After a few weeks of wondering whether or not Miguel Sano could legitimately enter into the conversation, it seems like we've switched gears. It's no longer a question of whether or not he deserves to be in the conversation - he now owns the conversation. In just his last seven games he's smashed four home runs and a 1.298 OPS. It's unreal.
As the games roll along, Sano's case just builds itself. Maybe he's not playing as much defense as Carlos Correa or Francisco Lindor, and he hasn't played in as many games as Devon Travis or Billy Burns, but none of it hardly seems to matter. In 51 games he's accumulated more value (2.2 fWAR) than Burns has in 105 (1.8 fWAR), or Travis in 62 (2.3). If Sano keeps this up he's going to pass Correa (2.7 fWAR) and Lindor (2.7) in wins above replacement by this time next week.
But these things are never objective. The winner of the American League Rookie of the Year will be crowned not based on wins above replacement or runs created or even slugging percentage, he'll be crowned based on an indecipherable combination of production, highlights, media personality, and team success.
Right now, Sano ticks all those boxes. He's hitting the snot out of the baseball (gross, sorry), he's hitting home runs every day so naturally he's on SportsCenter, he's savvy, and the Twins are unexpectedly vying for a playoff spot and are therefore the darling of baseball pundits everywhere. So...how could Miguel Sano not win American League Rookie of the Year?
- Performance. This is the boring one. If Sano suddenly stops hitting, or gets hurt, or goes on a cold streak, or something otherwise stops producing, the award will go to another player.
- Carlos Correa. Bless Francisco Lindor, because he's been outstanding this year, but he's not been so good that his defense is going to win this award for him - we just mentioned how this thing isn't done objectively. Correa, on the other hand, has a lot working in his favor. He plays for the Astros, who are everyone's darling. He plays a good shortstop, which is a sexy position. And even better, he's hitting exceptionally well at that sexy defensive position.
- The Twins stop winning. I hate that this is true. There's no reason why a great rookie on a last place team shouldn't be as legitimate of a candidate for something like Rookie of the Year as a good rookie on a playoff team. But that's how the world works. People see a young kid being a part of the success of a winning club, and he gets the attention. Maybe the Twins have done enough to keep Sano in the conversation now regardless of how they finish, but for a whole bunch of reasons let's just hope Minnesota continues to roll.
- An act of the baseball gods. The Royals are getting chicken pox. Joe Zumaya missed the 2006 ALCS because he played too much Guitar Hero. Lew Ford may or may not have ironed his shirt while he was wearing it. There's no good reason for any of these things, but the baseball gods have a cruel sense of humor. If you wake up tomorrow and Miguel Sano is on the disabled list because he tore an abdominal muscle laughing at one of Joe Mauer's hilarious milk anecdotes, don't say I didn't warn you.
- People voted for the wrong guy. Remember when Keizo Konishi didn't vote for Joe Mauer to win the MVP award in 2009? Yeah, that's still a ridiculous decision. Sure, that's life, and people make silly decisions. I do it all the time. So sure, people could - and will - vote for the wrong guy.