The Case For Gaby Sanchez

Gaby Sanchez tosses the ball to first during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Much of the value Sanchez provides to the team comes from his above average defense. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Having lost out in the Albert Pujols sweepstakes and, with the Marlins showing little interest in signing FA Prince Fielder. Gaby Sanchez appears to be the starting first baseman for the Miami Marlins in 2012. Without a major upgrade at the position, which Pujols would have been and Fielder would potentially be, what does another season of having Sanchez occupy 1B mean for the team?

Cost-controlled Talent

After the winter spending spree that brought Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle aboard, the core of cost-controlled players, who along with Sanchez include Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison, remains an integral part of the Marlin’s Future. Sanchez has four years of team control left. He does not become a free agent until 2016. Stanton and Morrison do not become free agents until the following year, in 2017. These years of team control are extremely important. With only a little over two years of MLB service time, it is easy to forget that Sanchez is the same age as Hanley Ramirez. At 28 years of age, Sanchez cannot be considered young in baseball terms. Presumably he has hit his peak. However, having a core of cost controlled players on the roster allows general manager Michael Hill and President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest to splurge in the free agent market to supplement the home grown talent and extend current stars, keeping them in Miami to form what will hopefully be a contending team as the exciting new era for the team begins. As the roster currently stands, the window of opportunity for the Marlins should remain open for the next several years, thanks in large part to cost controlled players like Gaby Sanchez.

On-Field Performance

While being a cost controlled player is a good attribute in itself it doesn’t mean anything if that player isn’t any good. Lets take a look at Sanchez’s numbers over his Major league career:

G

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

2008

5

8

0.375

0.375

0.625

0.426

159

0.1

2009

21

23

0.238

0.304

0.524

0.353

113

0.1

2010

151

643

0.273

0.341

0.448

0.346

111

2.3

2011

159

661

0.266

0.352

0.427

0.342

113

3.0

Total

336

1335

0.269

0.346

0.440

0.345

113

5.5


Ignoring the numbers from 2008 and 2009 we see that Sanchez has been a league average to slightly above league average first baseman the past two years, as shown by wRC+ and fWAR. Comparing his numbers from 2010 and 2011 we see very similar production. As mentioned earlier, at age 28, Sanchez is no spring goose. By this time in his career, what you see is what you get. And what we’ve seen has been a league average performer.

It must be noted that wRC+, while park and league adjusted, is not adjusted by position. Generally first base is a "power position" and offense has a much higher value than defense. A good offensive season for a shortstop, for example, would not be considered a good season for a first baseman or left fielder. Lets see how Sanchez stacks up with other first basemen. These numbers are for the 2010 and 2011 seasons only.

wRC+

fWAR

Miguel Cabrera

173

13.5

Joey Votto

164

14.2

Albert Pujols

157

12.6

Prince Fielder

149

8.9

Adrian Gonzalez

148

11.8

Mark Teixeira

125

7.5

Ryan Howard

124

3.0

Gaby Sanchez

112

5.3

Carlos Pena

112

3.8

Derrek Lee

107

3.4

James Loney

102

3.5

Casey Kotchman

99

1.3

Garrett Jones

99

1.1

Adam Lind

92

-0.3

Looking at these numbers shows us a few things. First, there are a handful of elite 1B in the league. Gaby Sanchez is not one of them. Second, Sanchez is an above average defensive 1B. While average offensively, more of his fWAR comes from his defense than many other 1B around the league. Third, it confirms what we already expected: Gaby Sanchez is an average to slightly above average 1B. Which brings us back to the beginning. Having four years of cost controlled Gaby Sanchez is much more preferable to paying big money, to someone like Carlos Pena for example, for similar production in return.

Off-Field Characteristics

Sanchez is one of those nice stories: the local kid made good for the hometown team. For what it’s worth, the sentimental value of having Sanchez remain a fixture on the team certainly cannot hurt, so long as he keeps producing at a high level and isn’t detrimental to the team. Also, even though I don’t put as much value into team chemistry as I do numbers that can be backed up with fact, I will concede that chemistry to some extent does have an effect on how teams perform. Sanchez seems like a hard worker and a good teammate. This game against the Nationals stands out in my mind as an example of his positive affect on the team via protecting his teammates in a bench clearing brawl.

Upon detailed review Gaby Sanchez more than adequately fills his role with the Marlins as their 1B of 2012 and beyond. His cost control, talent and performance, and affect on the clubhouse and with the fans all point to the value he provides to the team on all these levels.

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