Jesus Sanchez Shows Natural Feel To Hit
There will be a point in 20-year-old outfielder Jesus Sanchez's career when he struggles, when the game doesn’t look so easy, when he doesn’t look like he is having so much fun playing it.
There has to be, right?
But the Rays haven’t seen it yet—or any hint of it. The organization's minor league player of the year last year, Sanchez hit .328/.344/.521 with nine home runs through 59 games at high Class A Charlotte as he continued his impressive step-by-step climb through the system.
Sanchez is the first Rays player to win MVP awards for three separate affiliates, and he is well on his way to a fourth. He previously claimed MVP honors for low Class A Bowling Green in 2017, for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Rays in 2016 and for the Dominican Summer League Rays in 2015.
Sanchez's most impressive attribute is his ability to routinely make solid contact. His biggest flaw? Becoming more selective at the plate, as evidenced by just six walks and 40 strikeouts this season. With the major league Rays in the midst of a youth movement, Sanchez—who signed in 2014 out of the Dominican Republic for a mere $400,000—may have the opportunity to move faster.
BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD
As uncomfortable as it may have been, first baseman Nathaniel Lowe used to be known as the older brother of Josh Lowe, the Rays’ first-round pick in 2016. But now Nathaniel is making a name for himself.
Chosen out of Mississippi State in the 13th round of the same draft, the older Lowe did well in his first two pro seasons, but after improving his body and his bat speed, he got off to a sizzling start as he repeated the high Class A Florida State League.
Lowe hit .356/.432/.588 with 10 homers in 51 games for Charlotte before his promotion to Double-A Montgomery, leaving his little brother behind.
Ten Young Hitters Who Impressed In Latin American Winter Leagues
For many young players, offseason development means participating in professional winter leagues in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Puerto Rico. We highlight 10 standouts from this offseason.
** Colombian-born catcher Ronaldo Hernandez hit .312/.360/.537 with 10 homers in 56 games for low Class A Bowling Green in the first half, then claimed the home run derby title at the Midwest League all-star game.
** Having arguably their top two pitching prospects, righthander Brent Honeywell and lefty Anthony Banda, have Tommy John surgery has been a major frustration for the Rays. So was losing Bowling Green righty Drew Strotman for the same reason.
** A big disappointment on the field has been the play of Dominican third baseman Adrian Rondon, the 2014 top international signee for $2.95 million, who in his second season at Bowling Green was hitting .170/.210/.246 and got demoted to short-season Hudson Valley.
** The Brendan McKay two-way experiment got put on hold for at least a month when he was placed on the Charlotte disabled list on June 18 with an oblique issue.