Prospect Sanchez turning heads in AFL

November 12th, 2021

CHICAGO -- An increased level of confidence and comfort has helped the development of , the one-time international signee and current No. 15 White Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline. That has been elevated during his time playing in the Arizona Fall League.

“The first time I came to the U.S., my confidence level wasn’t as high as it used to be when I was in Cuba, because I had a long time without playing baseball,” said Sanchez during a recent Zoom, through interpreter Billy Russo. “I wasn’t sure that I would be able to prove the kind of player I was in Cuba. But when I started playing here, I started gaining my comfort level back.

“Right now, my confidence level, it’s very high. It was high throughout the season in High-A and Double-A. The good results helped to strengthen that confidence level, and now, I’m proving to myself that I’m able to play here and I’m able to play with the best players and the best prospects, and I think I can be one of them. Hopefully I’m going to be able to sustain that.”

Sanchez’s confidence currently is burgeoning as part of the Glendale Desert Dogs. Through Thursday, the infielder has an impressive slash line of .387/.537/.516 with one home run, eight RBIs, 10 walks and two strikeouts. He recently was named the AFL Hitter of the Week after going 7-for-12 with seven RBIs.

Calling the award “a beautiful experience,” Sanchez smiled and explained why the honor “kind of made me laugh.”

“I had a way better week in Double-A this year, and at the time, I thought, 'Maybe I'm going to be the player of the week this time,’” Sanchez said. “Unfortunately, it was another Cuban that won that award that time, and I was like, ‘Oh man, it wasn't even one of my teammates. If it doesn't happen this time, it probably won't happen to me.’

“Then this past week, I was able to have good stats, numbers, and it's definitely a good thing. It's something that motivates you and makes you feel good when you do better, and that's what you want. I've been fortunate to be around talented players that have been playing at different levels and that have different backgrounds.

“I've been learning from them. I’ve been learning from the experience here and just getting used to what baseball is in the U.S.”

Sanchez, 24, joined the White Sox via a $2.5 million signing bonus in 2019. He didn’t play during the COVID-19 pandemic-affected 2020 season, but he slashed .308/.352/.419 with nine homers and 42 RBIs over 99 games and 394 plate appearances for High-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham in ‘21.

Was this performance solid enough to put Sanchez into play at second base for the 2022 White Sox, who declined their contractual option on César Hernández? That judgment would be a bit premature, with Romy Gonzalez and Danny Mendick a step ahead of Sanchez, among internal options. That depth chart certainly isn’t canceling Sanchez’s optimism.

“That's my goal. That's every baseball player's goal, but I try to not think about it,” Sanchez said of reaching the Majors in 2022. “I like to keep things simple, just do the best that I can do wherever I am playing, be the best player I can be, be the best teammate I can be, because I do my best on every team that I am playing [for].

“So far, that has been a good thing for me. That has kept me humble and focused on the stuff I need to work [on] and improve.”

With Sanchez’s ability to play second base, shortstop and even third, he has versatile value to the South Siders. But Sanchez has found the rhythm he played with in Cuba, helping him improve his game in the United States and make the adjustments needed to keep that confidence growing.

“My focus, right now, is to try to be consistent and improve my gap-to-gap approach,” Sanchez said. “I’m that kind of hitter that uses the middle of the field to the right part of the field, and I need to be more consistent hitting the ball gap-to-gap.

“I feel, maybe if I can hit more homers … but that’s not the kind of hitter that I am. I want to be more of a gap-to-gap guy. From the defensive part, just keep working and keep being consistent. My defense was very solid this year. That’s something that I take a lot of pride in. I just need to keep being consistent with my glove.”