Sanó He Didn’t

Breaking down the best hitting performances from yesterday’s games.

Miguel Sano (MIN): 2-2, HR, R, 2 RBI.

At this point, I’m pretty confident that we know who Miguel Sanó is. And by that, I mean one of the hardest-hitting guys in the league—if he can make contact.

Sanó has last night off before coming in as—get this—a pinch runner in the eighth. But he came through as the game went into extras, smacking the walk-off two-run shot to finish 2-2 with a HR and two RBI in an abbreviated outing.

It’s been a rocky few years for Sanó in MLB. Since debuting back in 2015 at the age of 22, Sanó has had high highs—crushing his rookie season for a 149 wRC+ in over 300 PA and putting out a 137 wRC+ as recently as 2019—and some pretty low lows: like putting out an 83 wRC+ in injury-riddled 2018.

Unfortunately, this year—and last—has been shaping out more like that abbreviated 2018 season. Nearly three months into the season, Sanó is slashing just .187/.269/.430 with 14 HR. He’s pretty much a lock for 25-30 HR every season, regardless of how else he’s hitting—but are you really willing to stomach a sub-.200 batting average to get it? He strikes out more than 35% of the time, a rate that has if anything gotten worse since he debuted, and his walk rate has gradually declined over his seven seasons.

His Statcast page is a great snapshot of the roller coaster that is Miguel Sanó at the plate: consistently top tenth percentile in max exit velocity, always bright red in Barrel % and HardHit %, yet also brutally blue when it comes to strikeouts, Whiffs, and xBA.

Which brings us to the last two seasons. Between 2020 and 2021, Sanó has nearly a full season’s worth of plate appearances and it seems he’s really taken a stumble after putting up several high-quality seasons at the plate. More than anything, it seems he’s struggling to make good contact. He still does (and of course, when he does he absolutely crushes the baseball), but he’s not taking advantage of fastballs quite as much as he used to. This is vital when he struggles against breaking and offspeed pitches like he is this year, posting a 0% Barrel rate on offspeed pitches and just 5% on breaking pitches. For context, Sanó has never had a Barrel rate below about 10% on any pitch group over the course of a season (this is all with a Hard Hit % within career norms for each pitch group):

 

 

So what does this mean? Is it just a prolonged cold streak or is something wrong? Aside from the injury-shortened 2018 and COVID-shortened 2020, Sanó has always put up above-average offensive numbers. Personally, I think there’s a lot to like about Sanó’s profile, and even while he struggles he’ll still provide home runs. The drain on batting average is real, but if he can start seeing the offspeed and breaking pitches a bit better and taking advantage of fastballs, the production should increase significantly. If nothing else, it’s a gamble I think is worth taking.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:

Jonathan India (CIN): 3-5, BB, SB.

Since taking over the leadoff spot in early June, India is slashing .295/.419/.443 with 11 runs scored over 16 games. He’s 2-4 in stolen base attempts during that stretch. With Mike Moustakas moving back to the IL, India is likely to stay hitting leadoff and will remain an extremely valuable source of pretty much everything except power.

Yordan Alvarez (HOU): 1-3, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.

Still a few days shy of his 24th birthday, Alvarez has already established himself as one of the premier hitters of the league. He smacked his 10th homer of the year and perhaps more importantly drew a walk—one of the few areas he’s been struggling with a bit this season. With how well he’s hitting the ball, it’s hard to complain, but the walk rate should likely rise, making him even more valuable.

Michael Brantley (HOU): 3-3, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.

A very Michael Brantley statline. He’s been absolutely crushing the ball this year en route to a whopping .350/.399/.523 slash line. At 34 years old, Brantley shows no sign of slowing down. Perennially underrated for some reason, he provides great value year in, year out.

Yuli Gurriel (HOU): 2-2, 2 RBI.

Completing our Astros trifecta (there were only eight games yesterday and the Astros scored a lot of runs) is another hitter aging like fine wine. The 37-year-old is having his best season yet, slashing .322/.387/.519 through the first three months. Always able to limit his strikeouts, Gurriel is walking more than he strikes out this season. Another huge value.

Manny Machado (SD): 3-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, SB.

The only combo meal on the day goes to Manny Machado, thumping a three-run shot in the first inning to support starter Yu Darvish against the rival Dodgers and adding on a stolen base in the fifth. Manny’s SLG is the lowest it’s been since 2014, but thanks to the highest walk rate of his career he’s putting up a respectable 120 wRC+ on the season with 11 homers and eight stolen bases. He feels due for a hot streak but regardless, it’s hard to complain about his production even if his power is a bit down.

Jake Cronenworth (SD): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.

Cronenworth has been proving wrong all those doubters who thought last season was just a fluke. He’s carved out an everyday role in the lineup and making every plate appearance count, slashing .281/.351/.445 on the season. He’s not going to wow you with power or speed but is just a consistent force at the plate. And pretty much anyone hitting third in that lineup (sandwiched between Tatis and Machado) is going to produce.

Eugenio Suárez (CIN): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.

Putting on his best Miguel Sanó impression, Suárez has had a rough season at the plate, putting up a woeful .176/.250/.378 slash line. Last night’s performance is a nice surprise but he’s going to need quite a few more to make up for his brutal start. The walk is nice—Suárez has the lowest walk rate since his first season with Cincinnati back in 2015. It feels like he’s just trying to swing through his issues and it is not working. Maybe this gets him going but I’m not high on Suárez going forward.

Max Kepler (MIN): 2-4, R, 2 BB, SB.

It’s been a weird season for Kepler. The plate discipline is there, putting up the highest walk rate of his career, leading to an OBP nearly 100 points higher than his average. The problem is, well, the average—Kepler is hitting just .211 on the season and isn’t getting much power out of the few hits he’s getting. He’s got just five home runs and now seven bags on the season. With Buxton’s recent injury, he’s likely to have an everyday role locked down despite his struggles, but until he starts making better contact he’s not worth rostering unless you’re in 15+ team or OBP-focused league.

Josh Naylor (CLE): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.

Naylor hasn’t really been able to show off his power very much, last night’s being just his sixth on the season. There’s definitely still some potential in his bat, but his plate discipline hasn’t been quite good enough to make up for his lack of production at the plate. Still, in Cleveland he’s likely to keep playing so he’ll have his chances to improve. He’s worth monitoring but not rostering unless something clicks.

Jose Trevino (TEX): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.

If you’re like me, you see a catcher homer and get excited. Well, tamp down that excitement, because Trevino is not it. A career 2.6% walk rate to go along with a 20+% K rate is not the answer, particularly with limited power (career .117 ISO). He’s not on the fantasy radar.

 

Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Dylan Burris

Dylan has been a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan since 2015. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he devotes most of his non-baseball attention to college basketball.

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