Twins

Is Aaron Sabato Starting to Figure It Out?

Photo credit: USA TODAY Pool Photo

The Minnesota Twins had a prototype in mind when they selected Aaron Sabato with the 27th-overall pick in the 2020 draft. A first baseman with elite power and exit velocity, the 22-year-old reflected the Twins’ Bomba Squad mentality. Sabato slugged .698 with 25 home runs in 83 games at North Carolina and fit in with Minnesota’s desire to pound teams into submission.

But Sabato’s first professional season has been a struggle. Although his time at Low-A Fort Myers hasn’t gone as planned, Sabato has turned it on with six home runs in his past eight games and has looked like the player the Twins were expecting him to become.

Sabato came to the Twins’ organization with the promise of raw power. During his freshman season at North Carolina, Sabato mashed 18 home runs with a .693 slugging percentage. He underwent shoulder surgery after that summer and returned with a vengeance, hitting seven home runs in 19 games before the season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Of Sabato’s 98 hits at North Carolina, 25 of them went over the fence. But it wasn’t just the power that intrigued the Twins.

Even for a player who swung for the fences, Sabato showed a refined approach at the plate. In 368 plate appearances, Sabato drew 61 walks and struck out 72 times. While Sabato looks like the ultimate BABIP machine, he found a way to keep the offense moving, which is the main goal of a team that relies on the home run.

While Sabato’s college career looked destined for superstardom, this season has been a disappointment. Through his first 70 games at Low-A Fort Myers, Sabato hit just four home runs and had a slugging percentage of .290.

An even bigger concern was Sabato’s jump in strikeouts. In 308 plate appearances, Sabato struck out 97 times. A strikeout rate of 31.4% isn’t ideal, but it also came with some positives. Sabato still drew plenty of walks (66), and his .185 overall average could have been fueled by a .292 average on balls in play.

Although Sabato has struggled to this point, he’s shown signs of turning it around. He has started to make contact over his last eight games, hitting six home runs in 32 at-bats. While he’s struck out 10 times, he’s started to show what he can do when he’s on a tear.

There’s still a long way to go before Sabato earns a major league call-up, but it’s something for the Twins to consider down the stretch. If he continues his hot streak through the end of the season, it could position him well for next year and alter some of the team’s plans this offseason.

The Twins currently have a log jam at first base with Miguel Sanó playing in a platoon. While first base could be the long-term home for Alex Kirilloff, a hot streak by Sabato could convince the Twins to deal Max Kepler to make room for Kirilloff in the outfield to bring in some much-needed pitching.

All of this seems like a pipe dream considering how Sabato’s season has played out, but continued success could entice the Twins to be more aggressive. If Sabato keeps making better contact, he could make his way through the organization soon and be a key player for years to come.

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