CHICAGO -- Yolmer Sánchez might be best known for his Gatorade-dumping walk-off celebrations or his comically upbeat demeanor keeping the White Sox clubhouse loose.
But as of Sunday night, the switch-hitting second baseman is golden defensively. Sánchez, 27, won his first career Rawlings Gold Glove, an American League honor he richly deserved, and for the first time quite possibly in his life, the always talkative Sánchez was at a loss for words.
“What can I say? I’m happy but I don’t know what to say. I’m really excited and happy,” Sánchez told MLB.com Sunday night. “It means a lot.
“I always love to play defense. I always dream to have a Gold Glove, especially at this level. It’s a real honor. I’m just happy.”
Sánchez was named a finalist along with the Astros' Jose Altuve and the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu. Sánchez topped AL second basemen with plus-11 Defensive Runs Saved, trailing only St. Louis’ Kolten Wong's plus-14 among all Major Leaguers at the position.
As one of the AL's nine Gold Glove winners, Sánchez is now eligible for the Platinum Glove Award, which is given to the best defensive player from each league. Voting for the award, which was established in 2011, is open at Rawlings.com and will continue until 10:59 p.m. CT on Thursday. The two league winners will be announced on Friday.
Omar Vizquel, who managed Double-A Birmingham this past season in the White Sox organization, is Sánchez's favorite player. He served as a Spring Training sounding board for Sánchez, and Sánchez only needs 10 more Gold Gloves to match Vizquel’s career total of 11.
“He definitely is one of the best defensive players I’ve ever seen,” Sánchez said. “I like to make a play in the hole or dive for a ball. Make crazy double plays.
“I’m just happy when I play defense. That’s what I love to do. I like to hit, but my favorite part is to play defense. [Vizquel] helped me a lot. I always tell him he’s still my favorite baseball player. For me to work with him, it’s really really amazing.”
Only two second basemen have won Gold Gloves in White Sox history: Sánchez and Nellie Fox, who won in 1957, '59 and '60 and is a Hall of Famer. Sánchez's honor marks the first Gold Glove Award for a White Sox infielder since Robin Ventura captured five at third base, finishing his run in '98. Ozzie Guillen also won at shortstop in '90.
When the three AL finalists were announced, Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis tweeted “Not sure what metrics were used but I’ll take @CarlosSan29 please and thank you” in regard to the second base choice. Kipnis’ prediction was on the money.
Sánchez played 141 games at third base in 2018, recording five DRS, but moved over to second when the White Sox decided to move Yoán Moncada from second to third. Sánchez committed nine errors and had 416 assists over 149 games at second in ’19.
Even with his defensive prowess, Sánchez's Gold Glove Award still could be his last honor earned with the White Sox. He is arbitration eligible and projected to earn $6.2 million in ’20 per MLB Trade Rumors.
The White Sox would be a better team overall with Sánchez in a utility infield role. But with Sánchez finishing with a .321 slugging percentage and .638 OPS, that projected contract number probably wouldn’t work.
“I do my part, you know,” Sánchez said. “I go out every night and do my best and I know I can play at this level. But I don’t control that. I just control to play defense and do my best every night.
“See what happens. I have the best agent and they are going to do the best for me. But the [White Sox are] getting close to making the World Series, to making the playoffs, so why not? Sure, I want to stay.”
Sánchez hugged his wife and two sons in celebration upon hearing Sunday’s news. Sánchez said the actual Gold Glove will be placed near his bed, at least for the first few days, and then he let out a signature Sánchez laugh.