Yanks' Sanchez goes yard in Fall League win
New York's No. 5 prospect homers in second consecutive game, pushing Surprise to victory
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Gary Sanchez brought his catcher's gear and his heavy lumber for a trip to the Arizona Fall League. Sanchez, listed by MLB Pipeline as the No. 5 prospect in the Yankeess organization, played his second game and hit his second home run of the AFL season Wednesday.
Sanchez caught in the 95-degree heat and delivered a three-run homer in a loss Tuesday, and then he suited up as designated hitter and homered in a 5-4 win for Surprise over Peoria on Wednesday. Sanchez had three hits Wednesday and is batting .625 (5-for-8) in his AFL assignment.
"I feel great. I'm having fun," said Sanchez via Surprise pitching coach Jose Rosado, who served as his interpreter following Wednesday's game. "I'm just trying to make good contact.
"I'm just thinking I've got to hit the ball hard. I'm not worried about home runs."
That strategy has served Sanchez well in his brief career, and he's progressed all the way to the top ranks of the Yankees' farm system. The 22-year-old is a career .274 hitter with 89 home runs in 565 games in the Minor Leagues, and he played at both Triple-A and the Major Leagues for the first time this season.
Sanchez played in just two games for the Yankees and went 0-for-2 in his only at-bats, but he said it was an excellent experience to be able to compare himself to veterans at the highest levels.
"I thank God," he said of reaching the Majors. "I'm humble, and I want to continue to work. It doesn't stop here. I know I've still got work to do. I'm very focused on trying to get back up there."
Sanchez is playing alongside several prospects with the same mentality in the AFL, and his torrid hitting helped overcome a two-homer game by Peoria's D.J. Peterson on Wednesday. Sanchez and infielder Ramon Torres combined for six of the 11 hits notched by Surprise in the victory.
The Yankees signed Sanchez out of the Dominican Republic, and he made his professional debut in 2010 at the age of 17. The backstop has slowly progressed through the organization and developed a reputation as a strong hitter, albeit one with some work to do on his defensive game.
That's what he's doing out in Arizona, getting extra work after a season that saw him miss some time with an injured right hand. Sanchez was hurt last June after getting hit by a foul tip while with Double-A Trenton, and he said he's looking forward to putting in more work behind the plate in the AFL.
"It's hot, but it's part of the business," said Sanchez of catching in the torrid Arizona heat. "I came here to play and I don't really think about that. But it's definitely hot. It's very warm."
Sanchez said that the mental side of catching in the upper levels is just as important as the physical side, and he believes he'll keep improving with more experience. Sanchez tied a career high with 18 home runs this season, and he did it despite playing in just 93 games in the Minor Leagues.
The Santo Domingo native spent all of the 2014 campaign at Trenton, and he hit .295 with a .349 on-base percentage in his first 35 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. He won't turn 23 years old until December, and his 2015 odyssey has made him optimistic for the immediate future.
"I started the season in Double-A, and when I got to Triple-A, I could see the pitchers were throwing more strikes," said Sanchez. "You've got to be smart. The game is faster. And then when I got to the big leagues, the game was even faster. You have to do a lot of research and study the game."