Good news for Twins fans going into the holiday weekend, as young slugger Miguel Sano is coming off of the disabled list and joining the club this weekend in Minnesota. In a corresponding move, Korean first baseman and designatied hitter Byung-ho Park is being demoted to Rochester to get his act together.
The year has been a frustrating one for both Sano and for Twins fans, even before he went down on the last day of May with a strained hamstring. After announcing that the 23 year old would play right field (something he’d never done before), he showed up to training camp heavier than the Twins wanted him to (though, in fairness, he showed up lighter than he was in 2015). His defense was predictably awful, and the budding star often looked frustrated and disinterested in his new position. He started slowly, not homering the Twins’ first 12 games, but hit .250/.352/.521 after that. Overall, he’s hit .235/.341/.458 with 11 homers in 211 plate appearances. Last year, Sano hit .269/.385/.530 with 18 homers and finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Park was signed out of the Korean Baseball League, where he is a former MVP, in the offseason. The 29 year old looked like he might be a ROY candidate in the first weeks of the season, showing huge power. Through mid-May, he hit .257/.342/.581 with nine homers. Since May 15, pitchers have caught up. Park’s hit .127/.210/.245 with just three homers in 31 games, and 43 strikeouts in 124 plate appearances, and has just three hits in his last 12 games (with 22 strikeouts in 47 plate appearances). He will have to make adjustments before he’s able to contribute again at the Major League level.
Given Park’s demotion, and Max Kepler’s recent success, Sano could be in line to be the primary DH or third baseman, with Trevor Plouffe taking some time at DH. Sano played eight games on his rehab assignment, hitting .160/.300/.440 with two homers, while playing mostly third base (and occasionally finding new and hilarious ways to play his position). He only played one game in right field. Tonight, he’s both playing and batting third.
If Sano sticks at third, the Twins could look to move Plouffe in a deal at the Trade Deadline later this month. A return to form from the most promising young hitter to come through their system in years, and a nice return for Plouffe would be a good silver lining on the awful season Twins fans have had to sit through.