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The #marlins longest HR of the 2022 season and 3rd longest in MLB (496 FT) was hit by Jesús Sánchez on 05/30 in Colorado, but after a poor 2022, what can we expect from him in 2023? pic.twitter.com/cc6yPQi7PL— Louis Addeo-Weiss (@addeo_louis00) February 21, 2023
- Signed by the Tampa Bay Rays on July 2, 2014.
- Traded by the Tampa Bay Rays with Ryne Stanek to the Miami Marlins for Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards on July 31, 2019.
- Made MLB debut on August 21, 2020.
- Hits first career home run on June 19, 2021.
There’s no doubt that Jesús Sánchez is a toolsy player.
For starters, there’s the fact that he hits the ball very hard, like 96th percentile max exit velocity hard. Defensively, he gets above-average jumps (66th percentile) and has an elite throwing arm (87th percentile). Despite only playing 78 games in center last season, Sánchez’s five assists still placed him third amongst all center fielders.
Though his 2022 body of work may not reflect it, Sánchez did make some noticeable strides, particularly against sinkers. In 2021, he posted a .226 xBA and a 32.4-percent K-rate (negative-one run value) against the pitch. Then as a 24-year-old last season, he hit .353 with a .569 SLG and a .422 wOBA, cutting his K-rate by nearly 75-percent (8.9), good enough for a run value of plus-three.
Sánchez performed very well offensively at LoanDepot Park, a venue notorious for draining the confidence of Marlins players.
#marlins fans, want a silver lining for Jesús Sánchez?— Louis Addeo-Weiss (@addeo_louis00) February 23, 2023
His .843 OPS at home was tops on the team, and just outside the top 40 (41st) among all hitters min. 150 PA in home games. pic.twitter.com/YIToBCQofy
Sánchez’s game is in need of major refinement, and there are several areas in which we can begin that discourse.
Since coming to the majors, he’s never hit above .188 on breaking balls, never posting a run value above zero. Opponents have responded by steadily increasing their breaking ball usage from 24.0% in 2020 to 30.4% in 2021 to 33.3% in 2022.
On the other side of the ball, Sánchez’s defensive metrics are a mixed bag. While accruing 6 defensive runs saved in about a full season’s worth of games in the outfield (163 games), total zone has him at minus-4 runs. Statcast’s outs above average considers Sánchez approximately league average overall (0 OAA), but he was merely in the 24th percentile last season.
Jesús Sánchez played 8 games in center field in his Minor League career.— Ethan Budowsky (@ethanbudowsky) June 30, 2022
The Marlins decided he should be their starting center fielder this season. pic.twitter.com/RyZ8OUVbr4
Arguably the biggest thing holding Sánchez back from truly establishing himself is his anemic performance against left-handed pitching. Stepping into the box on 55 separate occasions against southpaws in 2022, the Dominican native hit .146/.146/.164. with 24 strikeouts, not drawing a single walk.
Just how bad is this? Among the 375 MLB hitters who received at least 50 plate appearances against lefties, Sánchez’s .309 OPS ranked dead last. Now, what about over the past quarter-century? Of the 8,693 individual seasons since 1998 that match the same criteria (50 PA vs. LHP), Sánchez’s most recent campaign ranks 8,679th. It’s the kind of offensive performance that would make even the late Bill Bergen blush.
2023 Marlins Role
Unlike last year, it is doubtful that Sánchez breaks camp as a true everyday player. Former second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. is set to serve as the club’s primary center fielder and the Marlins are giving Avisaíl García another opportunity to man right field for them. Although Jorge Soler is expected to be used frequently in the DH spot, manager Skip Schumaker has insisted that he won’t be entirely sedentary and will still get some reps in left field. If Sánchez continues to put together quality at-bats in Spring Training, he fits into the equation as a platoon partner in left for Soler and Bryan De La Cruz.
Jesus Sanchez jumps on this 95 mph FB for the opposite field 2B. Would later come around to score. #Marlins pic.twitter.com/kqaUg9AKtG— Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty) March 2, 2023
The 25-year-old is practically assured an Opening Day roster spot because he’s out of minor league options, but his long-term future with the club is hazy. A realistic best-case scenario for the Marlins would be getting a full season of the player they saw in 2021 (.808 OPS, 1.3 rWAR in 64 G), establishing Sánchez as an affordable internal replacement for Soler should he opt out of his contract next winter. On the other hand, if Sánchez does little more than replicate what he did last season, he would become expendable.