The Minnesota Twins seem to be taking their poor 29-36 start to the season pretty seriously, optioning third baseman Miguel Sano down to the Minor Leagues. Twins manager Paul Molitor made the announcement following Thursday night’s 3-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers which did not feature Sano in Minnesota’s lineup.
Molitor said, “We’re going to get him down there and give him an opportunity to get things back on track. We don’t feel like we’re getting what we need from him, and he’s going to have to get down there and get to work.”
It’s not tremendously unusual for teams to send slumping players back down to the Minors in order to help them get their play back on track. Sano is currently in the midst of his worst year of his Major League career, batting for a lowly .203 average and recording 4 errors over 7, helping to culminate into a -0.9 WAR.
Sano mentioned that he understands the move, saying, “I’m not mad, I’m happy, because I know I’m struggling, and [Molitor] gave me an opportunity. There’s no reason I can get mad.”
However, there are a couple of things which make this case particularly notable. For one, Sano was an All-Star last season, notching 21 home runs over the first half of 2017. He was hampered by injuries throughout the remainder of the season, though, and has yet to play in more than 116 games in any of his 4 seasons at the Major League level.
In addition, we normally see slumping players optioned to their franchise’s Triple-A or Double-A affiliates, but Sano has been sent all the way down to their Single-A team, the Fort Meyers Miracle. The Twins organization indicated that they want to concentrate more so on getting Sano’s mechanics back on track as opposed to simply facing weaker competition, as would be the case if he went down to Triple or Double-A.
Twins baseball officer Derek Falvey stated to Minnesota’s Star Tribune that the organization plans on providing Sano with more hands-on instruction when it comes to improving his hitting. Falvey said, “We’re not going to follow the traditional view — just go get at-bats at Triple-A. We wanted to take a step back and blank-canvas this a bit and say, ‘What do we think the best next steps are for him?’ … We can do a lot of things with the facility we have there, around strength and conditioning and the work you can do from that side.”
Sano has been one of Minnesota’s better players over the past couple of seasons, so he will likely be needed back on the Major League level if the Twins plan on making a run for the AL Central lead. Only time will tell how long that will take, and it’ll be interesting to see just how much his game changes upon his return.
In the meantime, the Twins will likely be getting first baseman Joe Mauer back from the disabled list this weekend.