird. Though, as Sano has proven in August, sometimes weird is good.
Nick is a weekly writer for Beyond the Box Score, as well as Camden Chat, SB Nation’s Baltimore Orioles blog. If you so choose, you can follow his Orioles musings on Twitter at @Swissere.