Has Hector Sanchez Earned a Regular Role with the San Francisco Giants?
At first glance, it seems ridiculous to think that a conversation about the San Francisco Giants‘ catcher of the future needs to be had when Buster Posey is in the organization and signed long-term. But with Posey having worn down in the second half of his second full season, and 23-year-old Hector Sanchez playing well, it’s time to start wondering how much longer Posey will be a regular behind the plate.
It’s always been considered likely that Posey would change positions at some point, particularly after he suffered several horrific leg injuries during a home plate collision in 2011. The question was just whether that move would be imminent or come once Posey reached his thirties. However, Posey’s performance this season has given cause to the belief that he should be moved sooner than later.
This is the first year that Posey has really regressed following the All-Star break. Though he got off to a slow start in April, Posey had heated up enough by the early summer that he was considered a possible MVP candidate, and he went into the break hitting .325 with 13 homers and 56 RBI. Unfortunately, it seems that since the break, Posey is either having mental struggles at the plate or has worn down due to the amount of time he’s spent behind the plate. Since the break, he’s hitting .277, which most people would consider acceptable for an average catcher. Much more alarming, though, is the fact that he’s completely lost his power. He has just one homer and seven extra-base hits in that period of time. He also has been affected by injuries recently, as he fractured his finger this past week.
Meanwhile, Sanchez has really been able to turn things around. After hitting .280 last season as a rookie, he looked primed to have another big year. He suffered a shoulder injury, though, that limited him until early August and impeded his progress so much that the Giants sent him back to Triple-A on two separate occasions. But since his recall on August 8, Sanchez is hitting .316 (18-for-57) with three homers. Even more encouraging is the fact that Sanchez, whose struggles traditionally have been plate discipline and defense, has a .370 OBP in that span and did a terrific job catching Yusmeiro Petit‘s near-perfect game last week. He’s looked much better overall behind the plate since coming back up, which may be because he’s fully recovered from the injury.
It’s been debated whether Sanchez is consistent enough to be the Giants’ catcher of the future, but considering his youth and his success thus far in his major-league career, it would be smart for the Giants to give him about a quarter of the starts behind the plate next year in preparation for a possible full-time Posey move in 2015. The timing would be perfect for such a move, as Pablo Sandoval‘s contract will be expiring, and the Giants can plug in Posey at third. Bruce Bochy has left clues about this type of move happening over the past couple months, first saying that he believes Posey has the potential to be a third baseman in the future, and more recently saying that he believes Sanchez can be an everyday catcher.
If the Giants made this switch, they would benefit from both a talent and financial standpoint. Moving Posey to third would keep him fresher and theoretically, would allow him to experience more offensive success. It could also eliminate the inconsistency, injury and weight concerns, and salary of Sandoval. At the catching position, it would give an everyday opportunity to a guy who has a .278 average 345 at-bats into his big-league career and who still has the ability to improve. Additionally, it would create a spot in the majors for former second-rounder Andrew Susac, who has some decent offensive potential, and had a very good first half in Double-A this year before being consumed by injuries after the All-Star Break.