Sano and Third Base

Missed on the prediction that Miguel Sano would start the season in Rochester. He will instead be in rehab.

While many fans are gnashing their teeth at the Twins medical staff for “once again failing to diagnose correctly”, I think that is an unfair characterization. According to at least one report, Sano got a second opinion that concurred on the recommendation to rest the elbow. As young as he is, the healing process often is done with rest.

Either way, he will be undergoing Tommy John surgery in the next couple of weeks and they will be on the long road of recovery – estimated to be about eight months. There seems to be some optimism on some fronts that he could DH toward the end of the minor league season then play in the Arizona Fall League or the Dominican winter league. That all remains to be seen.

The result for the Twins in 2014 is third base could be a major hole if Trevor Plouffe does not develop into the all-round player needed at that position. There are no real alternatives for anything other than stop-gap play unless the Twins trade for someone to fill the hole and give Plouffe some genuine competition, something he has not really had since being put at third base.

The more I think about the situation, the more I believe it is time to trade for an alternative. In fact, I would decide now to convert Sano to a first baseman so when he begins rehab he can begin to work on the position change. His elbow would not get near the stress in that position and his bat could get into the big league lineup quicker. How to juggle the Twins lineup and roster to make that happen can be discussed later, but I find it difficult to see how keeping Sano at third base does him or the Twins much good.



2014 Corner Infielders

To make this series of posts more manageable, I’ll divide the infielders into two groups beginning with the corner infield positions.

First base and Joe Mauer is a good place to start. As all Twins fans know by now, the inevitable switch to another position from catcher was decided last fall shortly after the 2013 season ended. Unless he is unfortunate enough to sustain some kind of injury, he will be the everyday first baseman and there will be few opportunities for any others except to give him a day off. I expect Mauer’s offensive production to be similar to what it was last year, with the possible exception of a little more power as he continues to work with Tom Brunansky, hitting coach, developing a more powerful stroke. Defensively, I expect him to develop quickly into a very good first baseman. His overall athletic ability will aid him, and his work ethic may well eventually produce a Gold Glove.

Only two others are listed on the 40-man roster as first basemen, and of the two, only Chris Colabello has any major league experience. He saw some playing time last season after the departure of Justin Morneau in August. Although he struggled some at the plate, his power potential is high and that may be enough for him to be on the opening day roster. He will probably need to beat out Chris Parmelee to make the roster because there are simply not enough slots for everyone.

The other first baseman added to the 40-man roster last fall is Kennys Vargas. He is a promising young player with good power potential, but he will not be a factor at the major league level this year.

Max Kepler could also be on this list, as last year he played a majority of the time at first base, but I’ve already discussed him in yesterday’s post.

One of the most interesting anomalies of the full roster is only one player – Trevor Plouffe – is listed as a third baseman as his primary position. I’m not sure he is good enough to be considered the only contender for the position, but so far this off-season no challengers have been added to provide any competition. A few other players have made spot starts at third for the Twins over the last couple of years, but generally they are considered primarily middle infielders and I’ll discuss them in that context.

This will definitely be the year Plouffe must establish himself or he will quickly become a utility player. I am not confident he will ever develop the consistency that is needed at the position, either offensively or defensively, but this year will tell the tale.

One non-roster player invited to the major league camp this spring, who must be considered is Miguel Sano. He played at New Britain last year and demonstrated his power and general hitting prowess such that he is considered the fourth best prospect in baseball. But when spring training ends, I expect him to be at Rochester to gain some more experience before making an appearance either in June (if Plouffe falters) or, at the latest, in September.