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Exiting the Miguel Sano rollercoaster

It was a bumpy ride for the big slugger

Seattle Mariners v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Following the exciting, hope-renewing 2015 Minnesota Twins campaign, I decided to finally take the plunge on a 20-game season ticket package. Despite usually being a first base dweller, I chose a seat in between home and third for the ’16 season. The biggest reason: the immediate knowledge/excitement of a home run blast off the bat of prodigious slugger Miguel Sano, who had debuted with the big club on July 2 of ’15. I remain in that general vicinity to this day.

Despite—or perhaps because of—Sano’s status as a highly-coveted international amateur free agent (signed October 23, 2009) and reputation as future savior—along with Byron Buxton—during the lean 2011-2014 years, Miguel never quite lived up to Twins Territory expectations. This despite some pretty impressive statistical streaks along the way. But with #22, the ability to perform admirably was usually not in question. Rather, it was the big man’s propensity for white-hot and ice-cold stretches. His Twins tenure had more ups and downs than the Sling Shot carnival-ride videos currently clogging your TikTok feed.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Minnesota Twins
A svelte rookie Sano
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times...

  • Up—2015: Sano’s first taste of MLB action—335 PA, 18 HR, 149 OPS+—was one of the most impressive short-form rookie campaigns in franchise history. Squint a little and you might just make out the next Miguel Cabrera.
  • Down—2016: The Great Right Field Experiment and a league-average 108 OPS+. Enough said.
  • Up—2017: For the first half of ‘17, it looked as if the earlier Cabrera comp was finally coming to pass. Sano was selected as an AL All-Star and finished second in the Home Run Derby. Though cooling a bit in the second half, his overall line—483 PA, 28 HR, 126 OPS+—seemed to get his career back on track.
New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins
Arguably “peak Sano” in 2017
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Sadly, it was all valleys and no peaks on the Miguel Sano Experience after that. In 2020, he managed to strike out an almost inconcievable 90 times in 205 PA. Then, there were the 183 air-swings (in 532 PA) the following year. Despite playing in a league more tolerant of batter strikeouts than ever before, Sano still struck out too much.

Wild Card Round - Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins - Game Two
A lot of empty walks back to the dugout
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

This is all, of course, to say nothing of Sano’s off-field foibles—like that one weird incident with the Dominican Republic authorities and sexual assault accusation. There also seemed a nagging suspicion amongst fans, media, and team officials that Miguel Sano wasn’t always applying himself to the sport as perhaps he should (his up-and-down weight being a chief concern).

I will never call Sano a “bust” as a Minnesota Twin. He had periods of success that rivaled the greatest sluggers in team history. But careening from those highs to long, nearly-unplayable lows was his ultimate undoing (well, that and the burden of franchise-saving expectations). It would not surprise me if Miguel latches on elsewhere and produces a few 30+ home run seasons. But whichever team gives him that shot will have to tolerate all the extreme outcomes that come with it. Simply put, the Twins finally tired of the ride.