Sánchez's barehanded catch is Play of Week

September 27th, 2021

MIAMI -- The glove is just optional for Marlins rookie outfielder .

When the Nationals' Lane Thomas sent a fly ball 272 feet to right field in Monday night’s 8-7 Marlins walk-off victory in 10 innings at loanDepot park, Sánchez gave chase but overran it, having sprinted too fast toward the foul line. He adjusted, then showed off his impressive hand-eye coordination by reaching back and catching it barehanded in foul territory for the second out of the fourth inning.

Even better than the snazzy snag was the look on Sánchez's face when he realized just how cool the play was, doing a shoulder shimmy as Thomas looked on in disbelief and pitcher Jesús Luzardo tipped his cap in appreciation.

This Monday, Sanchez's defensive highlight was named MLB's Play of the Week.

“I was just running really hard after the ball,” Sánchez said via an interpreter. “I was trying to be very careful with the wall, and I was looking at the wall, looking at the ball, and then suddenly I looked at the ball and I passed the ball completely. I didn't have any reach with my left hand, so I just pulled that right hand and suddenly I grabbed it.”

Plus, Sánchez knocked a two-run homer in the third inning, approximately five minutes prior to the stunning catch, which itself evoked memories of David Wright and Kevin Mitchell -- specifically Mitchell's similar catch of an Ozzie Smith fly ball in the left-field corner at Busch Stadium on April 26, 1989. Sánchez later singled in a three-run seventh and was intentionally walked in the 10th before a wild pitch scored Jazz Chisholm Jr. from third for the walk-off win. Chisholm also homered twice for his first career multihomer game.

In the 10th inning, Thomas opened with a double that Sánchez misplayed off the right-field wall, but he fired an 89 mph throw that trickled home and kept the runner at second from scoring. Reliever Dylan Floro went on to work out of the jam without allowing a run.

“Obviously, the home run was big,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We got behind there, weren't that great early, but we just kind of hung in there. … It was an interesting game from the standpoint of getting behind, getting back in it. [We] finally caught back up there at the end [and] got a shot. Jesús was good. That catch reminded me of Kevin Mitchell, the play he made. Jesús always makes it interesting."

Sánchez, who recently graduated from top 100 prospect status, entered the series opener in the 97th percentile when it comes to outfield jumps, per Statcast. He also had two outs above average in right and two defensive runs saved. According to MLB Pipeline’s scouting report from earlier in the season, Sánchez has a 55 fielding grade on the 20-80 scale.

When the Marlins recalled Sánchez from Triple-A Jacksonville in mid-June, he took over for the injured Corey Dickerson in left field. Once the club traded its veteran trio of Dickerson, Starling Marte and Adam Duvall, and Sánchez returned from the injured list on Aug. 16, he moved to his more natural position in right field.

“I do feel comfortable in right field, but I think I have a few things I need to work on and keep improving,” Sánchez said.

During that same span, Sánchez has provided pop in the middle of the order, serving as Miami’s cleanup hitter in 22 of the past 31 games. He has made noise of late, going 13-for-39 (.333) with six homers and 13 RBIs over his last 10 games.

The 23-year-old Sánchez is one of 14 rookies on the active roster. Despite that, the Marlins have the seventh-best record (17-18) in the National League since Aug. 11. Five of the teams ahead of them would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

“It's been exciting, because now we're seeing where we're about to go into next year,” said Chisholm, who is three homers away from having a 20-20 season. “You have all these rookies on our team that go out there every day and play their hardest, and we're showing each other what we have in store for each other next year. … The team is going to be really exciting, and we're showing everybody that this is what they can expect next year.”