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Yankees' Sanchez earns AFL Hitter of the Week honors

New York's No. 5 prospect hit .421 with nine RBIs over four games

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.-- Surprise Saguaros catcher Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees has been named Arizona Fall League Hitter of the Week. Sanchez led the AFL with nine RBIs in the second week of games and hit .421.

"First off, I thank God for the opportunity to be here," Sanchez said. "It is an honor for me, but it doesn't stop here. I am thinking about the next week. If it happened one time, I am looking to win the next time, too."'s eighth overall catching prospect and the Yankees' fifth-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Sanchez has been a top bat through the first two weeks of games. He leads the AFL in home runs (five), hits (16), RBIs (15) and total bases (33). His .457 batting average is fifth in the league.

"I came here with the focus to improve my game, what I have been doing," Sanchez said, "but also to be able to be consistent, so that way, I can earn a spot in the big leagues."

Sanchez has a hit in all eight games in which he has played, and he has two or more hits in six of those games.

"I am not changing anything," Sanchez said of his early success in the Fall League. "I am just focused to go out there and get a good swing and a good pitch to hit and try not to miss. I am not really trying anything different. I am just [doing] what I did during the season, focused out there and aggressive."

The 22-year-old is one of 10 players from the Dominican Republic in the AFL. The Yankees signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2009.

A 2015 All-Star Futures Game selection, Sanchez split time this season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Sanchez played in 35 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting .295 with 26 RBIs. For Trenton, Sanchez hit .262 with12 HRs and 36 RBIs. Despite playing in only about half of the Thunder's games, his 12 homers tied with Aaron Judge for first on the team.

"I played AA the year before, so this year I was very focused to do my best every single game and to play in the big leagues," Sanchez said.

Before coming to the AFL, Sanchez got the opportunity to live out his dream as he was called up and played in two games for the Yankees in October. In each game, he went 0-for-1, popping out to third in one game and striking out swinging in the other. The experience was one that Sanchez will never forget.

"As a kid, you always dream to have that call, and I thank God that it happened this year," he said. "But I feel that it is not over yet. I want to continue to improve to where one day, I can play in the big leagues every single day."

Antonio Cannavaro is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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