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Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: GARY SANCHEZ CATCHER NEW YORK YANKEES

It is time to check in on another top prospect that could be making imminent noise during the 2016 fantasy baseball season and today that takes us behind the dish in New York with the Yankees in the form of prospective backup backstop Gary Sanchez.  Long considered a top prospect in the Yankee system, Sanchez worked his way through some maturity issues and some poor seasons both offensively and defensively to put himself in prime position to grab the backup job behind Brian McCann to open 2016 and perhaps work his bat into a more prominent role as the season goes on.  As always let's dig in a bit more and find out what Sanchez could contribute to his fantasy baseball owners this season.

If it seems like Sanchez has been around in the minors forever, that is because this line of thinking is sort of true.  He was originally signed by the Yankees for $3 million as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic when he was all of 16.  Since that time Sanchez has toiled in the Yankee system where his bat and defense struggled more than a little as he found himself stuck in A-Ball from 2010-2013.  Double-A was not really that much better for Sanchez either as he hit only .250 and .270 in 2013 and 2014 respectively, albeit with developing power.  In between, Sanchez was suspended not once but TWICE for insubordinate behavior.  It got to the point that there was talk Sanchez would not develop as expected but then the 2015 season arrived which changed all that.  It was during Sanchez' 2015 campaign at Double-A when he began to take off.  Sanchez would smack 12 home runs and collect 36 RBI in just 254 at-bats which got him a promotion to Triple-A where he hit 6 more long balls with a .295 average.  Already 23, Sanchez looked like he was ready to make hay with the Yankees for 2016. 

In order to get Sanchez some prep, the Yankees sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he absolutely lit things up to the tune of a league-leading 7 home runs and .982 OPS.  The Yankees soon traded away 2015's backup catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Minnesota Twins in the Aaron Hicks deal and the door was now wide open for Sanchez to charge through.  While GM Brian Cashman won't come out and say it, a ton would have to go seriously wrong for Sanchez not to be on the Opening Day roster as a backup catcher.  And that is where things could get interesting. 

As far as the profile is concerned, Sanchez has some real thunder in his bat which is double attractive when it comes at such a shallow position as catcher.  The average has been shaky coming up the minor league ladder due to a K rate that has straddled 20 percent but Sanchez has made some positive strides there over the last two years to think he can be at least a .260 guy.  The only thing holding Sanchez back right now is playing time as he will be the strict backup to McCann early on.  However it is not out of the question that Sanchez can earn some time at DH or get even more work at catcher with McCann going to first base if he gets off to a nice start.  An injury to McCann?  Then things get even more intriguing. 

The bottom line here is that Gary Sanchez has some very good upside as a power-hitter at a shallow position in need of an infusion.  While we would hold back on running out to draft him, Sanchez at the very least should be on your "watch" list from the start.


 

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