2014 Statistics: (AA) 110 G, .270/.338/.406, 108 wRC+, 19 2B, 13 HR
2014 Level/Roster Status: Double-A/On 40-man roster
The last couple years have been quite the adventure with catching prospect Gary Sanchez, who ascended to the spot of consensus top Yankees prospect when Jesus Montero was traded to the Mariners in January 2012, and by most accounts, has been there ever since. It's not difficult to see why people like him so much; 70 grade power just doesn't come from catchers very often at all, and throughout his brilliant career, Jorge Posada demonstrated how valuable that can be from behind the plate, even with shaky defense. The fact that Sanchez still has yet to turn 22 only makes him more enticing.
With lofty praise comes lofty expectations though, and Sanchez's 2014 campaign was only okay by those standards. He has yet to truly break out with the kind of eye-popping season in the minors that scouts have said could be coming at some point. Playing half his games in Trenton's pitcher-friendly Arm & Hammer Park certainly didn't help his batting line, but his home/road splits suggest that it didn't really have as dramatic effect as one would think. Sanchez hit .269/.325/.412 at home with seven homers in 56 games and .272/.350/.399 on the road with six homers in 54 games. That's barely a difference at all, and since power is his specialty, it's a little concerning to not see a bit better home run totals away from Trenton.
Like Posada, Sanchez has a strong arm behind the plate, but like Posada and Montero before him, his development in other catching skills has not been easy. MLB.com noted that "though he has gotten better behind the plate... he still needs to work on his receiving and blocking balls." The numbers indicate his difficulties catching, as his 10 passed balls were tied for the most in the Eastern League. Concerns about his work ethic and a five-game suspension handed down by manager Tony Franklin in June for an undisclosed offense only add more question marks to Sanchez's future.
Sanchez's age is really what helps him most here. For all the murkiness surrounding his 2014 campaign, he was still just 21 and playing in Double-A at least three years younger than the majority of Eastern League players. Posada's a tricky comparison since he joined the organization at a slightly older age than Sanchez, but when he was playing his age-21 season, he appeared in just seven games above A-ball. Sanchez still has a lot of time to work through his issues and blossom both as a hitter and defender. It would be stunning to see him become an Ivan Rodriguez lookalike, but if he could even bring his defense up to acceptable Posada-like levels, that would be a start.
Of course, it's always possible that the Yankees trade Sanchez, too, so fans have to always be prepared for that scenario. With Brian McCann locked in under contract for the next few seasons, the Yankees can take their time ensuring that Sanchez properly learns the position if they don't trade him. They made it clear with Montero that they really want their minor league catchers to be capable defenders, and given how much Montero flopped in the majors on defense alone, it's hard to blame them.Triple-A Scranton has somewhat of a logjam of catchers right now with John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine, but it's still conceivable that Sanchez could reach the Electric City sometime in 2015. Again, Sanchez is only 21. The story of him is a long way from being complete. We're barely in the prologue. He can be frustrating, but patience is key and he's far from a flop at this point.