On Hector Sanchez Taking Grounders at First

There seems to be a need for a Hector Sanchez primer. Or statement of intent. Or instruction manual. Or something that has to do with how Hector Sanchez should be used. Think about reading this first paragraph last year! You would have thought there was a carbon-monoxide leak in your house. Let's have fun making up similar openings we'll see for a post next year.

Kyle Crick looked good in his first four starts, and he hasn't allowed a walk yet.
Say what you will about the Gary-Brown-to-first-base move, but it sure worked out on Tuesday night.
Todd Linden will probably get most of the DH at-bats when the Giants roll into Vancouver to face the A's.

We're talking about Hector Sanchez getting meaningful at-bats. Last year at this time, he was in A-ball after missing out on the Baseball America top-30 list entirely. Baseball can sure pack a lot of crap into 365 days. On to the statement of instruction primer:

Hector Sanchez is going to be awesome
He's been a pet prospect of mine for a while, dating back to when he was an OBP-first teenager in the Dominican Summer League. I can't really justify the bold proclamation up there with scoutin' or stattin'. It's just a feeling. Like the one I had for John Bowker or Armando Rios. So maybe for Sanchez's sake, I should shut up about it.

But it's the early OBP success (along with his sweet swing from the left side) that fascinates me. In the DSL, he had two straight seasons with more walks than strikeouts. He was 17 in his first season there. The value of DSL stats? Negligible, at best. But every time I look at them, it feels like there's some information that we should glean from it. Did he change his approach on his own? Did the Giants teach him how to hack? What's the story?

Mostly, though, it's a reminder that we hardly know anything about him. He's still just 22. Is he a hacker? A guy who will grow into his aggressiveness? A grinner? A lover? A sinner? Don't know. If he had stayed in high-A last year and raked, he'd be an interesting prospect. If he moved up to AA this year and did well, he'd be an even more interesting prospect. If he spent 2013 tearing up the PCL as a 24-year-old, he'd be a September call-up of some interest and still as old as a typical prospect. Devin Mesoraco is turning 24 soon, for example.

I'm bullish on him, though. I have a strong hunch that he will hit quite well for a catcher in the early part of his career.

Hector Sanchez is not awesome yet
I don't have a big problem with him sitting on the bench 60 to 80 percent of the time because I think there's a lot of value in a catcher handling big-league pitchers at a young age. And with Buster Posey needing all sorts of rest, I feel more comfortable with Sanchez in the lineup compared to Eli Whiteside. The difference between the two over a full season? Maybe a half-win or a win. Maybe less. If the Giants make the playoffs, though, I'd expect them to do so by exactly one half of a win. Don't ask how.

Worrying about developmental delays is legit, but I think the Giants are close enough to the playoff bubble to take minor risks like that.

But we're not talking about prime Yogi Berra yet.:

2011 31 8 0 3 6 .258 .324 .323 .646
2012 36 10 1 1 6 .278 .289 .361 .651

That's exactly the kind of line you'd expect from a 22-year-old with good bat control and a history of being walk-challenged in the upper minors. There will be good at-bats, there will be bad at-bats. The latter shall reign until Sanchez makes adjustments and gets more experience.

Playing Hector Sanchez at first over Brandon Belt is negligent
There's no other word. Negligent. If you missed it, this is a real thing. Hector Sanchez has a chance to develop into a swell hitter for a catcher. He has very little chance to do the same at first base. That's true tomorrow, and that's true five years from now. There is no reason to believe that Sanchez helps the Giants win more than Belt does right now. No reason. If you're looking at the small-sample stats of just this season, Belt's been better. Last season? Belt was much, much better. Scouting? Find me a guy wearing a straw hat who thinks Sanchez will be the better hitter.

Negligent. But I've heard from a couple different sources now that the coaching staff really is frustrated with Belt, that they don't think he's listening to their suggestions and closing the hole in his swing, and that his playing time is related to this. Gosh, if I were a young player, I'd look at the way the Giants have hit over the last few years, and I'd be desperate to get my hands on some of the magic dust the Giants' coaching staff sprinkles on hitters. But apparently Belt is stubborn.

Belt is the first high-patience, high-strikeout prospect the Giants have had to deal with. Posey had patience, but he wasn't a strikeout guy. Pablo wasn't either. Seems like the Giants know what to do with those guys -- leave them alone. With Belt, well, they're aiming to screw this up something fierce.

All three headers up there can be true. On a normal team, Sanchez would be an asset. Somehow, though, he's become the young player that the organization doesn't screw around with, and now he'll get playing time at the expense of better hitters. This organization can be so danged weird.

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