Last night, Shane Hennigan - the beat writer for the Yankees Triple-A affiliate - tweeted that Gary Sanchez was heading to the show. The 23-year-old was hitting .288/.336/.541 with 5 HR and 21 RBI in 119 PA for the RailRiders, after producing similarly strong numbers there last Fall (he hit .295/.357/.500 with 6 HR in 146 PA). It seems clear that Sanchez has little to prove at the highest level of the minors, particularly with the bat, but the timing of this call-up remains a bit curious. Before delving into that, though, here's what Jason Hunt wrote about him in our Yankees top-ten:
It feels like we've been talking about Sanchez forever, and realistically he signed back in 2009, so it has been quite a while. Sanchez is in his first stint with the big club right now, and made his debut on Saturday as a pinch hitter. He split his year mostly between AA and AAA, hitting .274 with 18 home runs between both stops. Sanchez seems likely to return to AAA to start 2016 with only 35 games at the level this year, and he'll continue to work on his defense there. He's not likely to be a full-time catcher, but if he can hold qualification and get regular playing time elsewhere on the field, he could be a top 10 catching option even in a part time role.
Sanchez is a consensus top-100 prospect, although opinions do vary a bit - Baseball America ranked him 36th, our team placed him 74th, and Baseball Prospectus had him 92nd. The primary cause for this division (which is relatively minor, all things considered) is his defense. While most agree at this point that Sanchez should be a competent catcher, few see him as much more than that. The issue, then, is the degree to which his bat will have to off-set his defense; for fantasy purposes, though, all that matters it that he can stick behind the plate for a couple of years.
Offensively, Sanchez has plus power, and an average to slightly above-average hit tool. While he will never be considered a patient hitter, his approach is that of controlled aggression, as opposed to mindless hacking. As he has gotten older, he has shown the ability to identify and lay off of breaking stuff, and his contact rates and quality of contact have improved as a result. With enough playing time, he could regularly hit .270 to .280 with 20-plus home runs.
The question at-hand is what role Sanchez will play right now. Brian McCann isn't going anywhere, and Austin Romine has played quite well as the back-up (albeit in a small sample size). The Yankees know that Sanchez is the future, but I can't imagine them risking losing Romine on waivers in order to make permanent room on the roster. A corresponding move hasn't been announced as of this writing, but the team is currently rolling with a three-man bench, so it is likely that a reliever will be sent down.
The Yankees are heading to Chicago this weekend, and the superb southpaw duo of Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are on the docket (that's a hell of a trial by fire). With Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list, Jacoby Ellsbury banged up, and Ben Gamel being sent down, I can see Sanchez playing catcher and/or DH'ing over the next several games. Absent an injury to McCann or trade involving Romine, however, I'm not sure what sort of role Sanchez will have going forward.
That being said, if the Yankees do manage to carve out a role for Sanchez, I think he'll produce.