When Josh Donaldson signed with the Twins, there were very few people who were as excited about the move as Miguel Sano. He sent a personal video to Donaldson saying he would only move over to first base for him and was supportive of the move since rumors emerged months ago. When the rumors first surfaced at the beginning of the off season, Sano’s agent called the Twins and asked if Sano should be training at first base. He has been ready for this transition all off season.
This position won’t be completely new to Sano. He has played 31 MLB games at first base but he has also committed five errors in those games. That would be on pace for 27 errors in 162 games played. The MLB leader at first base in 2019 was Eric Hosmer with 14 errors. Of course we have to acknowledge these errors came before he ever had a full off season of training at the position, but it’s still concerning.
It appears the Twins were aware of the risk that moving Sano to first base could cause, because they signed him to a three year extension while being the apparent front runners for Josh Donaldson. Having someone with the fielding ability that Donaldson possesses will certainly help Sano, but what about Jorge Polanco?
Polanco finished 2019 with the worst infield outs above average in baseball at -16. He committed 13 errors on throwing the ball to first and that was with a pretty solid C.J. Cron catching the ball. Will Sano be able to make the scoops needed to save some of those errors? Fangraphs has actually been kind to Sano on his scoops, giving him +4 for his career at first base.
It will be interesting to see how much Sano plays at first base. There isn’t really much the Twins can do if he is horrible over there, with Nelson Cruz handling the DH position and Donaldson at third base. The depth chart on Fangraphs has Sano playing 76% of the games at first base, Marwin Gonzalez handling 21%, and Willians Astudillo handling the final 3%. That seems reasonable, with Sano also playing 7% of the third base games and 2% at designated hitter.
The question of whether or not Sano will be able to handle first base for a full season is tough because there is no way for us to really know. What we do know is that he has been dedicating himself at the position all off season, his training is keeping him in great shape, and he really wants to win this season. It’s going to be a fun 2020. What do you think? Will Sano succeed at first base? Let me know in the comments!