Miguel Sano has been knocking the cover of the ball lately, but is it a real sign he’ll finally reach his full potential as a hitter?
Miguel Sano arrived in the big leagues as a 22-year old in June of 2015, and proceeded to hit 18 home runs in 80 games (335 plate appearances). He has hit for plenty of power since, and he set a career-high 34 homers last year.
Inconsistency has been a mark of Sano’s career. I’m reminded again, with a paraphrase on my part, of what the venerable sportswriter Patrick Reusse once said about him : “He can be Miguel Cabrera or Dave Kingman, and it’s up to him which one.” With a .245 career batting average and a career strikeout rate of 36.6 percent, Sano is firmly in Kingman territory at 27 years old.
Sano hit a home run against the Cleveland Indians on Monday night. He now has extra base hit in eight straight games (two home runs, eight doubles), with a blistering .433/.500/.900 slash-line (1.400 OPS) over that span.
A positive COVID-19 test left Sano with little ramp up to the shortened season, and it showed with a .111/.149/.356 slash-line, a .105 BABIP and 23 strikeouts over his first 13 games (47 plate appearances). In 13 games since, he’s hitting .381/.500/.786 with a .684 BABIP, 20 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Over those last 13 games entering Tuesday, Sano’s strikeout rate is 38.4 percent. Narrowing to his power surge over his last eight, his strikeout rate is 35.2 percent. So he’s still striking out a lot during this good stretch, and still bordering on too much even in this era where strikeouts aren’t stigmatized. But he seems to have found something, perhaps rooted in bringing back a leg kick as a timing and balance mechanism.
The Twins will face Shane Bieber on Tuesday night. It’s a rare hitter who has had any success against the Indians ace lately, but Sano is 6-for-19 with a home run against Bieber
Has Sano has finally figured it out, at an age where hitter tend to hit their prime? We’ve seen these sort of hot streaks before, and this one looks better and more important in the light of a 60-game season. But the idea he’ll become an all-round hitter like Cabrera was in his prime is long gone.