Miguel Sano is Back in the Cleanup Spot Again

Photo credit: Jordan Johnson, USA TODAY Sports

It was reasonable to be concerned about Miguel Sano’s future earlier this season.

He was sent to High-A after hitting around the Mendoza Line and drawing concerns about his weight and commitment to situational hitting. His .267/.389/.500 line in Triple-A this season did little to alleviate fears that he had regressed after being named an All-Star last year.

But he’s starting to look like a star again since returning to the major leagues. He’s hitting .300/.364/.450 since joining the team following the Eduardo Escobar trade on July 28, and has shown agility at third base. On Sunday he hit cleanup against the Kansas City Royals.

Since we returned from Boston, there’s been a couple of strikeouts, but mostly he’s been putting the ball in play,” said manager Paul Molitor. “[He’s been] real close on a couple balls that are just catching a little bit off the end, doing a lot better job of tracking off-speed pitches, recognizing when they’re in the zone and when they’re not.”

Sano has struck out eight times, and has yet to hit a home run since his return. But his ability to track offspeed and breaking pitches, especially sliders, and advancing runners when they are in scoring position is more of a focus for the team right now.

While his .203/.270/.405 line that got him demoted to the low minors is fresh in everyone’s mind, he hit .254/.348/.496 with 71 home runs in his first three years in the majors, earning him not only an All-Star appearance last year, but third place in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor during his first season in the league. Power was never an issue for Sano, the question is whether he can become a more complete player.

“In the back of his mind, I’m sure he’s worried about that chase factor, and then he gets a little bit more exposed to the good fastball, especially up and in,” said Molitor. “But yeah, I think that the at-bats have been encouraging to this point.”

A significant portion of the fanbase fretted the Escobar trade when it happened. Not only did it signal that the Twins would be sellers once again, but Escobar was hitting .274/.338/.514 when he was dealt, and was one of the most beloved players in the Twins clubhouse. His “caballo” antics, obsession with Fogo de Chao and outgoing personality kept things light in an otherwise disappointing season.

And while he is a valuable utility man on a contending team like the Arizona Diamondbacks, Sano should be able to replace his production at the place and liven up the locker room. He possesses some of the same affability as Escobar did, and has a similar, extroverted personality.

As one of the more talented players on the team, who arrived with hype that suggested he could become a franchise cornerstone, he should be one of the more prominent voices in the clubhouse. If he generates positivity in the locker room, it would go a long way to replacing what Escobar brought to the team during the past seven years.

Being placed in the cleanup spot on Sunday is an indication that his reset in the minors was effective. Holding it down will indicate that he’s committed to being the player he was expected to be.

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