A lot of Twins fans have been complaining about Miguel Sano recently, and claiming the Twins should send him to the minors. This is an absurd idea for several reasons, including the fact that Sano isn’t actually playing that poorly, but most importantly it is nearly impossible at this time due to the Twins roster.
Off field, there are some other issues with Sano, and I completely understand if you believe Sano should not be on the team for that reason. However, the Twins have, by action, proven that they don’t deem those issues to be a reason for him to no longer play for them; so I am not considering those in a post about his play on the field. I’ve also heard broad statements made about clubhouse chemistry, but never from a credible source, so will be discounting those arguments at this time.
The Twins have been pretty consistent in their roster construction this season. They have carried at least six infielders (assuming you count Willians Astudillo and Marwin Gonzalez as infielders) for pretty much the entire season. Right now they have Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron, Luis Arreaz, and Willians Astudillo in that category; with the latter two recently called up from Rochester due to injuries.
Ehire Adrianza and Marwin Gonzalez are on the Injured List right now. Ronald Torreyes is on the restricted list. Hopefully most or all of those will be short stays, but this is the Twins, so you never know. If the Twins were going to send Miguel Sano down, they would need to bring up another infielder. If doesn’t necessarily have to be a third baseman, if you believe that Willians Astudillo or Luis Arreaz can play the position on a regular basis, but it would probably help.
There is exactly one player at Rochester who can play third base and is on the 40-man roster. That man is Nick Gordon. There are a couple others, but they are not on the 40-man roster. That would require a roster spot, and mean that another player is designated for assignment.
Nick Gordon, in Triple-A this season: .302/.343/.468. He has hit two home runs, and struck out in 19.84% of his plate appearance. His OPS is .811.
Miguel Sano, in the majors: .217/.311/.522. He has hit seven home runs, and struck out in 39.62% of his plate appearances. His OPS is .833.
Let’s assume a 10% statistical penalty for the move from Triple-A to the Majors. Gordon struggled to adjust to Triple-A, and I suspect he’d do the same moving to the majors, but let’s just use the standard number. That would drop him to approximately .270/.300/.423, and an OPS of .723 — and raise his strikeouts to roughly 23%. Using actual projections from Steamer is even worse — they project Gordon for .249/.294/.353 in the majors this year, although they only project him to receive 11 plate appearances. In those 11 plate appearances, he is projected to strike out 20.4% of the time, and hit no homers.
For this season, Steamer projects Sano 234/.324/.466 with a 35.6% strikeout rate and 17 home runs. It is very possible that his season stabilizes around these numbers, as he only has 106 PA in 2019, which is still a small sample. He could also exceed the OPB and Slugging projections, as he seems to have found a bit more patience at the plate.
If we assume that the average starter notches four plate appearances per game, that means the difference between Sano and Gordon’s current rates over ten games would be approximately seven strikeouts. Using Steamer projections means the difference is six strikeouts in ten games. Sano is walking at a much higher rate, however, reflected in his on-base percentage, and racking up many more bases on his hits, reflected in his slugging percentage. The OBP alone more than offsets the difference in strikeouts. Gordon is more of a classic single hitter and relies on BABIP for value, while Sano is the modern three-true-outcomes slugger.
I did say that Gordon isn’t the only option at Rochester for an infielder — there are some others, but you have probably never heard of them. Third baseman Drew Maggi and Brian Schales are both options, as is second baseman Jordany Valdespin. None of them have been notable enough to even consider promoting as anything but a last-ditch injury solution.
People spent the last ten or so years ridiculing Joe Mauer for being everything Sano is not. Now we’re being told that Sano is the problem. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Twins fans.