20 October 2010
Last season, the Twins signed Miguel Angel Sano from the Dominican Republic for a $3.15 million signing bonus. This was, by far, the largest bonus the Twins had ever given to an international free agent. The biggest bonus had been $750,000. This was the second largest bonus in MLB history for a Dominican amateur. He was also given the second largest signing bonus in Twins history, behind what Joe Mauer got as the #1 pick in the 2001 draft. This was a big deal! The Twins really stepped up. This financial commitment to a 16 year old was the exact kind of move Twins fans have been waiting for. It's a year later, how is he doing?
Sano, just 17, spent just 20 games and 80 plate appearances with the Twins Dominican league team. His .344/.463/.547 line demanded that he come to America and some tougher competition. He spent the rest of the summer with the Gulf Coast Twins, hitting .291/.338/.473 in 161 plate appearances. He hit a HR in his first state-side professional at bat, while posting respectable numbers against the league. His OPS was 11th best in the league. Every one in the top 10 was at least 13 months older than Sano.
He is very young and at least 3 years away from the majors. Signed as a shortstop, the already 6'3" 195 lb Sano looks to end up at 3rd base or in the outfield. Baseball America's 94th ranked prospect in 2010, Sano is already playing more games at third than at shortstop. So, what to make of Sano's GCL numbers? Not many 17 year olds reach the GCL, but a player I compare to Sano did. Miguel Cabrera had an MVP caliber season with Detroit in 2010, hitting .328/.420/.622. As a 17 year old in the GCL, Cabrera hit .260/.344/.352 in 250 plate appearances. He did not match the .810 OPS Sano put up this year, until he was a 20 year old in AA. Another example of 17 year old in rookie ball, Pablo Sandoval's had a .266/.287/.373 line. Players such as Hanley Ramirez had awesome first years in Gulf Coast, but most players don't reach the level until they are 18 or older. There are very few examples of a player doing as well as Sano did as a 17 year old.
Sano does have a lot of work to do. He struckout 43 times in 161 plate appearances with only 10 walks. He will most likely start the season in the GCL again and probably not get past high rookie Elizabethtown in the 2011 season. It will be interesting to see how he does in his second pro year. He has a lot of work to do but, for a guy who will be just 18, he has looked every bit the prospect that the Twins are paying him to be. Give it a few years, he might be the, right-handed, middle of the order bat that Twins fans have been waiting for.
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