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Yankees Prospects No. 3: Gary Sanchez

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Staten Island Advance file photo by Hilton Flores
Staten Island Advance file photo by Hilton Flores

Date/Location of birth: December 2, 1992 in the Dominican Republic 

Height/Weight: 6'2", 220 lbs. 

Position: Catcher

Bats/Throws: R/R

This is the catcher that many people, mostly casual fans, were unaware of until this offseason. Back in July of 2009, the Yankees signed Gary Sanchez for $3 million. You read that correctly, a 16-year-old signed that contract. It was the largest signing bonus the Yankees have ever given to a position player or an amateur player. So why in the world does Gary Sanchez get a huge signing bonus? New York loved the raw talent they saw in this young man when they signed him. He had incredible power to all fields,  showed potential to hit at a consistent clip, and defensive promise as well. 

Strangely enough, that hunch was answered positively at the rookie level Gulf Coast League, where Sanchez slugged the heck out of the ball. In 31 games last season, his triple slash was .353/.419/.597. He hit six homers, drove in 36 runs and just over 40% of his hits were for extra bases. He was a late call-up to single-A Staten Island where his performance was nothing special. In 16 games, his triple slash was .278/.333/.426. Overall in 2010, he performed quite well and gave the Yankees enough confidence to start him off in Charleston for 2011. 

His performance didn't only catch the eye of the New York Yankee organization, but the rest of MLB as well. MLB.com ranked Gary Sanchez the no. 32 prospect in baseball, and the third best catching prospect. Yes, Jesus Montero is the top overall prospect. Not bad for one organization, eh? Sanchez also received some love from Baseball America, who ranked him no. 30 overall. 

In 2011, he started off slowly and has picked up some serious steam ever since. Here's a breakdown by the guys over at "The Yankee Analysts" -

In the first month of the season, Sanchez looked overmatched in his first taste of full-season ball. In April, Sanchez got off to a .209/.250/.299 start, showing little power or plate discipline. In 16 games, Sanchez fanned 25 times while walking only 4 times. He had only 4 extra base hits (3 doubles and a homer) during that period, which included a small injury, and rumors began to circulate that Sanchez would be demoted to Staten Island once their season begins.

Since the calendar turned, however, Sanchez has looked like a different player. In May, Gary has put up a .292/.386/.585, showing renewed power and patience. In 14 May contests, Sanchez has has walked 8 times, while striking out 11 times. Additionally, Sanchez has 3 homers and 5 doubles in May so far, joining in the slugging exploits of his Charleston teammates.

A general consensus is that his defense remains shoddy. He's thrown out nine of 34 runners this year, which isn't too terrible. However, he's allowed 13 passed balls in 19 games behind the plate. That's not exactly something Yankee fans are in love with, especially considering the fact that Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli each allow a passed ball per game that they catch. The upside is that he's merely 18-years-old, which freaks me out because I'm 19. He'll have time to work out his flaws. 

To be honest, I think it's far too soon to predict his "ETA". There are multiple variables to consider when evaluating Sanchez. He has two guys in Jesus Montero and Austin Romine that are ahead of him in minor league ball right now and more likely to reach the Yankees (especally Montero). Again, Sanchez is only 18 and there is still a tremendous amount that he has to prove. He could just as easily be a bust as he could be a superstar at this stage. Only time will tell. He'll be down in Charleston for the rest of 2011 and the Yankees will reevaluate him when they have a better idea of where Montero and Romine are. 

Thanks to MiLB.com, Fangraphs.com, Baseball-reference.com and Yankeeanalysts.com for their stats and insights. 

Check back Wednesday for the No. 2 Prospect! I'm sure the last two are difficult to figure out.