The Orioles Should Have Signed Miguel Sano

I haven’t been the biggest fan of the way Andy MacPhail has handled this post-season, but the one move that I disagreed with most is the relative lack of pursuit of Dominican prospect Miguel Sano. The 16 year-old shortstop signed with the Twins for just $3.15 M, and I think that – given the low payroll this year especially – the Orioles should have invested some money in in getting him into their system. Seth Stohs of SethSpeaks wrote about Sano in his 2010 Prospect Handbook, that I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of (you can head over to the site and pre-order one for yourself… there’s over 150 prospects and much, much more!*) :

“At this stage, the 16-year-old is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, and yet, he is long and lanky.  His build is compared to that of Hanley Ramirez, while his bat is often compared to Albert Pujols, Gary Sheffield and other prolific sluggers… He is currently a shortstop, but based on his size, he is not at all like the prototypical shortstops that came out of San Pedro de Macoris in decades past. Sano is fast, and his hands are as quick as anyone. This can be seen both in the field where he looks smooth on ground balls (and he has a very strong arm), and with a bat in his hands.”

* I was considering going as either Billy Mays or Zombie Billy Mays for Halloween last year. Didn’t think I could pull off the enthusiasm.

There are some concerns that he’ll eventually have to move to third, or perhaps the outfield, but that is a high-risk, very high potential reward type of talent.

John Sickles ranked Sano as a C+ prospect, which would be worth a little less than $1 M in expected value using Victor Wang’s numbers, though noting:

“I really have no idea how to rank him at this point. Might turn into Miguel Cabrera, could fizzle in A-ball, no way to know yet.”

Let’s take a look at various break-downs of production, to see what kinds of bids might be worthwhile. I’m assuming that a win will be worth $4.5 M in the year Sano makes his debut (2013? 2014?) and increases by 7% thereafter, and also that he would get the usual 40%-60%-80% in his three arbitration years.

  • 70% chance that Sano never even makes it to the big leagues.
  • 20% chance that Sano just kicks around for a few seasons as a back-up (like a 0.3 Wins Above Replacement player).
  • 6% chance that Sano only turns into below average regular or quality part-time player (~1 WAR).
  • 3% chance that Sano turns into solid regular (~2.5 WAR).
  • 1% chance that Sano turns into an All-Star (~5 WAR).

The total expected surplus value to the team would then be about equal to 0  + ($3.8 M * 20%) + ($16.4 M * 6%) + ($37.4 M * 3%) + ($70.3 * 1%), which works out to $3.6 M.

Obviously, if you mess around with the percentages or the levels of performance then you get different numbers. I think this breakdown looks pretty reasonable though, and with the Orioles’ really in need of an upside position player in their system, I would have been very comfortable going up to even $4 M for Sano. I don’t know if Andy MacPahil thought the risk was too high or what, but for a team in the O’s position on the win curve with the kind of competition they have in their division, signing a potential impact player like Sano is something they’ll need to do a little more often.