#14 C Ali Sanchez
Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 200 Level: Short Season Brooklyn Cyclones
B/T: R/R Age: 1/20/97 (20) Age Dif: -2.1
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent for $690,000 (7/2/13)
Last year: 15
2016 MiLB Statistics: 46 G, 181 PA, 171 AB, 15 R, 37 H, 10 2B, 11 RBI, 2 SB, .216/.260/.275
When the Mets signed Sanchez as a 16-year old international free agent out of Venezuela, he was already regarded as someone who was advanced behind the plate. Sanchez was seen as not only having a accurate arm, but he was also seen as being a good pitch caller and receiver. He’s athletic with soft hands which allows him to block balls in the dirt and make the plays on balls near the plate. Essentially, Sanchez is exactly the catcher you want behind the plate.
Unfortunately, most of these skills are hard to quantify, especially at the minor league level, because the data just is not readily available. In fact, the one thing that can be proven from the data available is you don’t want to run on Sanchez as he threw out 48% of attempted base stealers this past season.
Regardless of the lack of data, Sanchez has shown that he not only has the tools to handle all the duties a catcher has behind the plate, he also has the ability to excel in each and every single one of those areas. Sanchez’s ability behind the plate is advanced for both his age and for the level he played at last season. If he keeps improving behind the plate, he is going to be a Gold Glove caliber catcher at the major league level.
The only thing holding him back from reaching the majors is his offense.
Early reports on Sanchez were that like his defensive game, he was advanced in his awareness at the plate. He has an idea what he wants to do up at the plate. Given the fact that he has been a skinny kid without much power, Sanchez focuses on making contact. As a contact hitter, Sanchez has shown a willingness to use all fields.
The main problem with assessing on how Sanchez has progressed offensively was a hand injury at the end of June. Time and again, we see how hand and wrist injuries, no matter how minor, can wreck havoc on a player’s ability to produce at the plate. That hand injury could be the reason why he saw a player who hit .303/.406/.394 in 2014 for the Dominican Summer League and .278/.339/.315 in the Gulf Coast League in 2015 hit barely over the Mendoza line in 2016.
It’s important to remember how young Sanchez is. He was a 19-year old (turns 20 today) catcher playing in the New York-Penn League, a league where many teams send some of their top drafted players and some of their top international prospects. Another important consideration is catchers tend to develop later offensively. A large part of that is due to the focus that is put on catchers in regards to calling a game and handling a pitching staff.
Sanchez has a smooth level swing at the plate. As he begins to build some muscle, he should begin hitting the ball with some authority. More balls will go for base hits, and more of his base hits will go for extra bases.
For the sake of comparison, back in 2013 Tomas Nido was a 19-year old catcher in Brooklyn. Nido would struggle mightily, worse than Sanchez, hitting .185/.218/.261. Two years later, Nido’s offensive game started to round into form with him winning the Florida State League batting title. This led to Nido being added to the 40 man roster this offseason so the Mets wouldn’t lose him in the Rule 5 Draft. That was a development you might not have expected given his struggles in Brooklyn.
The long story short is Sanchez proves the axiom that you scout the player and not the stat line. While there are some warning signs in his offensive game, he still has plenty of room to grow.
If Sanchez is following the same career path as Nido, he should be ticketed for the Columbia Fireflies in 2017. With Sanchez being fully recovered from his hand injury, look for him to put up numbers closer to what he posted in the Gulf Coast League. No matter where he winds up, he is still going to be terrific behind the plate.
2017 MMN TOP 100 PROSPECTS