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Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Catcher Day Part 1: Gary Sanchez

For no reason at all, I have decided to have a little fun today on the blog. Thus, today is catcher day. I will post as many things as I have available about the catchers up and down the Yankees system.

Why catcher? First, it's one of the team's positions of strength. From Montero to Romine to Murphy to Sanchez to Liccien to Bird, the Yankees are bursting with backstops. Second, and more selfishly, I happen to have a good deal of catcher-related media lying around, including video clips and unpublished interviews.

So, to start the day, here's an interview I did with Sanchez in April, when the Charleston RiverDogs were in town for a five-game set with the Lakewood BlueClaws. Because Sanchez speaks very little English, the interview was done through a translator, which is why I asked some of the questions in second person.

Q: With the situation with his heart, was he scared when all that was happening?

A: I didn’t really feel it that much. I was practicing and everything, during all that time. But they found something in the tests, and it was like a precautionary measure. I wasn’t concerned. I was always in good shape, ready to play.

Q: What was the procedure they performed? (points to chest area) I don’t see a scar there.

A: There’s not a really a scar. They didn’t cut. It was just two insertions (above his groin on his right leg). You can’t even see them.

Q: What prompted the tests?

A: The heartbeat, when he was running, there was a nerve in the heart, and it was accelerating his heartbeat.

Q: Do you remember a specific point where you felt something was wrong?

A: No. Not really.

Q: How relieved is he that they found it now and took care of it this early in his life?

A: I feel normal, actually. I never felt bad. That was something the doctors detected in my body. I never really felt anything, any discomfort or anything like that.

Q: You got a pretty big chunk of money to sign with the Yankees. What did you do with that initial signing bonus? Any big first purchases?

A: No. I have everything at home. My family is taking care of it.

Q: Do you feel pressure after getting that much of a bonus?

A: No.

Q: This is your first year in full-season ball. What have the biggest challenges been through the first month of the season?

A: The trips are killing me. After the trips, I’m very, very, very exhausted. I’m very tired.

Q: Because he’s catching all the time?

A: You go crazy on the bus. There’s too much time spent on the bus.

Q: What’s the longest trip?

A: Thirteen or fourteen hours (this one)

Q: Do you sleep on the bus?

A: I couldn’t sleep very well. I was tossing and turning.

Q: How does life in American ball compare to the sport in the Dominican?

A: In the Dominican, I played in my little league (not Little League). Here, you play professionally. There’s a lot at stake here, as opposed to playing over there.

Q: Can you think of one thing that made him stand out to the Yankees or any other team that may have wanted to sign him?

A: It was my normal workout. I was hitting the ball and throwing well to the bases.

Q: With the heart again, what did your parents think? How nervous were they that, at 18, their son needed heart surgery?

A: They didn’t know. When I went to New York, I explained to them, and my family was at the hospital. They did visit me at the medical center.

Q: With all the catching prospects the Yankees have, do you like having all of those good catchers in the system at the same time?

A: I’m going to do my job and let them do theirs. I’m going to try to do the best I can.

Although his first year of full-season ball was cut short by injury and dotted with questions about his maturity (those things tend to dog 18-year-olds), the numbers -- especially in the second half --looked pretty good for the premier position prospect in one of the game's better systems.

He finished with a .256/.335/.485 line with 17 home runs and 52 RBIs, struck out 93 times against 36 walks (oddly, none were intentional). Interestingly, his average and on-base percentage dipped in the second half, but his slugging jumped more than 100 points, thanks in large part to 12 longballs in 136 at-bats.

And while the defensive numbers were nothing short of ghastly, two scouts I spoke with were unfazed, saying that they liked his athleticism and instincts behind the plate, as well as his plus arm. When questioned, both preferred Sanchez longterm to Montero.

More than likely Sanchez will begin next season in High-A Tampa, with an outside chance to finish it in Trenton. That said, we saw last year with J.R. Murphy and Slade Heathcott that the Yankees are not afraid to hold players back if there's something there they still need to work on.

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