Tuesday, July 23, 2024
AL CentralAmerican LeagueAnalysisMinnesota TwinsMLB

Breaking A Baseball: The Miguel Sano Trilogy

Since the StatCast Era began in 2015, fans have dissected players with more depth than ever before. Among all of the things that are now viewable to the standard fan, the obsession with Hard-Hit Rate and Barrel Rate amongst many fans (me being one of them) has only gotten higher. One of the premier power hitters in baseball, Miguel Sano, has been an interesting player to monitor through the years, given the amount of hard contact Sano makes.

In 2256 plate appearances throughout his career, Miguel Sano has a career .241/.332/.496 slash line, along with a 119 wRC+. Sano has hit 131 home runs and, throughout the years, has posted some of the more impressive batted ball metrics profile since his debut in 2015.

Barrel%Hard-Hit%Exit Velocity Average (MPH)wOBAxwOBA
Top to bottom: Seasons 2015-2020

When discussing Miguel Sano, it’s hard not to take notice of the contact that he makes. Since the StatCast Era began in 2015, Miguel Sano has cemented himself as one of the league’s hardest hitters. Being one of the league’s hardest hitters is nothing new for fans to see from the Twins third baseman, now entering his seventh season with the Twins.

Like many other sluggers, Sano has put up some pretty disappointing strikeout numbers. In his career, Miguel Sano has a career 37% strikeout rate. Sano’s career-low in strikeout rate came in his rookie year, where he struck out 35.5% of the time over 335 plate appearances. We’re at a place in the game where strikeouts are almost inevitable; Miguel Sano will (most likely) always be a high strikeout guy but will carry one of the highest upsides amongst power hitters in the major leagues.

Graph courtesy: Max’s Sporting Studio

Miguel Sano has posted a wRC+ under 100 in two of the last 3 seasons, those two seasons being the most recent 2020 season as well as the 2018 season where Sano found himself sent to the minors and would only spend 299 plate appearances with the big club.

Miguel Sano Doesn’t Like Baseballs:

Miguel Sano’s career batted ball metrics are what nightmares are made of and over the past two seasons (albeit small sample sizes), Sano has managed to increase his already impressive hard-hit rate and exit velocities.

Chart Courtesy of Baseball Savant

Since his rookie season, Sano has only posted a Barrel Rate of less than 14.1% once, which came in 2018. His career barrel rate heading into 2021 is 17.1%, and he’s routinely posted a hard-hit rate north of 47% in all but one season through six seasons as a Twin. Sano hasn’t realized the full potential of his elite batted ball numbers with the evident swing and miss problems that tend to some with hitters of his profile.

Despite the glaring swing-and-miss issues, the power upside is too good to pass up given how Sano has 34 home runs in just 105 games played. That includes a .247/.346/.576 slash-line with a 137 wRC+ in 2019. However, Sano is coming off a 2020 season where he hit .204/.278/.478 with a wRC+ of 99; he also hit 13 home runs in those 205 plate appearances. When discussing Sano’s massive power, it’s notable how Sano compares very similarly to Joey Gallo in the sense that they hit the ball so hard that they have the ability to outperform their expected stats. Still, the overall quality of contact being made is never the issue between the two.

Connor Kurcon (Twitter: @ckurkon), of SixManRotation, wrote an excellent article about the concept of a new dynamic hard-hit rate and “Truehit” metric. The Twins slugger leads MLB in dynamic hard-hit rate with a 43.8% rating, ahead of the next closest batter (Ronald Acuña Jr. by 9.8%). The right-handed Sano also ranks first in “True-Hit” with a .653 rating ahead of none other than Acuña.

The Strikeouts:

Miguel Sano has never had a strikeout percentage below 35.5% in a season. Sano has ranked in the bottom percentile in each year he qualified, and in years he didn’t. Sano doesn’t necessarily have bad plate discipline as the career 25.2% O-swing suggests, Its the career 38.6% whiff rate that’s the deadweight in Sano’s game. The high whiff rates have led to Sano having the third-highest K% among qualified hitters, behind only Keon Broxton and previously mentioned Gallo.

Chart Courtesy Of Baseball Savant

In 2020, Miguel Sano posted a career-high whiff rate of 42.6% and suffered down years in many of his contact numbers. His contact% dropped to its lowest since his rookie season at 59.6%; Sano has previously posted contact percentages no lower than 62% since 2016. Miguel Sano took a small increase in his swing%, rising from 43.6% in 2019 to 46.3% in 2020. The combination of more swings and less contact is probably the worst thing that could happen to a hitter like Sano.

Since 2015 Miguel Sano and Joey Gallo both have yet to finish a season with a K% below 35%, both players also are go-to names when thinking of what players have the most potential to hit 40 home runs over a full season. If Sano can manage to bring back up his contact numbers, he has the potential to lead the league in home runs with a wRC+ north of 140. The downside is having a sub-.200 batting average and striking out too much to make an impact, the risk is just as fun as the reward.





Murray Brown

Murray is a student at Humber College and can be found on Twitter at @_MurrayBrown