Can Miguel Sano Challenge Carlos Correa for American League Rookie of the Year?
The Minnesota Twins have been the terrific baseball story in 2015 that no one is talking about. Seriously, did you honestly think that, as the calendar flipped to September, we'd be talking about the Twinkies as a legitimate wild card contender?
Entering September, the Twins are just one game behind the Texas Rangers for the second wild card spot in the American League, with a 67-63 record that has defied expectations. And one of the players who has helped Minnesota overachieve is their young, slugging designated hitter and infielder Miguel Sano.
In his first 49 games as a big leaguer (206 plate appearances), Sano is hitting .287, with a .398 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .591. His OPS+ is 168, with 13 doubles, 13 homers and 40 RBI. He is piling up the strikeouts (among players with at least 200 plate appearances, Sano's 35.9% K-rate is the highest in all of baseball), but has offset it somewhat with a 16.0% BB-rate, which is fifth-best in the Majors.
And look how Sano compares to the man who most believe will be the runaway winner of the American League Rookie of the Year vote, Houston's Carlos Correa.
Now, Correa plays a premium defensive position, shortstop, whereas Sano is primarily a designated hitter, with a smattering of starts at third base as well. Correa also fields that position very well, which has made him a more valuable player, as evidenced by his fWAR of 2.8, higher than Sano's 1.9. Still, if you look strictly at the offensive numbers, what Sano is doing is ridiculously impressive.
Among players with at least 200 plate appearances, Sano's isolated power (ISO) is second in the Majors (.304), his slugging is fourth (.598), OPS is fifth (.989), and weighted runs created is sixth (171). His hard-hit ball percentage 49.5%, is second in all of baseball, and his home run per fly ball (33.3%) is first.
When Sano makes contact, families sitting in the outfield bleachers (or workmen walking on the catwalk) are in danger.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) August 28, 2015
And because I like charts, here's one detailing the best rookie seasons in baseball history by OPS+ with a minimum of 200 plate appearances.
|1||Shoeless Joe Jackson||193||641||1911||23|
|2||Willie McCovey (RoY-1st)||188||219||1959||21|
|4||Jose Abreu (RoY-1st)||169||622||2014||27|
|6||Mike Trout (RoY-1st)||168||639||2012||20|
|10||Mark McGwire (RoY-1st)||164||641||1987||23|
And while Minnesota ultimately may not make the postseason, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the AL Central sooner rather than later. Byron Buxton has had a tough go of it in his 21 Major League games so far, but he was the consensus top prospect in all of baseball coming into the season. And the Twins have a starting pitcher, Jose Berrios, in the minors who they believe could be a solid number-three starter in the Majors fairly soon.
As for whether Sano could truly challenge Correa for the AL Rookie of the Year, it's unlikely. If both players continue to play as they have, Correa will win it, based on his offense and defense. But should Correa falter a bit at the plate and Sano continue to ravage AL pitching, it's possible he could overtake Correa and win the award.
He also would probably take a trip to the postseason as a consolation prize.