MMN 2019 Top 50 Prospects: 24, Defensively Gifted Ali Sanchez

By Matt Mancuso

January 23, 2019 No comments

Ali Sanchez/Photo by Ed Delany, MMN

24. Ali Sanchez

Position: C     B/T: R/R     Age: 1/20/97 (21)
Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent in 2013
Previous Rank: 30
2018 Stats (Columbia and St.Lucie):  .265/.294/.387, 20 2B, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 2 SB, 2 CS

At the time Sanchez was signed as a 16 year old from Venezuela, Minor League Ball lauded the then 16-year-old for his advanced defense and strong contact skills. He would immediately show that off in the Dominican Summer League being named a Midseason All Star. After that time, we have seen an uneven to disappointing offensive performance from Sanchez in each of the ensuing seasons.

His offensive struggles could have been attributed to his suffering hamate bone injuries in 2016 and 2017. The later required him to have season ending surgery. With hamate bone injuries having been known to negatively affect a player’s offensive production, it should come as no surprise Sanchez has struggled offensively.

Fortunately, Sanchez’s offense rebounded this past season with Columbia as he slashed .259/.293/.389 and a 93 wRC+. He set career bests in strikeout rate and ISO. He would also have marked improvement over past seasons in his ground ball and fly ball rates as well as his HR/FB rate.

After excelling with the Fireflies for the better part of the 2018 campaign, he was given a promotion to the St.Lucie Mets to end the year. He proceeded to post virtually identical numbers: a .274/.296/.385 slash-line and a 93 wRC+.

While the trend around baseball is for hitters to become a true three outcomes hitter, Sanchez finds himself as the outlier. He is a free swinger who generates a high rate of contact. That is evidenced by both of his low walk and strikeout rates. Sanchez does have raw power, but his free swinging approach does negate some of his ability to hit for power. As we saw this past season, when he does get a hold of one, he is able to send it a long way.

As Sanchez moves forward from the Sally League and the Florida State League, he will be moving towards better hitting environments. With further adjustments at the plate, and his being another year removed from the hamate bone injuries, we should see him take another step forward offensively. However, when it comes to Sanchez, it’s not his bat where people focus; it’s his defense.

Brewers Associate Scout and Prospects Live co-host Jason Pennini noted Sanchez was the the best defensive catcher in the Arizona Fall League. In his analysis, Pennini noted not only did Sanchez have phenomenal 1.90 pop times, he was also agile behind the plate. When you combine it with his strong arm, pitch framing mechanics, and ability to call a game, you have quite an impressive defensive catcher.

With respect to his arm and pop times, Sanchez has thrown out an excellent 53 percent of attempted base stealers. As impressive as that is, keep in mind he has done much of that with an injured or broken hamate bone.

To put in perspective as to how strong his defense is behind the plate, both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America speculated Sanchez possibly could have been selected in the Rule 5 draft. This is a strong indication many believe Sanchez’s defense is already Major League ready. In fact, with his offensive issues, it could be construed this is an indication many believe he would already be a plus defender at the Major League level.

Due to his defense and offensive potential, Sanchez is currently ranked by MMN as the second-best catching prospect in the Mets farm system. Right now, he is arguably ready defensively, which means he could well project to be a defensive minded backup catcher. If Sanchez is going to be more than that, he is going to have to develop further offensively. That makes the 2019 season very important for his development.

Editor’s NoteJarred KelenicJustin DunnLuis SantanaRoss AdolphBobby WahlAdam HillGerson Bautista and Felix Valerio were all in our original Top 50 before they were traded.

Previous Rankings:

50-46 Led by Michael Paez
45-41 Led by Ranfy Adon
40-36 
Led by Anthony Dirocie
35-31 
Led by Ryley Gilliam
30-26 Led by Chris Viall
25 Carlos Cortes