ATLANTA -- Jesús Sánchez had been scuffling entering the series in Atlanta, but he exited it flexing his immense power potential.
The rookie right fielder homered in all three games this series and capped it off in the second inning of Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Braves at Truist Park with a 460-foot blast, the Marlins’ longest home run of the season.
Just 2-for-20 with 13 strikeouts in the five games before this road trip, Sánchez has been the Marlins’ biggest contributor in Atlanta. His two-run homer on Friday accounted for all the team’s scoring, and his eighth-inning solo shot on Saturday helped to increase a late lead.
“The kid is strong as an ox,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He hits them and they go. He's one of those guys, in our ballpark, that it doesn't really matter. If he's hitting balls, they’re going. Like the ball today, he hits it good to center, but he can do more. His power is big. The ball he hit the other night is more of a line drive for him, and it ends up going into seats out there. So yeah, this kid's got big power.”
Sánchez came up big in the sixth inning as well when he laced a single to center field that scored Miguel Rojas to tie the game at three, and he hit a leadoff triple in the ninth. With those five big hits over the series, the former top prospect increased his slugging percentage on the season to .476.
Crucially, he’s only struck out once in 12 plate appearances this series. He’s been a high-strikeout hitter throughout the Minors, but Mattingly thinks that he can cut down on the whiffs the more he understands the zone and how pitchers attack him.
To illustrate that point, Sánchez has a solid contact rate on pitches in the strike zone -- 85.0 percent entering Sunday’s game, which ranked 185th out of 354 batters with at least 180 plate appearances. However, he only makes contact on 60 percent of pitches out of the zone, which ranks 222nd.
After slashing .040/.172/.080 in 10 appearances last August, Sánchez looks like a much more complete player this season. And if he can continue to adjust to what pitchers give him, he will have solidified his presence at the top of the Miami order.
“This is all good for him,” Mattingly said. “And they're gonna keep working on him, you know, keep trying to make pitches in certain areas to get him out. Obviously when all of a sudden you got 10 homers, they're gonna start paying a little bit of attention. So you kind of see the adjustments that are coming from the pitching side. We'll see what comes back from Jesús. I think that's already been going on.”