Prospect Sanchez impresses in Venezuelan League
Infielder bounces back from rough year; White Sox to hold minicamp next week
CHICAGO -- From Tuesday to Thursday of next week, some of the standout young hitters in the White Sox organization will take part in a minicamp at Camelback Ranch.
Jose Abreu will be there, as will Josh Phegley, Adrian Nieto, Adam Eaton, Marcus Semien and Matt Davidson. Also look for Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell, Tim Anderson, Keenyn Walker, Keon Barnum, Jake Elmore and Kevan Smith, to name a few.
Most importantly, new hitting coach Todd Steverson will be around to get to know some of this talent going into Spring Training.
Carlos Sanchez won't take part in this minicamp. But that exclusion doesn't mean the switch-hitting second baseman has fallen out of favor. Quite the contrary.
The 21-year-old was named Rookie of the Year for the Venezuelan Winter League after hitting .348 with, 48 runs scored, 31 RBIs, a .428 on-base percentage and a .443 slugging percentage over 58 games for Tiburones de La Guaira. Sanchez hit .403 (27-for-67) vs. left-handers, .418 (28-for-67) with runners in scoring position and .364 (16-for-44) with RISP and two outs.
This production was a welcome bounce back for a player who some talked about as having a borderline chance to break camp with the team out of Spring Training last year. Instead, he started slowly with Triple-A Charlotte and hit .241 with a .293 on-base percentage during his first full International League campaign.
But the White Sox viewed that showing as more of a minor and almost expected setback for their ninth-rated prospect, per MLB.com's White Sox Top 20.
"What's he, 21 years old this year? There's a lot of life left in him," said White Sox director of player development Nick Capra. "Being at Triple-A at 20, he was going to struggle somewhat. He ended the season on a stronger note, and it's great experience for a 20-year-old kid. He should be ahead of the curve."
After being one of the youngest players in the International League in '13, Sanchez almost certainly will get a second season with Charlotte. The White Sox are locked in up the middle with shortstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham, not to mention Jeff Keppinger off the bench at second and other middle-infield prospects such as Micah Johnson, Semien and Leury Garcia. What once was a decidedly weak area in the White Sox system has grown increasingly stronger.
Capra didn't have a chance to see Sanchez in Venezuela, but received excellent reports from Double-A Birmingham manager Julio Vinas, who was a coach there. As for why Sanchez dipped in '13 after hitting .328 between stops at Birmingham and Class A Winston-Salem in 2012, Capra pointed to the energy and speed of the game as possible reasons.
"It's tough to put a finger on it, but I don't think we saw him play with the same energy he usually does," said Capra, who currently envisions Sanchez as more of a No. 2, 7, 8 or 9 hitter in a big league lineup. "Whether it is getting to Triple-A and around those older guys and six-year free agents, going about business like they do, that's not his type of game.
"I'm not saying anything bad about [the older Triple-A players]. But sometimes the older guys' attitude is not the same, thinking they should be in the bigs. A young kid should be hungry and play with energy.
"He doesn't have much power right now, which usually is the last thing to come in a hitter," Capra said. "Carlos won't be a home run hitter, but he'll be able to drive balls to the gaps as he gets stronger, with more doubles and triples. That's going to be his game. He didn't adjust well to the speed of the game last season, but with a year of experience and a good winter ball showing, I see good things to come."