The Twins are averaging more homers per game than any team in the majors and they're now on the verge of getting Miguel Sano back.
Sano, who has missed the entire 2019 season so far due to a heel laceration that required a second procedure to allow it to repair properly, has been cleared for takeoff in the minors and will begin a three-game rehab assignment with the Class A Fort Myers Miracle this week.
The plan is to have Sano play Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and if all goes well, the Star Tribune reports, Sano could then suit up with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings before eventually rejoining the big-league Twins.
Once that happens, it'll be up to manager Rocco Baldelli of how to best use Sano in the everyday lineup, assuming that'll actually happen.
Sano has the potential to be a staple in the middle of an already powerful batting order. He slugged 28 homers in 2017 – an All-Star season for the third baseman – and then fell off the face of the Earth after suffering a leg fracture that required a titanium rod to be surgically implanted into his lower leg.
That surgery slowed his 2018 and kept him from working out the entire offseason. The result was an awful 2018 in which he was eventually demoted to the minors and never returned.
This past offseason was the opposite, with Sano working out so much that he dropped 25 pounds and was excellent condition, the Twins said, entering the spring. But compounding problems with the cut on the back of his foot stopped him in his tracks, so he's spent the last two months recovering and going through what was basically a simulated spring training.
Minnesota's regular batting order is locked and loaded with offensive firepower, so it's not really clear how Baldelli will manage Sano's return. Who in this regular lineup can he replace?
- Max Kepler, RF
- Jorge Polanco, SS
- Nelson Cruz, DH
- Eddie Rosario, LF
- C.J. Cron, 1B
- Marwin Gonzalez, 3B
- Jonathan Schoop, 2B
- Jason Castro, C
- Byron Buxton, CF
Sano will likely only be asked to play third base or serve as the DH, in addition to an outside chance of playing a little first base. That means if Baldelli wants Sano in the lineup consistently, Gonzalez and Cron are most likely to take a seat.
Cron has been awesome defensively at first base and proved to have a big bat. Gonzalez has played good defensive but struggled at the plate.
- Cron: .298/.298./.474 (.772 OPS), 5 HR, 14 RBI
- Gonzalez: .173/.253/.267 (.520 OPS), 2 HR, 7 RBI
Gonzalez, Cron and Sano could stay in the lineup if Gonzalez slides over to second base to give Schoop a night off every now and again, but Schoop (.265/.315/.495) probably isn't a bat that Baldelli wants out of the lineup very often.
Either way, Sano is probably destined to hit fifth or sixth in the batting order whenever he returns, because there's no way Baldelli will mess with the 2-3-4 punch of Polanco-Cruz-Rosario, which has been one of the best cores in the majors.
Another issue Sano's return creates is that Willians Astudillo, who is on the injured list with a hamstring injury, and Mitch Garver might have less playing time.
You know what all of this sounds like? It sounds like the Twins are really good from top to bottom, and that's refreshing.