Scouting Yankees Prospect #2: Gary Sanchez

Sanchez actually did improve in 2013

The New York Yankees signed catcher Gary Sanchez for $3 million as their top International free agent in 2009 out of the Dominican Republic. He had a somewhat disappointing 2013 campaign offensively, at least by his standards, but he still offers great two-way, long-term potential.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Gary Sanchez
Position: Catcher
DOB: December 2, 1992
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He had come off of a solid .290, 18-home run campaign in 2012 and saw a drop in production last year, hitting just a combined .253 with 15 home runs between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.

"By no means was [that] a great year for me, I know that," Sanchez admitted through the help of a translator. "But I feel I did okay. I was good with my defense and my bat, at times it was good and at times it was bad. I wasn't very consistent [offensively]."

He wasn't very consistent with the bat. A .277 hitter with ten home runs and an .827 OPS in the first half of the Florida State League last season, he hit just .218 with three home runs and a .588 OPS for the Tampa Yankees after the All Star break.

"I cut down on my strikeouts," he said of his improvements. "I put the ball in play more and I was a little more selective even though sometimes I would roll over or get a little anxious.

"I put the bat on the ball but a lot of times it was a rollover over or I popped it up. I put the ball in play but it would be a soft ground ball or a lazy fly ball."

Whether it was the rigors of catching everyday in the Florida sun getting to him or the possibility of getting a little bored playing in front of miniscule crowds in the Florida State League -- a notion he quickly dismisses -- his normally potent bat dropped off precipitously as the season dragged on.

While the production obviously slipped, his coaches feel that hidden behind the lower numbers there was some real progress made.

"He's been able to make a certain adjustment on pitches all year," Tampa hitting coach Marcus Thames said last year. "Whether it's keeping his hands inside of the baseball or laying off tough breaking pitches in the dirt, he just hasn't been fooled on a consistent basis.

"The kid can really hit. He puts all the work in the cages and during batting practice and it really shows. He has power to all fields. For a guy at this level to be able to hit line drives from foul pole to foul pole is pretty impressive to me."

Despite the lackluster production in the second half, Sanchez was still promoted to Double-A Trenton because the coaches saw the approach was still very good and even though he hit just .250 with a pair of home runs in 21 games for the Trenton Thunder he once again impressed his coaching staff.

"At 20 years old, wow! I wish I was that good when I was 20," Thunder manager Tony Franklin said at the end of the season. "I wasn't even that good when I was 25.

"I think the biggest thing [with Gary] though is you don't worry about the baseball so much. You worry about how well he's growing, maturing, understanding, taking care of himself. Baseball is what he's done all his life. So once Gary gets all those things in order, the baseball just takes off.

"Gary takes pitches. He's pretty good with seeing as many pitches as he possibly can see. Does he get a little anxious? Yes. He'll have 1-2 pitch at-bats, but if they're not throwing the ball over the plate, he's taking it. That's a good ability to have at 19 and 20 years old because that's what they're going to do in the major leagues."

He also made marked improvements defensively too last year and it's tough to remember that he just turned 21 years old this offseason. So while he hasn't put it all together yet, it doesn't mean he won't sometime in the foreseeable future.

"Gary is young, loaded with tools, a potentially first rate and front-line major leaguer," Franklin said. "He hasn't played [much] in Double-A yet so we can't make him a major league player yet, but the potential is there.

"He has to play a few [more] games here before everybody anoints him as the next guy, but I think he will be just fine. It's just baseball; something that he's been doing all of his life. I think that's the easy part of what he's going to have to do in his career."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2013 Trenton .250 92 6 2 10 12 0 13 16 .364 .380
2013 Tampa .254 362 21 13 61 38 3 28 71 .313 .420
2012 Tampa .279 172 10 5 29 21 4 10 41 .330 .436
2012 Charleston .297 263 19 13 56 44 11 22 65 .353 .517
2011 Charleston .256 301 16 17 52 49 2 36 93 .335 .485
2010 Staten Island .278 54 2 2 7 8 1 3 16 .333 .426
2010 GCL Yankees .353 119 11 6 36 25 1 11 28 .419 .597


Batting and Power. Though his lower batting average in 2013 might not exactly prove it, the truth is Sanchez can really hit. He is a very selective hitter who uses the entire field when he hits and, already a natural patient hitter, his patience and selectivity continue to improve. He cut down on his strikeouts last season and improved his walks, so while the batting average dropped the fact is his peripherals are improving in the right areas. Throw in above average to plus power potential, he has all of the earmarks of being a very productive and powerful hitter.

Base Running and Speed. Obviously most catchers are non-factors in the running game but Sanchez is a little different than most. He is actually pretty nimble for a slugging catcher and can catch pitchers napping with him at first base. He'll steal a handful of bases and won't clog up the base paths, and that's a bonus all things considered.

Defense. Sanchez has really blossomed into a very good defensive player. His receiving has improved greatly to the point where he is at least average and perhaps a tick above average, and he not only boasts plus arm strength and a quick release but his throws are incredibly accurate too. About the only phase of his defensive game that still lags is his ability to call his own game and his English still needs work, but both areas should improve over time. He has the chance to be an above average defensive catcher.

Projection. Often lumped in the same breath as former Yankee catching prospect Jesus Montero because of his above average or better power potential and ability to use the whole field when hitting, the fact is the comparisons end there. With plus arm strength, a quick release and accurate throws, and surprising nimbleness and athleticism behind the plate, Sanchez not only has the ability to stick at the catcher's position but could actually thrive there. There are still some conditioning issues that need to be ironed out -- he will have to stay on top of that -- and he still has to learn the nuances of calling his own game and reading hitters swings, but the natural talent is there to be a potential All Star catcher, one who could hit in the heart of a big league order someday.

ETA. 2015. Sanchez is ticketed back to Double-A Trenton this coming season and he has some real competition ahead of him with Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy that are big league ready, but he could join those ranks as soon as the following season.

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