BBD Prospect Nickname: “The Sanchize”
With Austin Romine suffering yet another setback in his recovery from an undisclosed back injury, the Yankees major league ready catching depth has not been this thin since Francisco Cervelli received his first call-up. Romine’s injury exposed just how quickly catching depth can disappear into thin air. The Yankees could find themselves regretting the Montero for Pineda deal in the not so distant future. If Martin or Cervelli should get injured, the Yankees will be faced with Gus Molina or newly acquired Craig Tatum serving as the backup catcher.
The next closest legitimate catching prospect besides Romine is J.R. Murphy, but the most exciting is Gary Sanchez. In July of 2009, the Yankees signed Sanchez for $3 million as a 16 year old out of the Dominican Republic. The scouting report at the time was of a young player with phenomenal power to all fields, the potential to hit for average, and good enough athleticism to stick behind the plate.
In his age 17 season, Sanchez showed everyone in the Yankees organization what he is capable of. In the GCL and Short Season-A he hit a combined .329/.393/.543/.936 with 13 doubles, 8 HR, and 2 SB. He earned praise from scouts everywhere, and was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the organization and the No. 30 prospect in the minors by Baseball America before the 2011 season.
Last year, at age 18, Sanchez hit a minor bump in the road. He struggled big time out of the gait, lost some time to JR Murphy at catcher, and suffered from what many called “maturity issues” when he was sent to Florida for disciplinary reasons. It was truly a tale of two seasons for Sanchez last season. He batted just .236/.318 with 9 HR up until July 24th.
Then something clicked and he went on an absolute tear. He batted .346/.413 with 8 of his 17 HR in his last 14 games. This brought him to his season total, a respectable .256/.335/.485/.820 line. The average would be more of a concern if he wasn’t an 18 year old in full season baseball. He did also struggle defensively all season with 13 passed balls. He took a step back with his footwork, although his caught stealing percentage was still 31 percent.
While this season was disappointing because of what we’ve come to expect from Sanchez, it was a success by many standards. Just to give you an idea, Jesus Montero also hit 17 HR at the age of 18 in Charleston. Of course the Sanchize’s average wasn’t nearly as impressive as Montero, but towards the end of the season he showed what he’s capable of. His season also did end a little bit early with a broken finger, so the power numbers would have likely been even better if he had finished out the year. After the season, he was demoted to the No. 3 prospect in the Yankees organization by Baseball America (excluding Jesus Montero), and the No. 81 prospect in the minors.
Moving on to the 2012 preseason, Sanchez has come to camp with a new attitude and greatly improved defense behind the dish. His bat is as good as ever, and he appears poised to put his skills on display this season as a 19 year old starting in Low-A Charleston. It’s hard to believe he’ll stay in this league much longer, as High-A Tampa will be beckoning as soon as JR Murphy is ready for Double-A, if not sooner.
By all accounts Sanchez has amazing natural power to all fields, close to the level of Montero’s. To go along with this, many scouts feel he is capable of hitting for average. He’s already shown that he has great patience. While the bat was never in question, his fielding has been a major concern in the past. Given his athleticism and the fact that he showed up to camp much improved, I am predicting he will have a good season behind the dish in 2012.
His estimated time of arrival with the major league club is 2015-2016, which would put him at 22. He will likely spend this year in Low-A and High-A. If things progress well, then he’ll start 2013 in Double-A, and move up one level each year. Hopefully his “maturity issues” are in the past, and he will continue to take a good attitude with him in the future. That and his defense are the only two things that could hold him back. He’s already a top 100 prospect, and he should only continue to ascend in the rankings as he gets closer to the major leagues.