Prospect Retro: Freddy Sanchez
Freddy Sanchez of the Pittsburgh Pirates is currently hitting .347, leading the National League in batting average. He is 14 points ahead of his nearest competitor, and has a good chance to win the batting title outright. Is he over his head? Was this outcome foreseen?
Sanchez was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2000 draft, out of Oklahoma City College. Assigned to Lowell in the New York-Penn League, he hit .288/.347/.439 in 34 games. This led to a promotion to Augusta in the Sally League, where he hit .303/.372/.367 in 30 games. Pretty solid performance from a guy right out of the college ranks. I did not put him in the 2001 book, but would have rated him a Grade C+ type prospect if I had, given his intriguing contact hitting ability but relative lack of home run power.
Sanchez split 2001 between Sarasota in the Florida State League (.339/.388/.446 in 69 games) and Trenton in the Eastern League (.326/.363/.472 in 44 games). He hit 39 doubles but just three homers. I gave him a Grade B- in the '02 book, impressed with his batting average and gap power, but projecting that he would end up as a "super utility" player because I didn't think he would hit many homers.
2002 was another split season for Sanchez, hitting .328/.403/.437 for Trenton and .301/.350/.402 for Pawtucket. I kept him at Grade B- in the 2003 book. In retrospect I think Grade B would be better, but at the time I was still concerned about his lack of home run power, perhaps overly concerned.
Sanchez hit .341/.430/.493 for Pawtucket in 2003, and was involved in the Jeff Suppan trade with Pittsburgh that summer, although an ankle injury prevented him from playing for the Pirates after the trade. I wrote that "Sanchez projects as a .280+ hitter with doubles and good on-base ability." And once again I gave him a Grade B-.
A broken ankle ruined Sanchez's 2004 season. He hit just .264 in 44 games in Triple-A, and just .158 in nine games for the Pirates. He was now 26 years old. I gave him a Grade C+ in the '05 book, writing that Sanchez would "hit somewhere in the .275-.290 range, with enough secondary contributions to be a fine utility guy."
That panned out exactly in 2005, with Sanchez hitting .291 in 132 games as a jack-of-all-trades for the Pirates. Obviously he's done better than that this year. His current performance is actually better than what you'd expect given his minor league track record. . .his MLEs say he can hit .280-.310, but I don't think anyone thought he'd be able to hit .347 at the major league level.
My guess is that this is his career season, and subsequently we'll see him settle into the .290-.310 range in upcoming campaigns.