Gary Sanchez entered the 2013 season as the New York Yankees’ top prospect and future catcher.
In 2012, he enjoyed a breakout campaign, batting .290/.344/.485 with 48 extra-base hits (18 home runs), 85 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 117 games between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa. Understandably, expectations were high for the young slugger heading into his age-20 season.
Opening the year back at Tampa, the 20-year-old struggled to progress offensively, batting .254/.313/.420 with 21 doubles and 13 home runs in 94 games. The Yankees moved him up to Double-A for the final month of the season, and he held his own with a .744 OPS in 23 games.
Sanchez showcases above-average power potential from a well-balanced swing, with plus bat speed and a feel for striking the ball. However, he has an overaggressive approach and tends to give away too many at-bats. His ability to control the strike zone has improved over the last year, but he still has plenty of room to improve.
In general, he’s an impressive young hitter and the bat should play regardless of future position.
Defensively, Sanchez has improved significantly over the last two years, but he still has a long way to go. The 6’2”, 220-pound backstop possesses solid athleticism and agility, though it may not last for long as he continues to develop physically. It could also impact his ability to stick behind the plate moving forward. His blocking and receiving skills are still pretty raw and leave room for improvement.
Sanchez’s arm strength is his biggest asset and helps negate some of the weaker aspects of his current defensive profile.
However, Sanchez’s chances of becoming the Yankees’ catcher were crushed on Saturday when the team signed free agent Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract with a sixth-year vesting option, according of Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
This, in theory, makes Sanchez intriguing trade bait, argues ESPN.com’s Keith Law (subscription required):
The bat could be elite. He has strong hands and great hip rotation, with plus-plus raw power to his pull side and doubles power the other way. His approach needs work, as does his blocking and receiving, although he does have a 70-grade arm and nailed 44 percent of opposing runners this year.
If the bat develops as expected, he'll profile at any position, including first base or DH if the catching thing doesn't work out -- although he's a potential MVP candidate if he stays behind the plate. The Yankees could use him as trade bait now if they don't believe in his future hitting potential or if his history of attitude questions has them doubting his commitment to improving his defense.
Compared to J.R. Murphy, who could serve as a solid backup to McCann next season, Sanchez would bring back greater value in a trade, perhaps for an outfielder or starting pitcher.
ETA: Late 2015
Potential Impact: Above-average starting catcher.