The long rise of New York Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez has been well documented. Finally getting his chance at Triple-A, Sanchez is quickly proving that he may well indeed be deserving of a career at the big league level.
Sanchez was signed in 2009 out of the Dominican Republic. He put together an impressive half season debut at the age of 17 in 2010, batting .328 with eight home runs and 43 RBI over a mere 173 at bats.
His power grew in his first full season, as he more than doubled his rookie year’s home run output (17) in 301 at bats. As a catcher that season, he showed off his impressive cannon-like arm, throwing out 35 of 113 attempted base thieves at a 30.5-percent lick. But that’s where he seemingly peaked.
Sanchez’s play at the age of 18 allowed the Yankees to trade away Jesus Montero who was the best catching prospect in the game at the time. We all know how that turned out — is Sanchez heading down the same path?
As our own John Sickels sums up perfectly in his 2015 Prospect Book:
"Can a player really be a Grade B+ prospect five years in a row? Gary Sanchez continues his habit of playing just well enough to keep himself in the picture but not well enough to break out."
That is precisely what Sanchez has done. He skyrocketed to the top of the prospect boards after that 2011 season, becoming a consensus Top 100 prospect in baseball for three consecutive seasons. Heading into 2014, he was the Yankees top overall prospect. After yet another season of more of the same — a low OBP (.338), middling power (13 home runs), a tendency to have a boom or bust plate approach, and mediocre defense behind the plate — Sanchez’s stock plummeted a bit.
Sickels dropped him to a B and he dropped out of the top five Yankees prospects. After some off field disciplinary issues with then Trenton Thunder head coach Tony Franklin last season, some began to wonder whether Sanchez was indeed the next Montero.
The now 22-year old has the tools to succeed. He has enormous strength and bat speed, evidenced in this video of a home run he hit in his first career International League at bat on July 18th. Watch as the ball quickly leaves the stadium with no question of its destination.
Sanchez, who was amid his typical season at Trenton (.262/.319/.476, 12 home runs and 36 RBI), finally received his call to Triple-A after an injury to Austin Romine left the RailRiders short at catcher. Sanchez has thrived — albeit a small sample size — going 7-for-21 with that home run and and seven RBI already. He is showing improved plate discipline at his highest level to date, walking five times and striking out three, and he has hit and driven in a run in three straight games.
Social media is full of trade rumors right now, and Sanchez is in the mix in quite a few of them. So, what do the Yankees do with their young catcher?
Sanchez isn’t the kind of talent that a big league team calls up to ride the pine, yet he still hasn’t made the big impression to show that he is ready for a Major League catching position. His play behind the plate, aside from his big arm, is still mediocre and his bat, thus far in his career, has been adequate at best.
People will say Sanchez is still a mere 22-years of age, but he is older than that in baseball years. He seemingly should have shown something by now.
Does Sanchez have a future in New York, or could he possibly be trade bait at this time of year? The Yankees certainly have needs, but one of them right now is not at catcher. Brian McCann is locked in for a few more years and John Ryan Murphy has shown to be a pretty reliable backup who is growing into his role more and more with each game he plays.
Those two players give the Yankees the luxury of some extra time to wait on Sanchez and see if he develops. But how long do they need to wait, especially with Luis Torrens returning from injury next season.
Big time talent behind the plate is scarce in today’s game, and Sanchez, especially amid a hot streak in his recent promotion, could help a lot of teams. Perhaps now is the time for the Yankees to dangle him out there and see what his worth is.