The White Sox lost some on-field professionalism when they traded Todd Frazier to the Yankees. Besides being an above-average third baseman and a decent power threat, Fraizer also played the role of a veteran who could tell a young shortstop where to stand during a game, then take on media responsibilities for a losing team after it.
But the trade did act as a release valve for the Sox’ extra infielders, which was needed since Yoan Moncada arrived in concert with the deal. Between third base and DH, the remaining players had a spot and a half to fight for plate appearances.
It’s a fight Yolmer Sanchez has won by KO. Not only has he outperformed Tyler Saladino, Matt Davidson, et al since July 18, but he’s improved upon Frazier, too.
Third Basemen Since The Trade
Or, if you’re looking for a tidier summary, if you split the difference in win valuations, Sanchez provided as much value in about 50 fewer plate appearances.
- Frazier: 2.7 bWAR, 2.4 fWAR
- Sanchez: 3.1 bWAR, 2.0 fWAR
There are a bunch of reasons besides track records why you wouldn’t ordinarily compare Sanchez to Frazier. Ol’ Yolmer is a switch-hitter with utility infielder skills, while Frazier is trying to sell the Yankees on maximizing his corner profile next year.
That said, Sanchez is doing his best offense-first third baseman impression in September. While Jose Abreu hit for a cycle and threatened to do it against two days later, Sanchez has compiled at least half a cycle in three consecutive games. He’s hitting .368/.429/.763 in September, and you can trace a 1.000 OPS all the way back to Aug. 19.
By careening between bench infielder and tabletop slugger over the last three months, Sanchez has added some mystery to his profile, which is still possible since he’s only 13 days older than Nicky Delmonico. At the very least, he’s solidified his standing in the rebuild for next season. He should get the first crack at third base, with maybe Matt Davidson stealing some starts if the White Sox still want to see more. (Davidson is 7-for-58 with zero walks and 24 strikeouts since coming off the disabled list, so maybe they don’t.)
Given the infield depth to cycle through and the years left until contention, there is a chance Sanchez could be dealt, but the Sox might look at him the way the Twins look at Eduardo Escobar — a multi-positional switch-hitter who suddenly looked like something, and eased headaches caused by weak rosters and lineups by being able to stand with confidence wherever he was told to go.
In Escobar’s case, during his time with the White Sox, he looked like a traditional glove-first utility infielder and Good Clubhouse Guy, and that profile carried over to his first year with the Twins. Then he raised his average by 40 points between 2013 and 2014, and then he found double-digit home run power in 2015, making the White Sox rue the Francisco Liriano trade to some degree.
Escobar took a step back below replacement level in 2016, but he hitting rebounded this season, and so has his playing time. The benefit Escobar provides is that he can take the field in a variety of roles, but he can also be shifted to a bench role if a more promising talent emerges.
There are also some parallels to Leury Garcia, including the same timetable. Garcia’s history isn’t as useful because it mirrors Sanchez’s in a lot of ways -- he just started making good contact at the MLB level this year — but he’s another switch-hitter who needed a few cracks at the league before his swings found the pitching, and he might have a little improvement left if he can get his bothersome hand to quiet down.
Garcia might be more useful as an example of another switch-hitter who needed extra time to get up to speed. That could be instructive as we watch Yoan Moncada’s right-handed swing catch up with his lefty stroke, and even more exciting if both Garcia and Sanchez have somehow yet to hit their ceilings. If there is no improvement remaining for Sanchez and Garcia beyond what they’ve already shown, they still have a role as MLB-caliber roster fillers who make it easier for Rick Renteria to manage and for fans to hang in during what figures to be the rebuild’s toughest stage.