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Miguel Sano's biggest plays of the year

We know that Sano craves the big situation and isn't afraid of the pressure. On the day following his nomination for American League Rookie of the Year, Jesse discusses Sano's most clutch plays in 2015.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

If 2015 is anything to go by, Miguel Sano could very well be the player that the Twins and their fans were hoping he would be. In 80 games he hit .269/.385/.530 in his age-22 season, crushing 18 home runs in the process, earning himself a nomination for the American League's Rookie of the Year award.

Sano is up against Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor, both of whom have the same (if not better) claim to the award. Correa and Lindor both played in 99 games and manned one of the most demanding defensive positions on the field, which may make Sano the competition's dark horse. But in the long run, Sano certainly looks like he could be the most dangerous player of the bunch. When you're one of the best single-season hitters in team history and one of the best 22-year old right-handed hitters ever I guess it's easy to be noticed.

Over the course of the season, we saw Sano come up to the dish in a lot of big situations. He succeeded more often than a rookie should in those times, hitting.302/.426/.674 in plate appearances where the game was classified as "late and close."

FanGraphs tracks each play throughout every game, noting the change in win expectancy, the importance of the plate appearance (leverage index), and the net added - or lost - value to the game based on results (win probability added). To find Sano's biggest plays of 2015, I sorted the WPA column to show which plays added the most value to the Twins' chances of winning the contest.

Sano Play Index

You'll be as impressed as I am looking at that list. Homer, homer, double, homer, double, homer, homer, homer, double, homer. He hit four of those seven home runs so well that they were partially classified as line drives. Sano doesn't just get loft, and it's not just that he's strong enough to hit big home runs - he's also seeing the ball exceptionally well. Sure, when you're looking at the top WPA contributions on the year you expect a lot of success, but there isn't a single contribution here that isn't an extra-base hit.

As defined by FanGraphs, a leverage index of 2.0 or greater is considered a play of the game's most intense moments. Six of Sano's ten plays with the highest impact qualify as having come at a crucial point in the game. Three of the remaining four plays came in the first inning, where Sano gave the Twins a huge early advantage. The final play was only a homer to bring the Twins to within one run of a tie.

For a different look, instead of focusing on the plays where Sano made the biggest contribution to the game you could look at how Sano did during the plays where the game was in the balance.

sano play index 2

Six positive WPA contributions in the ten biggest plays Sano saw in 2015? What do we expect, it's Miguel Sano. They say it takes time to build a reputation but this kid is doing it faster than most.

If you want to get into the specifics of each of the plays mentioned via FanGraphs, visit Sano's play log page and click on the date notation. Otherwise, be sure to check out our post on the the longest Twins home runs of 2015. Because it's mostly Miguel Sano, obviously.