Miguel Sano took a step backward after his promising rookie stint. Minnesota struggled to find a position for Sano and made the surprising decision to start him in right field, which may have hindered his plate work. Sano hit just .235 with a .799 OPS in the first two months. After missing most of July with a strained hamstring, Sano moved to third base. He continued to struggle with his health (elbow, back) and finished the season mostly playing DH. Sano's frequent injuries and worsening approach led to demotion talk in August. He increased an already problematic strikeout rate to 36.0 percent last season and drew fewer walks (10.9 percent walk rate compared to 15.8 percent in 2015). Long term, any position other than DH may not be sustainable given his size. Despite his flaws, Sano still draws walks at a strong rate and boasts prodigious power, tools that could help him fulfill his promise and become one of baseball's top home run threats.
Sano went 2-for-3 with his first home run of spring training in Saturday's win over Toronto. Sano had been off to a slow start this spring with seven strikeouts in his first 10 at-bats. His strikeouts are a worry as his strikeout rate increased to 36.0 percent last season. He is drawing praise for his defense at third base this spring. He'll move to third base after beginning last season in right field.
Sano said he dropped 15 pounds this offseason, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. Sano made those comments at TwinsFest, which took place on the final weekend of January, so that may have changed since then, and it'll be interesting to see how much his listed weight of 260 pounds on MLB.com changes. It's encouraging to see that effort, either way. However, while removing extra mass may cut down on strikeouts, fantasy owners shouldn't expect miracles. Sano, who turns 24 in May, remains a hacker who should be drafted primarily for his power, which could result in close to 40 home runs even with less bulk on his frame. He launched 25 in only 437 at-bats last year, after all.
Sano went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and a walk in Sunday's 6-3 win over the White Sox. Sano launched his 25th home run of the year in the third inning, padding Minnesota's early lead with a towering drive into the left field bleachers. Sano's second season was a disappointment compared to his rookie year, as his OPS dropped from .916 to .781. The 23-year-old has 40-homer power if he stays healthy, but he needs to bring his career 35.8 percent strikeout rate down to avoid becoming a three-true-outcomes type of hitter.
Sano went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and grounded into a double play Saturday against the White Sox. Sano is currently fifth in MLB in strikeouts (178), and is still struggling to make contact (hitting .233) in his second full season in the bigs. He's still only 23 years old, but Sano's value will be limited if he remains a three-true-outcomes designated hitter; suspect defense has kept him from playing in the infield and outfield. Like many young players, Sano has struggled the most against the change-up, so figuring out how to hit that pitch better next year would help.
Sano is out of the lineup for Game 2 of Thursday's doubleheader against the Tigers. Sano made his return to the lineup in Game 1 following a 10-day absence due to back issues, starting at third base. He doubled in four trips but also struck out three times to bring his total to 164 on the season. As his strikeout rate has remained north of 35 percent, his walk rate has fallen by more than four percent from a year ago.