As a 23-year-old who started a World Series game in his rookie year, it would seem that San Francisco Giants catcher Hector Sanchez has a bright outlook for his MLB career. This year, though, he has had a rough go of it, and it’s looking more and more like Sanchez should focus his efforts on being ready for 2014.
The young catcher, who hit .280 in 74 games last year while becoming the personal catcher for Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito, was expected to continue in his role as Buster Posey‘s backup this year. However, he reported to spring training out of shape and sustained a shoulder injury early in camp. Because of this, he was only able to catch four times all spring, and it seemed as if his spot was in jeopardy. The team ended up keeping Sanchez for opening day but also kept veteran backstop Guillermo Quiroz. The plan was for Sanchez to be the team’s primary pinch-hitter and to continue spelling Posey. But when he began the season hitting .150, had several defensive miscues, and Quiroz got on an offensive hot streak, Sanchez was sent to the AAA Fresno Grizzlies to regain his hitting stroke.
Unfortunately for Sanchez, he got hurt again shortly after arriving in Fresno and missed several weeks. He hit well after returning, and his hot streak coincided with a period where Giants players were dropping like flies due to injuries. As a result, he was called back to the big-league team after receiving only 50 minor-league at-bats. Sanchez was expected to get some quality time, as the Giants wanted Posey to be able to play more first base. Things have not exactly gone as planned, however.
Since returning, Sanchez has been on the roster for 20 games. While he has been somewhat effective off the bench and is hitting .294 since being recalled, the general consensus is that he has done more harm than good. He cost the Giants their June 17 game versus the San Diego Padres, when he was unable to block a breaking ball he called for Jean Machi, resulting in a passed ball that allowed the tying run to score. Since that night, Sanchez has only started two games at catcher. Meanwhile, when Posey played first on Saturday and Sunday in Colorado, Quiroz started behind the plate for both games. Quiroz is in the lineup again for Thursday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds, which seems to be a knock on Sanchez’s defensive ability more than anything; Quiroz is only hitting .189 this year.
Bochy recently stated that the Giants could soon subtract a catcher and go to a 13-man pitching staff. With Santiago Casilla and Chad Gaudin scheduled to return this weekend and the rest of the Giants’ bullpen pitching well, now would be a logical time for Sanchez to return to the minors. Even though he has been effective as a pinch-hitter, he definitely could use more work defensively. Having only caught 87 games above Low-A, it is perfectly acceptable for the 23-year-old to get more seasoning, as he could be the backup catcher of the future. With a roster crunch coming, Sanchez is the most logical player to option.