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Deep Dive: third base edition, part 3

Yolmer Sánchez: his past, present and future with the White Sox

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals
The Venezuelan Tradition: In terms of major league production, Sánchez is Chicago’s second-most successful international signing this century.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

This article delves into the career of Yolmer Sánchez through 2017, his most recent season with the White Sox, and what his future looks like in the Sox organization.

Yolmer Sánchez — how did he get here?

Yolmer, formerly known as Carlos, signed an international minor league contract with the White Sox on May 29, 2009 as a native of Maracay, Venezuela. Little did we know then that aside from the big splash signings of Jose Abreu and Luis Robert, Sanchez would be Chicago’s most successful international signing in the last 10 years.

Initially signed as a defense-first middle infielder, Sanchez burst on the scene with the DSL White Sox in 2010 by hitting .269/.431/.346 with one homer, 18 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 41 walks (20.81%) and 26 strikeouts (13.20%) in 156 at-bats. In the span of three years (2011-13), Sanchez worked his way from Bristol to Charlotte. His best year during that period was in 2012, when he played for three teams: Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte. That year, Sánchez combined to slash .323/.378/.403 over 523 at-bats with one homer, 56 RBIs, 26 doubles 41 walks (6.97%), and 92 strikeouts (15.65%).

The following three years, from 2014-16, Sánchez split time with Charlotte and the White Sox — always hitting well in Charlotte but struggling to do so in the majors. Finally, Sanchez was able to stay with the White Sox for the entire 2017 season by hitting .267/.319/.413, while producing a career-high 12 homers, 59 RBIs, 35 walks (6.55%) and 111 strikeouts (20.79%) and playing well defensively (just nine combined errors) at second, third, shortstop and even a couple innings at right field.

Sánchez with the White Sox in 2018

Sánchez had a respectable season, but it was several ticks below what he had produced the year before. Overall, the clown prince slashed .242/.306/.372 over 600 at-bats (155 games), with 34 doubles, 10 triples, eight homers, 55 RBIs, 49 walks (7.40%) and 138 strikeouts (20.85%). Sanchez’s ground ball percentage (51.3%) was well better than the league-average of 45.8%. His average exit velocity was 85.6% mph, which ranked just 241st in the majors.

Like teammate Yoán Moncada, Sánchez struggled against off-speed pitches. Facing fastballs this year, Sánchez slashed .282/.363/.432, with 19 doubles, five triples, seven homers, 42 walks (11.0%) and 79 strikeouts (20.6%). Against all other pitches, it was an entirely different ballgame, as Sánchez slashed just .183/.212/.296 with 15 doubles, five triples, one homer, seven walks (2.5%) and 59 strikeouts (22.1%).

Sánchez had a decent season overall, with a bWAR of 2.6; factoring the FanGraphs estimate of $7.7 million for WAR and his $2.35 million salary, Sánchez’s actual net value for the White Sox in 2018 was $17.67 million.

Although Sánchez is still better suited defensively at second base (one could say offensively as well), he still held his own at the hot corner. According to FanGraphs, he ranked sixth among all third basemen in defensive value behind only Matt Chapman, Kyle Seager, Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon and Johan Camargo. Sánchez committed just 13 errors, keeping most balls in front of him and throwing accurately. If needed, he still displayed his versatility by playing a near-flawless second base and shortstop.

On the offensive side, Sánchez tied for the league lead in triples with 10, and he was much more efficient stealing bases (70.0% this year, compared to 47.1% in 2017). With that said, many of the things Sánchez does can’t be listed in the box score. He’s a fundamentally sound athlete who keeps things loose in the dugout with his dynamic personality and joie de vivre. His Gatorade splashes on White Sox walkoffs have already become the stuff of White Sox legend, and he’s well respected by teammates and staff alike.

What does the future have in store for Sánchez in a White Sox uniform?

Several scenarios exist for Sánchez for 2019:

  1. The White Sox don’t make any changes to their infield this offseason, which would mean Sánchez would likely return to be the starting third baseman; Jose Rondon, Matt Davidson, Nicky Delmonico and perhaps Leury Garcia would also be able to back him up, with perhaps only Rondon having the potential to eventually supplant him as the starter.
  2. The White Sox acquire a starting third baseman via trade or free agency; if this were the case, Sánchez would be the team’s primary utility infielder, and would still likely receive 300-plus at-bats in this role.
  3. The White Sox trade Sánchez to a team that is in dire need of a second baseman. If the Sox do this, they likely would either start Rondon at third or obtain a player via trade or free agency.
  4. The White Sox don’t tender Sánchez arbitration. This is by far the least likely of the four options, as with arbitration, he should earn close to $4 million. As mentioned above, he’s quite a bargain. The White Sox will definitely tender him — unless they trade him first.