Miguel Sano will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, an injury he suffered on April 26 while celebrating the twins‘walk-off win against the Tigers. No official timetable has been provided for his return from him, but meniscus tears typically lead to at least 4-8 weeks on the sidelines.
Sanó initially hoped to play through the injury, returning to the starting lineup Saturday versus the raysbut he was removed from the game in the seventh inning with increased soreness and it was later determined the injury would require surgery.
“I think he just wants to get healthy,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “The guy just wants to play. He loves playing and I think he just wants to get it done as quickly as possible, so he can get back on the field.”
Healed started the season in a 5-for-54 (.093) slump, striking out 21 times in 17 games. He got off to a similarly slow start last year, going 5-for-45 (.111) with 20 strikeouts in 15 games before suffering a hamstring injury in late April. He returned two weeks later and was healthy and productive for the remainder of last season, hitting .235/.312/.489 with 28 homers in his final 120 games.
This injury is more significant, and the Twins have less motivation to remain committed to Sanó than they did 12 months ago. Even if he were able to return by late June, it’s possible the Twins will have moved on, or at minimum will no longer view him as an everyday player by then given their other options.
alex kirilloffwho subbed for Sanó at first base last year before season-ending wrist surgery, is close to returning from a minor-league rehab assignment. Luis Arraez recently added first base to his multi-position mix. And on Monday the Twins called up their reigning minor league player of the year, Joseph Mirandato help fill the right-handed power void created by Sanó’s absence.
Miranda is most comfortable at third base, where he’s generally considered an average-ish fielder, but he has experience at first base and could get an extended look there as Sanó’s primary replacement. Miranda made his big-league debut at third base Monday against the Orioles but shifted across the diamond to first base Tuesday and will likely continue to be used in a dual role.
Long touted by team officials as having more upside than his modest numbers suggested, Miranda finally broke out in 2021 with one of the greatest offensive seasons ever by a Twins prospect, hitting .344/.401/.572 with 30 homers in 127 games between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul.
Sent back to Triple A to begin this season, Miranda hit .256/.295/.442 with two homers and 10 doubles in 21 games, including .300/.351/.520 in the two weeks prior to being called up. As his cousin Lin-Manuel Miranda would say, he’s not throwing away his shot from him.
I got a cousin in the Major Leagues! Congratulations cousin! All the Mirandas are cheering! -LMM https://t.co/jCs29QpFNH
– Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) May 3, 2022
Miranda, the Twins’ second-round pick in 2016 out of Puerto Rico, projects as a potential middle-of-the-order building block with a rare blend of power and contact skills. In smacking 30 homers and 32 doubles last season to lead all of minor-league baseball with 306 total bases, Miranda struck out just 74 times in 591 plate appearances, a stark contrast to Sanó’s historic whiff rates.
Miranda will get every opportunity to carve out a full-time role with the Twins, at third base, first base and designated hitter. If things go well, it’s reasonable to assume the Twins won’t be quick to send him back to the minors to make room for Sanó’s return. After all, Sanó will be 29 and in the final guaranteed season of his contract from him, whereas Miranda is 23 and a big part of the lineup’s future.
Not so long ago, Sanó was the highly touted prospect around whom the Twins’ future lineup could be built, but after living up to the hype early on with a great rookie season in 2015, an All-Star campaign in 2017 and a monster second half in 2019, he’s struggled since moving from third base to first base in 2020.
During that time Healed has become increasingly susceptible to extended slumps in which he’s borderline unplayable. He previously made up for those lengthy cold stretches with months-long, lineup-carrying power binges, but of late even his most productive periods have been merely good rather than great. Healed has always been a boom-or-bust hitter, but that tradeoff is no longer as appealing.
He’s hit just .209/.297/.445 in 205 games since the beginning of 2020, posting a .742 OPS only slightly above the .726 league average for all MLB hitters and well below the .786 league average for first basemen. If that’s the bar Miranda needs to clear to grab hold of the job and never look back, he’s very capable of doing so and, in the process, putting Sanó’s future with the Twins in question.
Sanó’s contract includes a $14 million team option or $2.75 million buyout for 2023, so it was always possible, and perhaps even probable, the Twins would be looking for a new first baseman after this season. Sanó’s knee injury speeds that process up quite a bit, leaving the door wide open for Miranda to make himself comfortable in the middle of the Twins’ lineup.
— The Athletic‘s Brittany Ghiroli contributed to this report.
(Photo by Jose Miranda: Julio Cortez/Associated Press)