Hopefully we can all agree that Miguel Sano, the Twins’ only All-Star position player this year and a participant in the Home Run Derby, is Minnesota’s most dangerous hitter. He leads the Twins in pretty much every meaningful offensive category, including runs, RBI, home runs and OPS. The Twins are 42-43 in games in which Sano has played. He’s hitting .340 with a 1.141 OPS in victories and .203 with a .647 OPS in losses. It’s not a stretch to say that as Sano goes, the Twins offense tends to go.
Where we might not agree, though, is on a tougher question: Who is the Twins’ second-most dangerous hitter?
It would stand to reason that the most dangerous hitter aside from Sano would perhaps bat directly behind him in the order to offer a measure of protection.
But here’s where you see it gets really tricky: seven different hitters have batted one slot behind Sano at least once this season. They are: Jason Castro, Jorge Polanco, Joe Mauer, Max Kepler, Robbie Grossman, Kennys Vargas and Eduardo Escobar.
Castro and Polanco probably don’t belong in the discussion among the second-most dangerous hitters, but you should add Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario to the conversation for sure. That leaves seven candidates, all of whom have an OPS between .727 and .779. Let’s assess them:
Dozier: He’s the obvious answer to this question, but is he the right answer? After a career-year in 2016 in which he crushed 42 home runs and had a .546 slugging percentage, Dozier has settled back into his previous norms. He’ll probably hit 25 home runs and bat between .240 and .250 this season. Dozier is still a guy you want up in a big spot, but I’m not sure he’s the Twins’ second-most dangerous hitter.
Kepler: He hasn’t had a flashy second season, but Kepler has been steadily impressive. He has 32 extra-base hits and is second on the team with 44 runs scored behind Sano’s 57. His OPS sits at a strong .776, and he’s most frequently been the hitter chosen by Paul Molitor to hit behind Sano this season.
Mauer: After a dismal April, Mauer has come around. He’s hitting .285 for the season, and his .756 OPS is respectable. With runners on base, he might still be the Twins hitter you most want to see at the plate — which is a pretty good characteristic for a dangerous hitter to have.
Rosario: His .456 slugging percentage is second on the team behind Sano’s .524, and his batting average (.286) is tops among Twins regulars. After a bad first month, he’s been one of the Twins’ best hitters since May 1 and is getting more selective at the plate.
Grossman: He has the second-best OPS+ (adjusted for ballpark factors) on the team behind Sano, and the switch-hitting Grossman leads the Twins with a .383 on-base percentage. His ability to get on base has been a factor in plenty of big innings for the Twins this season.
Vargas: In terms of raw power, Vargas is second on the team behind Sano. As a threat to hit the ball a long way every time he comes to the plate, he is inherently dangerous. He still has too many holes in his swing, but he’s hit eight homers in just 186 plate appearances.
Escobar: He was red-hot in June, hitting .354 with power for the month and making it hard for Molitor to take his bat out of the lineup. Escobar has sneaky power, and the fact that he’s a switch-hitter makes him a tough out.
Ultimately, I’d probably rank them 1-7 (or 2-8, really) in the order I have them listed. But there is room for argument particularly with the first five. Your thoughts, please, in the comments.