Over the next few weeks, BP South Side will be reviewing the performance of all 51 players who suited up for the 2017 White Sox. Players whose seasons were particularly noteworthy will get their own standalone article, while smaller contributors or those who were traded/cut will be grouped together. We’ll do our best to summarize and analyze what each player brought to this year’s club, what we learned, didn’t learn, and what it all means for his future with the team.
What’s in a name? In the case of Yolmer Sanchez, about 3.7 WARP. The hitter formerly known as Carlos managed to be worth exactly -0.7 WARP each of the previous three seasons before finally breaking out for 1.6 in 2017. Am I crediting his decision to go by his first name instead of his middle name as the thing that finally got him over the hump.
Yes. Yes I am.
I mean, what else could it be? Sure, you could point to the decreased pressure of a season where failure wasn’t a potential career death sentence and playing time was plentiful for anyone with a pair of cleats. Even an outsider could see that the mood seemed more loose and jovial than it had in awhile. It’s not hard to imagine that would make it a little easier to succeed. The once crowded infield battle thinned out rapidly with Brett Lawrie’s non-tendering, Tyler Saladino’s balky back acting up, and Todd Frazier’s eventual trade to New York. Sanchez’s ability to play every infield position (and outfield if needed in an absolute pinch) meant that there was always a spot for him regardless of day of the week.
Maybe you’re not big on the ol’ human angle. “This is Baseball Prospectus!” you cry. “TALK ABOUT HIS STATS! THEREIN LIES THE DIFFERENCE!” You’ve got it, imaginary reader who talks too loudly! Sanchez’s breakout season can most simply be broken down into two main points: increased power and improved plate discipline. His 12 home runs more than doubled his career total while only resulting in a minimal decrease in doubles. And that’s not even factoring in his team-leading eight triples (Jose Abreu somehow hitting six triples this season will forever mystify me). Maybe this was the result of a changed approach, maybe it was due to the surely not at all juiced balls.
His control of the strike zone was more in line with his minor league numbers. No one will ever mistake his batting eye for elite, but a 6.6 percent walk rate and a 20.8 percent K rate combined with decent contact skills gives you a serviceable hitter, which is all someone who can effectively play short, third, and second needs to be. Barring any outside talent being brought in this offseason, third base appears to be Sanchez’s job to lose in 2018 and even then, he’s gone from potential non-tender candidate to useful utility man. And that’s a pretty good improvement.
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