Skip to main content
Publish date:

Twins Daily: Miguel Sano has the tools to defend 1st base for the Twins

Twins Daily's Nate Palmer explains why worries about Sano could be overstated.
Miguel Sano

Minnesota Twins fans first learned that Miguel Sano was signing his brand new three-year contract. We then heard the interviews where time and again Sano mentioned he had been working on first base among other aspects of baseball. Then came the official news of Josh Donaldson coming to Minnesota and the official start to Sano’s move across the diamond as a defender.

We all know at this point that, although being very athletic for a man his size, Sano was not a good defensive third basemen. Now that he is on the move, what can we piece together about Sano, from the eye test as well as the numbers that may give us a clue to the type of first baseman Sano may be in 2020 and beyond?

When watching Sano highlights there are moments where he looks absolutely incredible. He sprawls out for a zooming line drive, collects himself, and rifles the ball across the diamond. In watching, it may simply be his arm that makes some of these lateral plays look tremendous.

At the same time he has these plays where he seems to almost stumble around. That is where the concern comes in as Sano moves across the diamond. First base requires good footwork, and does he have that?

Trying to look through game highlights of Sano as a first baseman, it is clear he can receive the ball well. It is also clear he hasn’t truly learned the craft of being a first baseman, but the ability is there. 

Within the same game last season against the Yankees on July 24th we can see Sano not quite get a good stretch on a play in the fourth inning that allows DJ LeMahieu to reach safely. Then later in the game he makes a better (although slightly unorthodox) stretch to record an out in the fifth.

When using OAA we learn that our eyes do not totally deceive us and that he does lack lateral movement. What is good news in comparison to his third base numbers is that he sits much more in the “OK” range at first with OAA ratings of +2 (2017 on 11 attempts), 0 (2018 on 15 attempts), and -1 (2019 on 11 attempts). Very small sample size, but that's what we have to work with since Sano hasn’t spent much time at first.

The first basemen skill that we worry about the most with the infield in the past is how well can an errant throw be picked. FanGraphs Scoops stat ranks Sano favorable in his small sample size with +2 (2017), +2 (2018), and 0 (2019). Scoops is another imperfect statistic where Sano is likely being compared most against his teammates and is a stat that is figured to only show us about 25% of a first baseman's defensive worth. (Read more in this explanation of “Scoops”)

Sano does project as likely getting a plus on his ability to scoop compared to other first baseman solely due to his size. As the linked explanation of Scoops states, players who are right-handed and are over 6’1” see a 1.2 increase in runs saved on average. Sano standing at 6’4” has that working for him.

Putting all these pieces together, it seems Sano has all the tools to become an at least average first baseman. He may not win gold gloves, but his value remains his bat. If Sano carries defensive abilities that don't hurt the team he will still individually translate into a very good player since his bat does wonderful things, like hit 34 home runs with a .923 OPS in 2019. 

The looming question may be: Do the Twins have too many players like Sano in their infield? Individually, Sano should be fine defensively. 

To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.

— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

This story first appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared through a collaboration with Bring Me The News

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-11-25 at 7.53.37 AM

Another 5,000 lbs. of goldfish removed from Carver County lakes

It all likely stemmed from people dumping their pets into local waters a few years ago.

Rosaleia Shelton

Appeal to find 19-year-old missing from Bloomington

The teen left her home on Monday afternoon.

hospital, emergency room

Deaths of twin fetuses after woman was shot ruled a double homicide

The woman was shot in the abdomen in mid-September.

Payton Willis / Gopher Basketball

Gophers improve to 5-0 with win over Jacksonville

The Gophers are establishing momentum early in the season.

Anthony Edwards

Ant's massive slam leads Timberwolves to fifth straight win

The dunk didn't count, but provided the highlight of the night.

Cam Talbot / Minnesota Wild

WIld arrive late, Cam Talbot stays on point to beat Devils

Despite a 30-minute delay, the Wild picked up a 3-2 victory.

Screen Shot 2021-11-24 at 4.10.54 PM

Appeal to find 35-year-old missing from Oak Grove home

Police say he's not believed to be in danger.

vote, election

7 MN Republicans urge states to audit 2020 election results

There has been no evidence of significant fraud in any single U.S. state.

child vaccine pexels

How many MN kids age 5-11 have received a COVID vaccine dose?

The governor says the state has one of the highest child vaccination rates in the U.S.

police lights

Seven juveniles arrested in connection with stolen vehicles in Woodbury

Woodbury authorities have issued a warning following a spate of auto thefts.

police lights squad car dark - Unsplash

1 dead after driver crashes into stalled vehicle on shoulder

The vehicle stopped on the side of the road was unoccupied at the time.


Miguel Sano

Miguel Sano and his future in Minnesota

Twins Daily breaks down what the future holds for Sano.

Jorge Polanco

Left side, strong side: The bar has been raised for the Twins

Gone are the days of a weak left side of the infield, as Twins Daily explains.

Jaime Garcia

How the 2017 Jaime Garcia trades will help the Twins in 2020

Twins Daily's Nate Palmer revisits the Garcia trades of 2017.

Jorge Polanco

Which Twins are most likely to regress in 2020?

Twins Daily explains why some big hitters could have drops in production next season.

Jorge Polanco

What might be a bigger problem than pitching for the Twins

How much will Josh Donaldson help the rest of the infield defense?

Miguel Sano

Twins' Miguel Sano cleared of kidnapping, assault accusations

Sano is expected to join the Twins at Target Field on July 1.

Luis Arraez

Is infield defense really that important for the Twins in 2020?

Twins Daily breaks down all of the defensive details.

Revisiting trades made by Derek Falvey, Thad Levine

Twins Daily looks back at some of the trades from the 2018 season.