Prospect of the Day: Hector Sanchez, C, San Francisco Giants
Just before the All-Star Break, the Giants promoted catching prospect Hector Sanchez to the major league roster. What sort of prospect is he, and could he eventually share the catching job with Buster Posey?
The Giants signed Sanchez out of Venezuela in 2007. After two solid seasons in the Dominican Summer League, he moved up to the Arizona Rookie League in 2009 and hit .299/.403/.410 at age 19. In 2010 he played for Augusta in the Low-A South Atlantic League, hitting .274/.336/.394 in 89 games. He began '11 with San Jose in the High-A California League, hitting .301/.321/.511 in 42 contests.
Following Posey's injury, the Giants promoted Sanchez to Triple-A Fresno in mid-June, skipping Double-A entirely. He held his own in 25 Pacific Coast League games, hitting .305/.370/.366, leading to his recent major league promotion. In 288 career minor league games, Sanchez has hit .301/.379/.445 with 113 walks and 169 strikeouts in 1156 plate appearances.
Sanchez is a 21-year old switch-hitter, listed at 5-11, 235 pounds. He has good athleticism and mobility, although he struggles to control his weight (he entered pro ball at 185) and that will have to be watched as his career progresses. Scouts like his swing and see significant power potential in his bat, but his strike zone judgment is an issue and scouts identify weaknesses against breaking balls. He posted a poor 5/41 BB/K in 176 at-bats in the Cal League, although interestingly this improved greatly to 9/13 in 82 at-bats in the PCL. Let's just say his plate discipline is inconsistent. He has good bat speed and scouts expect he can hit for both average and power with maturity.
On defense, Sanchez has a very good arm and a quick release. He caught 38% of runners in 2010, 42% for San Jose, and 24% during his three weeks at Fresno. However, the other aspects of his defense are raw, and he's vulnerable at this point to excessive passed balls and defensive miscues. These types of things usually improve with experience, and with his arm strength and good mobility he should be a positive asset with the glove once he matures.
Sanchez was rushed to the majors. Given his lack of advanced minor league experience, I don't think he's ready for full-time action. He does serve as good medium and long-term insurance if Posey has problems returning from his injury. If Posey fully recovers, Sanchez would be an ideal reserve down the line, at worst. If his skills fully develop, he has enough natural ability to be a regular, creating some nice options for the Giants on the trade market or if Posey has to switch positions.