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Updated: April 19th, 2013 3:01am
Twins prospect Miguel Sano 'could hold his own' in majors right now

Twins prospect Miguel Sano 'could hold his own' in majors right now

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Former Minnesota Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz is finding out this whole managing thing is a pretty easy gig -- when he has Miguel Sano batting fourth every night.

Mientkiewicz's Fort Myers Miracle -- the Twins' High-A affiliate -- improved to 13-1 on Thursday night with an 11-8 slugfest win over the St. Lucie Mets.

Not surprisingly, it was Sano who carried the biggest stick in the slugfest, going 2-for-4 with his fifth home run of the season, three RBIs and a walk, raising his batting average to .389 through the first 14 games.

Sano is certainly validating the monster numbers he posted in his first 1,144 minor league plate appearances from 2010 to 2012 -- a .282/.370/.550 batting line with 55 home runs.

"No matter what his at-bat before looked like, no matter if he struck out on three pitches or whether he hit a rocket somewhere, when we need him the most he's always there, and I think that's the sign of a polished hitter," Mientkiewicz said in an interview with 1500 ESPN earlier this week. "I have to pinch myself every once in a while to remember he's only 19 years old. ...

"I don't think Terry (Ryan) can say he's major league hitting ready, but you know what? You wouldn't see his best numbers, but he could hit some homers for you right now, there's no doubt about it. He could hold his own in the big league level right now (at the plate)."

Of course, as Sano continues to climb the ladder -- and it's possible he could move up to Double-A New Britain at some point this year -- opposing teams and pitchers will make more adjustments on him.

The Charlotte Stone Crabs, for instance, put three infielders on the left side of second base earlier this week against Sano. Some pitchers are trying to throw more fastballs inside on, then sinkers off the outside edge of the plate to keep him off-balance.

"I just kept trying to preach to him, 'They're trying to speed you up inside to get you off your game,'" Mientkiewicz said. "Sure enough, they left a breaking ball up and he hit it over the fence."

Twins officials have said the only reason Sano didn't progress beyond Low-A Beloit in 2012 is because of his mediocre defense at third base -- something Mientkiewicz and roving minor league instructor Paul Molitor have keyed in.

Sano made a whopping 42 errors in 125 games last season, and even though advanced fielding metrics aren't widely available for minor leaguers, it's likely his 6-3, 245-pound frame limits his range.

But Sano, a converted shortstop, has made only three errors in 14 games this year so far -- a pace of 27 over 125 games -- and two of them came in one inning on back-to-back plays recently.

"One was just kind of a little bit of a bobble, and the other was a tough bunt that he should have just probably not thrown at all," Mientkiewicz said.

"Miggy's been playing so much better at third base. ... He's made more plays than I expected... He looks a lot more comfortable, even from spring training than he does compared to now."

With his bat seemingly closer to being big league-ready than his glove -- and noting his incredibly large frame -- it's widely assumed Sano is destined for first base sooner or later, to which Mientkiewicz said, "I'd be very hesitant to move him and label him as a first baseman as of yet, because there's a defender there in him."

Mientkiewicz, an elite defensive first baseman during his career, seems to have taken it upon himself to help turn Sano into much more serviceable fielder.

"What I'm trying to do with him, and (Molitor) has been working extremely hard with him lately, is try to get him (positioned properly)," Mientkiewicz said. "Because he moved to a corner (from shortstop), the issues that he's been having have been more positioning -- where he's playing as far as depth from the infield grass.

"He kind of played an in between spot. He likes to get his glove low to the ground to start with, and that's where he's losing his first-step quickness. We've backed him up a little bit. He's got really good hands, and he's got a cannon for an arm."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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