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Could Yolbert Sánchez factor in at Second for the White Sox?

by Nik Gaur

Yolbert Sánchez has, at least compared to several other Cuban White Sox prospects, been a bit of an afterthought. Sánchez was relatively old for a signing out of Cuba without a MLB-ready skillset, and his long-term batting acumen was regularly questioned by scouts. The industry-wide best-case scenario for Sánchez was for his defense to carry him to a MLB utility infielder role.

Now twenty-five and recently promoted to AAA Charlotte, Sánchez has maintained his calling card of plus defense at both shortstop and second base, but with newfound plate discipline and a suddenly intriguing overall profile at the plate. The transformation really began last year, which was the first chance Sánchez had to play stateside, full-season baseball since his signing. After hitting reasonably well in A+ and AA (.308/.352/.419 with 9 home runs, 42 runs batted in, and a .771 OPS across 101 games and 394 plate appearances) considering he was arguably just a tad old for the levels, Sánchez finished the year against some of the league’s top prospects in the Arizona Fall League (AFL).

While AFL games are more about how players look against solid competition rather than results or statistics — especially given the extremely small sample size — it is still notable that Sánchez entered the league with his primary problem on offense (outside of a lack of power) being a lack of on-base skills. Yet, he walked 10 times against only two strikeouts in 45 plate appearances. This was enough to at least pique my interest — was Sánchez simply a more experienced hitter taking advantage of erratic pitchers, or did he actually make a significant improvement?

Prior to his recent promotion to AAA Charlotte, Sánchez was hitting .353/.508/.373 in AA with a .880 OPS and 163 wRC+ across 67 plate appearances. While the sample is small once again, the most important aspect of these numbers is Sánchez’s 13 walks to only seven strikeouts. After walking just 3.2% of the time in his 2021 AA plate appearances, Yolbert Sánchez’s walk rate increased over six times to 19.4% in 2022.

Of course, even had he not been promoted so soon, it would be reasonable to expect such a gaudy walk rate to decrease over time. However, Sánchez is still likely a more patient hitter than he was a year ago, and if he can maintain a double-digit walk rate in AAA, his on-base skills combined with his defense-first profile should be enough to earn him a look with the White Sox. I do not expect Sánchez to turn in even league-average offense in MLB, but if he can take his singles and throw in a decent amount of walks, he will already be a superior option to the trio of García, Mendick, and Harrison.

Leury García‘s strength is his versatility, which renders his defense at any one position below-average. Danny Mendick is another defense-first player, but grades slightly lower as a fielder than Sánchez and offers little on offense. Josh Harrison may be a better option for second base than Yolbert Sánchez at the moment, but should Harrison’s struggles extend into the summer, Sánchez would be worthy of an opportunity provided his performance in AAA is stable.

While it is still unlikely that Sánchez is anything but a utility player long-term, the current lack of certainty for the White Sox at second base should lead to him getting a chance to prove himself this season. With plus defense, decent contact skills, and newfound discipline at the plate that could mitigate his lack of power, Yolbert Sánchez’s potential as a short-term second base option is something worth monitoring as the season progresses.

Featured Photo: @@laurawolffphoto /Twitter

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The very first paragraph of this article stating Yolbert Sanchez “signing out of Cuba without a MLB-ready skillset” is inaccurate. Fact is, scouts already considered Sanchez an MLB ready defender up the middle. Last I checked, defense is one of the primary aspects in grading a prospect. Sanchez was graded with an above average field tool (60) along with an average arm (55) which suggests he might fit best at 2B as a starter or as a competent enough utility infielder. His run tool (55) was also graded as MLB average which also hints at 2B being his best fit so far as range is concerned.

Sanchez’ field, arm and run tools were comparable to those of top draft pick Nick Madrigal who came out of college with a superior hit tool along with similarly below average power. Sanchez has improved his hit tool enough in his minor league progression to the point where his overall skill set is similar to that of Madrigal.

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