When he finally suits up for the Twins at the major league level, Miguel Sano could be one of the most anticipated baseball prospects in the game’s history. Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Dwight Gooden, Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. each made a major league debut that became benchmarks for the history of the game. When Sano arrives, his debut could do the same. In terms of the history of Dominican born players, Sano’s debut could rank right there with Manny Ramirez and Jose Reyes. The player with the nickname of Bocaton has a long way to go. Sano spent 2012 in the Midwest League and will probably spend next year in the Florida State League.
Miguel Sano signed for a 3.15 million dollar signing bonus with the Twins in 2009, a few months after he turned 16 years of age. Sano, currently 19, was born in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic – a town known for producing an absurd number of big league ball players. Sano is listed on milb.com as being 6’3” and 195 pounds (the 2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook listed him as 6’3” and 230 pounds). The process and scouting of Sano is well documented in the film Pelotero. As a 15 year-old, Sano seemed like an absolute man-child capable of hitting the ball a long way fairly often. Partially because of the money Sano was able to secure, or the money he could have secured, Major League Baseball in conjunction with the player’s union has made it almost impossible for any future amateur international signee to obtain a contract of that magnitude. The current salary structure for these amateur international signings is complicated, but it is fair to say that any team that spends much over 2.9 million dollars on international players during a given year will face stiff penalties that make such an occurrence unlikely.
2010 – 2012
In 2010, Miguel Sano made his professional debut for the Minnesota Twins in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League. In 2011, Sano found himself playing in the Appalachian League. This meant living in Elizabethton, Tennessee and traveling to towns such as Burlington, North Carolina and Pulaski, Virginia. In these early minor league seasons, Sano is probably adjusting to a new language and culture in an unfamiliar terrain. All the while he has to meet the expectations of his new employer and his family back home while adjusting to a greater level of competition where almost every pitcher he faces is probably significantly older than Sano. Nonetheless, Miguel Sano thrived in the Appalachian League and emerged as the top prospect coming out of that league at the end of the 2011 season. Sano posted a .292 batting average, a .352 on base percentage, and a .637 slugging. As an 18 year old Sano hit 20 homers, 7 triples, and 18 doubles in 267 at bats. In 2012, Sano spent his entire year in the Midwest League and its pitcher friendly ballparks and early season cold weather. Playing for the Beloit Snappers, Sano was the eighth youngest player in the circuit. In 2012, Sano posted a triple slash line of .258/.373./.521 and powered a total of 28 homers, four triples, and 28 doubles over 457 at bats. While Sano did strike out 144 times, he also managed to draw 80 walks. Since his regular season ended, Sano has returned to his native country to play in the Dominican winter league for his hometown Estrellas Orientales. Sano has had one at bat since November 12, but in 24 at bats total with the Estrellas Orientales, Sano has two homeruns and six hits with five walks and five strikeouts.
3 Games in June
On June 9, 10, and 11 of this year, the Beloit Snappers faced off against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers from Appleton, Wisconsin. This Wisconsin minor league show down was fortunately televised on milb.tv. Sano’s stance in the batter’s box is certainly consistent with his slugger image. Sano stands basically upright with his knees only slightly bent and his upper body a bit crouched. His stance is neither closed nor open and his feet are setup a decent distance away from the plate. Sano holds the bat forward with one hand as the pitcher picks up a sign and then brings it back into a vertical position as the pitcher gets set. Miguel Sano’s physical presence in the batter’s box was clearly noticeable. It seemed as if he were a major leaguer making a rehab stint in lowA.
In the 13 plate appearances I saw during this series, Sano was fed a steady diet of sliders and curveballs with very few fastballs mixed in between. During the first two games of the series there was nothing Sano could do with the secondary pitch going 0 for 8 with 4 strikeouts. Sano looked like a pull hitter with a quick big two-handed swing. He appeared to be pulling off of curves and sliders that were falling down or away. In the third game of the series, Sano finally caught onto the breaking pitches coming his way. After getting a single off a breaking pitch in his first plate appearance of the third game, he slugged a massive grand slam into the forest over the left field fence off a hanging curve in his third at bat. After he arrived at home plate, I half expected Sano to bang forearms with his teammates a la the Bash Brothers of Oakland.
Miguel Sano will almost certainly start 2013 in the Florida State League playing for the Fort Myers Miracle. The league’s single season home run record is merely 33. Like the Midwest League, the Florida State League is another pitcher friendly place to hit. It would seem to me that Miguel Sano might be more comfortable playing in the state of Florida with its diverse demographics and warmer climate. Assuming he spends the entire season at HiA, I expect Sano and his prodigious power to break the FSL homerun record at the age of 20.