If you’ve read about the Yankees spring training game yesterday, then you probably ran across the name, Gary Sanchez. If you haven’t then you should look him up. Sanchez is the Yankees top prospect (Unless you count Masahiro Tanaka like some do) and he has the potential to the team’s next home grown slugger. Regarded as one of the best catching prospects in baseball Sanchez is only 21 and looks poised to be the Yankees starting catcher in a few years.
His defense needs some work but he’s not a liability at the position and seems to be making strides to improve. Since signing a $3 million dollar deal out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Sanchez has only ever played in Single-A until last season when he received a promotion to Double-A Trenton. In 117 games between the Tampa Yankees and Trenton Thunder last year, the right-handed hitter batted for a slash line of .253/.324/.412 and hit 15 home runs while driving in 71 runs. For a catcher Sanchez even shows a decent amount of speed as he stole three bases and was only caught once. He’s shown that he has a strong arm from behind the plate and can throw runners out on a somewhat consistent basis. Sanchez needs to improve on his block skills and his game calling could use some work. His youth allows him a lot of time to improve on those points.
The Yankees recently signed catcher Brian McCann to a lucrative contract that will have him wearing pinstripes for at least the next five years. Rumors have circulated about the team’s desire to trade from their surplus of catchers in the form of Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy due to the team’s need for infielders and bullpen arms. However, Sanchez is not expected to be dealt and the Yankees have been open in saying that they view him as the catcher of the future, even with McCann locked up as the starting backstop. The Yankees first baseman, Mark Teixeira has only three years left on his contract and the Yankees are probably going to let him walk as he’ll be 36 at the time. By then McCann will be 33 and could perhaps move to first. That would open up the position for Sanchez, who will still be only 24.
There is another option for Sanchez that could allow him to make the majors earlier… Win the backup catcher spot on the roster. Early in Spring Training the Yankees have put their catchers on display in an effort to showcase their skills for potential trade partners. That means that earning the backup spot is a matter of who performs best. That will likely be the case this year as well as next year. If Sanchez can perform far above his competition in this Spring Training than he may very well get the job. While this is unlikely, anything can happen. One player gets traded, another gets hurt. We’ll have to wait and see.
Yankee fans should look for Sanchez in a few years. He can be a big piece in a few years, perhaps earlier. His power could turn into a difference maker for the team and he is seen as a part of the future. If the Yankees do decide that parting ways with Sanchez is best, look for them to get an above average player and maybe one other-throw in as a return. He has the potential to be a real star one day so keep an eye on his progress in the minors.