Back from injury, Sánchez displays power bat

February 29th, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- ’s name was added to the Marlins’ lineup card on Saturday as the designated hitter. For the outfield prospect with above-average speed to complement his powerful bat, it was simply a way to get as many reps as possible.

But in another sense, the DH position is quite fitting.

Sánchez, the No. 80 overall prospect in baseball, grew up learning the game with his older brother, Merba. The elder Sánchez had a particular player he saw fitting for Jesús to learn from: a fellow Dominican with a powerful bat.

“My brother actually loved David Ortiz,” Sánchez said through an interpreter, “and he was always telling me, ‘You should play like David Ortiz. You should do this.’ So I started emulating his swings and mechanics and all that.”

At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Sánchez can show flashes of Ortiz-like power, as he did on Friday with his first spring homer. The ninth-inning blast traveled a projected 409 feet with a 104.1 mph exit velocity, per Statcast. MLB Pipeline tabbed him with above-average hit (55) and power (55) tool grades, though the hit grade dropped slightly after he posted a .260/.325/.398 line in 113 games last season across Double-A and Triple-A last season.

But after he was traded by the Rays last season, Sánchez entered an organization that is top-heavy with young outfield talent. In the 2019 Draft alone, the Marlins took three outfielders that landed on that season’s top prospect list for the club: JJ Bleday (No. 2), Kameron Misner (No. 9) and Peyton Burdick (No. 28). More than a third of the Marlins’ Top 30 prospects last season were outfielders (11).

That depth will create competition for starting jobs at the Major League level in the coming years, but that’s not on Sánchez’s mind right now.

“I don’t think much about that,” he said. “You know we have a lot of depth and a lot of prospects in the outfield, but I can’t be thinking about that. What I do is just work hard, try to put my numbers on the field, and I know with that, that’s how you can win a spot.”

However, the nature of Spring Training is to bring out those battles, both in the game and throughout the organization. That's part of what excites manager Don Mattingly about camp every year.

"It's one of the things we talked about, is competition within our organization -- a healthy competition, obviously, where guys are on the same page," Mattingly said. "But competition brings out the best in players, and obviously, that's what we're trying to do."

This spring, Sánchez is also working his way back from an injury-ridden end to last season. He was lifted from an Aug. 23 game and then underwent hernia surgery in the offseason.

“It's good to get him out,” Mattingly said. “He got hurt pretty quickly in Triple-A, so we didn't get to see that much. … We're finally getting him on the field, getting him back in action. Then we'll get a better view of what he truly can be.”

Mattingly and Miami’s staff used some caution with the 22-year-old, waiting until Feb. 27 to put Sánchez into action. But his early hacks and the three games he’s played in a row are a testament to how well he’s recovering.

“I’m feeling very good right now,” Sánchez said, “and to be honest, I wasn’t [expecting] to feel this way by this time of the year. But in the beginning of Spring Training, I’m working hard, feeling great and ready to play baseball.”

Sánchez will likely be back in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League to begin the 2020 season, but his tools and potential make him a great candidate for a callup as the Marlins try to turn their future-focused mentality into a new wave of Miami baseball.

“It’s something very important,” he said. “This is my second time on a 40-man roster, and I truly feel happy this time with Major League players.”