2015 Statistics: Rookie Ball - 16 games, .304/.329/.638, 6 home runs; Double-A - 58 games, .262/.319/.476, 12 home runs; Triple-A - 35 games, .295/.349/.500, 6 home runs; MLB - 2 games, 2 plate appearances, 0 hits
2016 Level/Roster Status: Triple-A/40-man roster
Gary Sanchez has been a prospect forever. Seriously. Baseball America has ranked Sanchez in the top 100 in four straight years, ranking him as high as 30th overall in 2011, and 35th before 2014. He finally dropped off of prospect lists last season, as his stock had fallen so low that the Baseball Prospectus Annual, for example, made the obvious comparison: "For now, a weary cadre of sportswriters drags out their Jesus Montero comparisons: always trite, still technically accurate."
For a time, the complaints were entirely justified. I was pretty much sold myself. Sanchez had never hit above 120 wRC+ in any level above Low-A, his defense was lackluster at best, and disciplinary issues last season forced many of us to throw in the towel of top prospect optimism. It's funny, though, because prospects are fickle, and development rarely follows the linear path we think it does or should. Even when mathematical evidence shows that hanging around (and then subsequently falling off) top prospect lists for many years is a really bad sign, players are still people that can surprise us.
We always knew that the talent was there, but finally, Sanchez is starting to put it all together. He's still only 22 years old, which people forget, but he's not getting any younger, and this was really a make-or-break kind of year. He smashed at all three levels he played at this year, most notably in Double-A and Triple-A; he particularly struggled in Double-A in both 2013 and 2014. He is also playing in the Arizona Fall League, where he is currently hitting .304/.329/.638 with six home runs, and he was also the MVP of the Fall Stars Game. In that game, I might add, he hit an absolute bomb that was luckily recorded by Statcast.
His defense, as well, has improved significantly. He had just two passed balls all season, and scouts, like Chris Crawford of BP, said he saw the 70 arm that many dreamed on a few years back. Both offensive and defensive improvement gives him a much better, mature profile, and that's exactly why the Yankees decided to call him up in September. He only had a couple of plate appearances--so it's not like they think he's ready to start--but the front office clearly believes he is close to making the next leap.
In terms of next year, and long-term prospects, it is in Sanchez's hands. I originally thought there was no place for him on the roster, what with the backup catcher position going to John Ryan Murphy and first base filled by Greg Bird and Mark Teixeira, but then a trade happened, and now Murphy is a Twin. That leaves the door wide open for Sanchez to seize the backup job, either to build up his trade value, or to eventually take Brian McCann's job when he can no longer catch. The fate of his career is firmly in his control, and the Yankees clearly think he has a good shot of seizing the opportunity, or they would not have traded Murphy. After years of question marks and concerns, Gary Sanchez is ready to take on the big leagues for real.