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MLB Investigating 'Irregularities' in Latin Prospect Miguel Angel Sano's Age

Jun 19, 2009 – 5:27 PM
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Pat Lackey

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There is very little in baseball that's less precise than Latin American scouting. Starting on July 2 each year, big-league teams go out and sign 16-year-old kids from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and really anywhere other than Puerto Rico in hopes of unearthing the proverbial next big thing. This year, Miguel Angel Sano is drawing a lot of attention from several teams, and speculation is rife that he may command a signing bonus upwards of $2 million.

Sano is a 6-foot-3 monster who has been compared to everyone from Hanley Ramirez to Alex Rodriguez, and he recently turned 16. With the history of prospects from the Dominican and Sano's impressive stature at such a young age, it comes as no surprise to see that ESPN is reporting that MLB officials are looking in to some irregularities regarding his age (subscription link), including doing a DNA test to prove that he is related to the woman assumed to be his mother due to allegations from the Twins that Melania Jean Sano had a child that died at birth that Sano may be impersonating in an attempt to appear younger.

Because of the laws regulating giving out birth certificates in the DR, this seems unlikely, but the Twins clearly want to cover all their bases here.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been hot on Sano's heels for several months now and are considered by many to be among the favorites to sign the prospect. They too were skeptical of Sano's age and conducted a bone-graft test that placed Sano's age between 16 and 17. Now, I'll admit that I don't know what a bone-graft test is and most Google results for "bone-graft" and "age" in the same search turn up re-postings of the above Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on message boards. Most other results point to bone grafting, which isn't at all what we're talking about here because the PG article says it uses DNA to prove age.

All of this is just to say that Sano's age has been carefully scrutinized before and the Pirates certainly seemed fairly convinced of his age, but even then it's no sure thing. Hearing that anyone's "age and identity" are being investigated is a pretty serious charge. It's certainly enough of a reminder that giving any young prospect a seven-figure signing bonus is steeped in all kinds of risk.
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