2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate — Miguel Sano
We have now profiled every team in the AL Central and it shapes up to be the most competitive division in baseball. The Twins came within a few games of making the playoffs last season and most of their lineup is still young and on the come. Most of the baseball world is focused on the first full season for center fielder Byron Buxton, but he probably isn’t the best fantasy prospect for 2016 on the team.
The most intriguing fantasy prospect on the team is probably Miguel Sano. Sano came up ostensibly as a third baseman, but designated hitter seemed to be his destiny. Suddenly, those plans changed when the club signed Byong Ho Park. Park will serve as the team’s designated hitter and Sano is moving to right field. While this means there could be some tense moments in the outfield, it also means that Sano will be eligible at third base and in the outfield in your fantasy league.
Unlike most of the other teams in the division that have added significant pieces, the Twins didn’t add anyone other than Park. They are hoping that players like Eddie Rosario, Buxton, and Sano take the next step. If you base the expectations just on what happened last season, then there is a lot to be excited about.
What has happened
We’ve seen a number of teams that have several prospects come of age at the same time. It’s an exciting sight to behold. Sano might be the best of all of them. Sure, he doesn’t have the speed Buxton has, but there are few players in the game today capable of hitting 30 home runs in a season. Yet, that was the pace he was on last season.
There are some other good points about Sano that we don’t see here. Most notably is a very healthy walk rate. His 15 percent walk rate makes him an even better prospect in six category leagues. Of course, that also came with a healthy strikeout rate as well. The key to long-term success will be making more contact.
Where he could go
Two of the three projection systems have Sano pegged to hit more than 30 home runs. When you factor in the fact that he is eligible at third base, you are possibly looking at someone that could be a top ten fantasy third basemen. That being said, they expect his average to dip before it gets better. Sano had a .396 average on balls in play (BABIP) and that will almost certainly go down this season.
When you look at his minor league record, you can see that he has strikeout rates consistently hovering around 25 percent, but his BABIPs have gone all over the place. The experts have him hitting around .320 with balls in play. That coupled with a 30 percent strikeout means he will likely fall short of fantasy stardom next season, but he could develop into that in the future.
A Rosy Picture
Again we see where basing expectations on past performance can cause some issues. Sano has contact issues and his .269 average was based entirely too much on an out of context BABIP rate. In order to do that again he will have to make a lot more contact. So, Sano is likely to take a step backwards before he takes a step forwards.