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Fallout from Miguel Sanó’s injury update

Surgery will delay the third baseman’s 2019 start—how does that impact the team?

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros
The trend of Sanó’s unreliable health unfortunately continues.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As Twins continue to battle for spots on the 25-man roster, one player has dropped out of the running for opening day.

Slugging third baseman Miguel Sano had not yet played this spring after cutting his heel during a celebration for Estrellas’ Dominican Winter League championship; now, after a surgical procedure at the Mayo Clinic, his recovery will stretch into the regular season, per Derek Falvey.

While Sanó is expected to make his debut in May, his continued injury has immediate impact for the team training in Fort Myers.

Marwin Gonzalez becomes the starting third baseman

As a long-term starter for the Astros, González has always been expected to see significant playing time for the Twins; the question has always been where. With Sanó out of commission, a starting role opens up in the lineup at third base. While González has played third base in Houston, he’s never played more than 22 games in a season there, and it’s the position where (per Baseball Reference) he grades out lowest defensively. But as González’s positives at bat outweigh his glove at third base, the obvious place to insert him appears to be the likeliest.

Ehire Adrianza & Willians Astudillo have an easier path to a roster spot

In most roster projections, Adrianza and Astudillo have been the 25th or 26th men on the team, battling for the final spot in the infield. Their path to the Opening Day roster became more difficult when González signed, but that difficulty has disappeared with Sanó absent from the squad. Adrianza, the veteran utility infielder, and Astudillo, the fan favorite who can step in anywhere unless the Twins make a typo on the batting card, each have a better chance of starting in the year in uniforms with a hint of Kasota gold; as spring training continues, we’ll continue to get a better idea of which may have a stronger chance.

The Twins lose a slugging bat, but also lose strikeouts

While the Twins did add power bats to the lineup in Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron, Sanó is still their homegrown slugger whom executives and fans hope will be a key part of the team’s future. Even with his struggles in 2018, Sanó’s career slugging percentage is .477. González, the third baseman by default, has slugged .419 over his seven seasons, a perfectly respectable rating, but not a bat for the middle of the lineup. (Sanó also has a higher career on-base percentage, .336 to González’s .318.) However, González has a significant advantage over Sanó in strikeout percentage. The former Astro has whiffed in 541 of his 2,706 plate appearances - 19.99 percent. But Sanó’s strikeout rate is astronomical, as he has K’d in 36.29 percent - 585 out of 1,612 - of his trips to the batter’s box. We’ll see how this trade-off impacts the batting order, as since González is not a slugger, Cruz and Cron should take on more prominent roles in the lineup.

Sanó’s potential is on hold again

Speaking of that hope, we will again have to wait to see if Sanó can break out into a perennial star. Sanó’s development has been derailed multiple times in his professional career, whether due to injuries, attempts to change positions, or bad cases of the yips. Thanks to a slip down some stage stairs, that development must go on hold again. But while we wait and hope, we still have baseball.