By Jerry Del Priore
There’s no denying that Columbia Fireflies’ catcher Ali Sanchez sports a cannon for an arm.
Last season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, Sanchez nailed 48 percent of would-be base stealers. This year so far, the 20-year-old backstop has surpassed last season’s numbers, gunning down 11 runners in 20 attempts (55 percent – second-best percentage in the South Atlantic League).
In addition to his strong arm, the New York Mets’ brass believe Sanchez is a good pitch caller and adept behind the plate in blocking pitches in the dirt.
Sanchez’s above average defensive skills are rarely seen by a player his age. In fact, many pro baseball insiders feel he possesses the defensive skillset to play at the major-league level someday. The problem is: he hasn’t hit much in his minor league career.
This year, Sanchez is batting .207 in 92 at-bats through 27 games with the Fireflies. Last season, the Venezuelan fared slightly better, hitting .216 in 171 at-bats in 46 contests with the Cyclones.
His saving grace is he’s young, so he has the time to develop into a decent hitter.
Sanchez’s career offensive numbers are: .255 with three home runs and 66 RBI in 611 at-bats in 172 tilts, with most of his offensive production coming early in his career.
He suffered a hand injury last June, so that could be part of the reason for his offensive drop-off.
But the 2013 international free agent Mets’ signee’s defensive abilities are good enough to possibly ride to the majors.
However, make no mistake, Sanchez will need to hit more in order to expedite his major league pursuit, and stick there if he makes it to “The Show.”