Yanks' Sanchez continues hot hitting in AFL
Club's No. 5 prospect homers, drives in two in Surprise victory
After receiving his first taste of the Major Leagues, Gary Sanchez is making things look easy in the Arizona Fall League.
The Yankees' No. 5 prospect continued his hot hitting Wednesday, going 2-for-4 with a home run, double and four RBIs as Surprise blanked Scottsdale, 10-0, at Salt River Fields.
After homering in back-to-back games to open the Fall League, Sanchez grabbed a share of the league lead Wednesday with his third home run of the season, a two-run shot to left field in the bottom of the sixth inning. The 22-year-old also has hit safely in all five contests for the Saguaros, batting .474 with an AFL-best nine RBIs in that span.
"I've just been going out there with a gameplan and trying to make good contact, but I'm also trying to be aggressive early in the count," said Sanchez following the game.
Sanchez had an inconsistent 2014 campaign at Double-A Trenton but still managed to bat a respectable .270/.338/.406 with 13 home runs in 110 games. This past season, however, the Dominican Republic native finally made it out of the Eastern League, receiving a promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in mid-July after posting a .795 OPS with 12 home runs and 14 doubles in 58 games at Trenton.
Sanchez finished his season on a high note by hitting .295/.349/.500 with six home runs, nine doubles and 26 RBI in 35 games for the RailRiders, but he was forced to the disabled list in late August with a hamstring injury.
The Yankees recalled Sanchez from Triple-A on Sept. 12 upon his activation, although it wasn't until Oct. 3 that the once highly touted prospect made his Major League debut. He ultimately logged two at-bats for the Bronx Bombers, striking out once.
"It was a great experience," said Sanchez of his brief stint in the Majors. "At Double-A and Triple-A, I was working on everything -- defensively and offensively -- to make my dream come true, and I did it.
"My goal is to get back there -- come out in Spring Training and do my best to get there again next year."
After facing upper-level arms pitching the regular season, Sanchez seems to be taking advantage of younger and less-experienced arms in this year's Fall League. However, that hasn't caused the right-handed hitter to deviate from the approach that helped him hit .306/.362/.565 with 10 home runs over his final 44 contests during the regular season.
"I know I'm facing guys that, maybe next year, will be in the big leagues. But I'm not really thinking about whether I'm facing an A-ball guy or not -- I'm just trying to find the ball with the middle of the bat."
The jury is still out on whether Sanchez can remain behind the plate long term, although he did show some improvement this year in 83 games behind the plate between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Specifically, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound backstop committed fewer errors and passed balls than previous years while throwing out runners at a 35.6-percent clip.
"[The Yankees] sent me here to play the game I love to play, and I'm just coming out here every single day trying to become more consistent," he said.
Yankees No. 18 prospect Dustin Fowler went 2-for-5, stole a base and scored two runs out of the leadoff spot for the Saguaros, while Royals No. 5 prospect Bubba Starling (.417 batting average) continued to swing a hot bat with a 2-for-4 showing. Cardinals shortstop prospect Aledmys Diaz also had a big game for Surprise, going 3-for-4 with a three-run home run and a pair of doubles.
Royals right-hander Brooks Pounders paced the Saguaros on the mound, allowing just two hits while striking out seven batters in four scoreless innings. Brewers No. 14 prospect Josh Hader struggled with his control in relief of Pounders, walking three batters and hitting another in two innings, but he once again showed a consistent 94-95 mph fastball and induced multiple whiffs with his slider.