There is no shortage of hype surrounding the catching prospects in the Yankees’ farm system. Big name prospect Austin Romine has yet to prove he can handle major league pitching, while lesser-known John Ryan Murphy is making quite the name for himself as Brian McCann’s current back up. The Trenton Thunder know they are sitting on gold with the Yankees’ top overall prospect in the entire farm system.
Gary Sanchez, BaseballProspectus.com’s 85th overall prospect in baseball, is the number one prospect for the Yankees. He is already a veteran at just 21 years of age after signing out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16. Sanchez has come along way since his debut season. Who was once an stubborn, hard-nosed kid is quickly becoming the man that has the Thunder in great shape to defend their 2013 Eastern League Title.
Thunder pitcher, Manny Barreda, has been at every stop with Sanchez. He remembers how he was in his early years. ”It was one of those things where he didn’t want to work, he didn’t want to do those extra things like blocking,” he told MiLB.com. “Back then you couldn’t tell him what to do. He was a young kid — it was tough.”
Hitting was never Sanchez’s problem. Last season alone he batted .253 with 15 HR and 71 RBI between Tampa and Trenton. His main issues were behind the plate in learning about blocking and calling a good game. He also needed to learn patience at the plate to improve on his power.
The Thunder brought in new coach Orlando Mercado this off-season to work specifically with Sanchez and it is already paying dividends. Together, they work every day on defense and game calling. The two will meet in the bullpen before each game to make any adjustments Mercado feels Sanchez may need. Unlike when Sanchez was a hard-nosed kid, now he listens.
“He’s got so much skill and talent,” Mercado remarked. “We’re just working on making sure he receives the ball every day, trying to learn how to call a game. What I’m doing right now is to make sure he feels comfortable.”
Even his teammates are noticing a huge difference in both his play and demeanor. “His work ethic has changed so much,” Barreda gushed. “He’s more dedicated — you can see now he takes it pitch-by-pitch, game-by-game. He’s probably one of the more mature guys [in the clubhouse], despite being one of the younger guys here.”
It’s showing not just to his teammates but on the field as well. He is more patient at the plate as he is reaching base at a .370 rate which is nearly 30 points higher than his career OBP. He has struck out just 18 times while walking 12, so he is clearly becoming more disciplined. Defensively he is throwing runners out about 30% of the time as he has caught 8 of the 23 runners who have tried to steal. And he is calling great games as his pitchers are winning and performing well. Trenton sits a half a game out of first and Sanchez has become their clear-cut leader.
“I feel good … strong,” Sanchez commented to MiLB.com. “I’m working every day, day-by-day. I don’t worry about [rankings]. I know I have the skills and tools. I have a duty to do, to come in here and play every day, and I know the numbers will take care of themselves.”