PNO (Positive, Negative, Outlook): Hector Sanchez
World Series Experience
When it comes to building championship teams, clubs have adopted the philosophy of reaching out to veterans with extensive playing knowledge. The Houston Astros used this tactic to win everything in 2017. By signing Carlos Beltran to a one-year deal, general manager Jeff Luhnow acquired a player who had enough rich history to push the team’s young core. He might not have contributed much in the batter’s box, .231/.281/.383, or in the field, but his value arose from factors that were highly important, yet hard to accurately quantify. In a similar manner, the Friars must add some veteran talent if their own when the window of contention opens.
One may argue, however, that Sanchez is not the man for the job due to his middling results. Yet there is a reason for why I think he could be instrumental in guiding San Diego to the playoffs. With experience in San Francisco, the catcher played with clubs that were not expected to win the World Series, yet did so as part of a magical run. As such, he could relate to the city of San Diego, which always seems like a long shot to win anything of value. With the heavy-spending Dodgers and upward-trending Rockies in the same division, the Padres are definitely going to be challenged in the next few years. This is where Sanchez comes in. Since he won national championships with an underrated team, he could once again guide the way for the underrated Padres to win the World Series. His leadership may even help the city compete in 2019, when uber prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. and Cal Quantrill make a difference.
One look at Sanchez’ triple slash line and you may be appalled. After all, there aren’t many who are willing to deal with a .219/.245/.423 free swinger. However, that isn’t the worst offensive blemish on the Padre’s record. Instead, his biggest struggles are in maintaining a healthy BB/K rate. Since breaking through in the majors with the Giants, the backstop has never walked more than 5% of the time. This year the trend continued, as he struggled once more with a 3.5 percentage. This is an astonishingly low amount of walks taken, and must be changed for Sanchez to have a bigger role.
He is obviously not going to take over for the defensively-blessed Austin Hedges, but if he ever wants more at-bats, then he must show that he can get on base. By not doing so, he opens up questions to how selfish he is for not passing on the baton and how easy he is to shut down. Additionally, strikeouts have long been a problem for the Padres’ secondary catcher. Yet this year bore witness to one of his worst K rates. In 143 plate appearances, he struck out 41 times. This will never be enough for a mediocre player to advance in his career. In order to improve, he must learn the strike zone better and manage it more carefully. Otherwise he will always be on the short list for roster drops. Hopefully, next year will be a turning point for Sanchez in his pitch recognition, but if it’s not, expect to see some of the same poor offensive results. Also, expect Preller to have a short leash on Hedges’ backup.
Previously I stated how hard Sanchez works. To me, he is similar to Derek Norris as both have bulldog mentalities, willing to sacrifice their health for the teams they represent. With that said, Sanchez puts himself at more risk by not playing with caution behind the dish. Three times during the 2017 season, he had to go onto the disabled list. First it was dizziness, then a right foot contusion, and finally a head concussion. These problems were created by foul tips, which speaks to how close the Padre squats next to home. He’s unafraid of getting close to the hitter when as a means of making passed balls easier to block, bunts easier to pick up and throw quicker, and other plays made with less difficulty. Yet by being away from the team, Sanchez does not get enough playing time to improve. Nor can he be relied on too heavily, for he’s proven that the injury bug never leaves him alone.
It’s very easy to see how Preller could, at any moment, get tired of hoping for Sanchez’ best and just DFA or release him. There are some positive aspects of Sanchez’ game though. He’s developing into his body a lot more and showcasing expected raw power. His improvement in home runs proves that. Plus, he has become a clutch run producer in 2017. There have been numerous games that he has saved due to an extra base hit. If he can continue to be a good bench bat, then that can be his role at the very least. However, Sanchez is not just a one tool player.
On defense, he performs above what others think he’s capable of. He does so not through the usage of his arm, a weak one at that, but by the ability to block pitches and be aggressive on defense, positioning himself so that plays can be made easier. While these plays do become easier, Sanchez has to use more caution. He has been on the disabled list too many times not to make changes. A bigger change he could make would be in his patience level. One can’t survive very well with a walk rate that hovers under five percent and attached to a strikeout rate approaching thirty percent. It just indicates a murky future. So there you have it- the positives and negatives of Hector Sanchez. In short, he’s transitioning into a powerful hitter with a reliable glove. But he also has struggles with pitch recognition, being patient, and staying healthy. If he works hard to fix his shortcomings, he has the potential to be one of the better backup catchers. On the other hand, if he doesn’t adjust, there is a plentiful amount of awful ways management can treat Sanchez, from relegating him to a bench bat, making him a useless veteran presence, or releasing him.
I write, I write, and then I write some more.. Lifelong Padres & Chargers fan who is tired of the acceptance of losing that grips all of San Diego sports fans!