The Marlins made Jesús Sánchez their starting center fielder coming out of spring training, and for the first few weeks, it looked like an amazing decision. He was one of the most valuable players on the team. But Sánchez has been regressing at the plate recently. In the month of May (.150 BA, .203 OBP, .267 SLG, .470 OPS, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 9 H), the team has dropped him to the bottom half of the lineup.
Early in his career, Bryan De La Cruz has been more consistent than Sánchez. The former Astros prospect acquired in 2021 for Yimi García is putting up the same type of numbers this season that he did as a rookie. What stands out most is his on-base skills—.350 OBP in 2022 and .355 OBP in his big league career.
How should the Marlins balance the playing time between De La Cruz and Sánchez? We will compare them to arrive at the right answer.
Month of April
The Marlins had a .500 record in April with a lot of individual players getting off to impressive starts, including Jesús Sánchez. He was one of the best hitters not only on the Marlins, but in baseball (.282 BA, .346 OBP, .493 SLG, .839 OPS, 3 HR, 12 RBI, and 20 H). Sanchez earned himself a clear cut starting spot in center field as he adjusted well in that spot, doing more than enough with his power to make up for minor mistakes.
Although Bryan De La Cruz was limited to 21 plate appearances and 16 at-bats, he hit at a very high level when given the chance (.313 BA, .476 OBP, .500 SLG, .976 OPS).
- Bryan De La Cruz: .269 BA, .350 OBP, .385 SLG, .735 OPS (60 PA)
- Jesús Sánchez: .221 BA, .282 OBP, .389 SLG, .671 OPS (142 PA)
De La Cruz has an advantage over Sánchez when it comes to plate discipline. He is chasing pitches outside the strike zone less often this season (33.1 O-Swing% for De La Cruz, 37.8 O-Swing% for Sánchez) and making more contact when he does swing (75.0 Contact% for De La Cruz, 71.1 Contact% for Sánchez). So it’s not surprising to see that De La Cruz has a much higher walk rate than Sánchez (10.0 BB% to 6.3 BB%) and a much lower strikeout rate (23.3 SO% to 30.3 SO%).
De La Cruz recognizes when it’s his time to drive in runs and when he needs to be patient.
Sánchez is more of a home run threat than De La Cruz. DLC has only hit one ball over 400 feet all season.
However, DLC has a special ability to get hits without leaving the ballpark. In 2021, his BAbip (batting average on balls in play) was elite at .380. He’s still really good in 2022 at .342 so far. The MLB average this season is only .285, according to FanGraphs.
When Sánchez is slumping and not making hard contact, he isn’t helping the Marlins. With De La Cruz, there is always the threat of infield hits and well-placed line drives.
You could say that De La Cruz is a more complete offensive player while Sánchez has the better upside.
The Marlins have been good at fielding this season with the exception of the first series in San Francisco. Arguably their weakest position is center field, and that’s where De La Cruz and Sánchez come in. They have combined to make all 40 of the CF starts. These young guys have the responsibility of splitting the position while Jorge Soler and Avisaíl García handle the corner outfield spots. De La Cruz and Sánchez have been in the lineup together a few times, but usually Don Mattingly needs to choose between them.
- Bryan De La Cruz: 1 OAA (Outs Above Average), 33 TC, 31 PO, 0 A, 2 E
- Jesús Sánchez: -1 OAA, 74 TC, 69 PO, 4 A, 1 E
It is a close call here. DLC is the more graceful outfielder who runs smoother routes than Jesús, but Jesús is making a big difference with his arm strength. Both players have made embarrassing errors in 2022.
Both players definitely have their strengths and weaknesses, but Sánchez looks like the better player overall. Keep in mind that he is being used more in high-leverage moments than De La Cruz.
Sánchez’s slump could be coming to an end and the Marlins are sticking with him. Is he a true everyday player? Well with De La Cruz on the team, he doesn’t need to be. We have seen in 2022 that Mattingly believes in the advantages of platooning, so it seems smart to continue using De La Cruz against a lot of left-handed pitchers.
Remember that when everybody was healthy earlier in May, the Marlins planned to send De La Cruz down to the minors. There are tough decisions coming up when Jon Berti and Joey Wendle get back from the injured list. I think they should do everything possible to keep DLC on the active roster—he’s a valuable role player.
Who will have the higher OPS at the end of the season?
This poll is closed
Bryan De La Cruz