CLEVELAND — Yolmer Sanchez has been his team’s best defensive infielder and now he’s providing value at the plate.
Even though the fourth-year White Sox infielder is upset that the season is ending without a playoff appearance, he’s pleased with how he has established himself. Sanchez homered Friday night, though the White Sox were drubbed by the Cleveland Indians 10-1. But his 12th round tripper was just another bright spot in a breakthrough season for Sanchez. Sanchez, who entered this season with 201 games played, said the key has been getting out of his own way and allowing his ability to take over.
“I’ve always had it in my mind, but this year, every time I said don’t try to do too much and don’t try to play for yourself,” Sanchez said. “I learned that when I tried to do too much I lost my focus. So just try to stay simple, don’t try to do a lot of big things.”
The irony, of course, is that Sanchez’s approach has led to far more big moments than he’d provided in the parts of three seasons he previously played. Once the No. 3 White Sox prospect (2013, Baseball America), Sanchez has produced career highs in nearly every offensive category, including homers (12) and RBIs (63). Though his offensive production doesn’t quite qualify as league average metrically, Sanchez has never been better. Combined with an outstanding glove, he’s never provided more value. Entering Friday, Sanchez’s value is 2 f-Wins Above Replacement and 3.4 b-WAR.
“He’s been more selective,” manager Rick Renteria said earlier this month. “He’s willing to stay aggressive in counts he can handle. Finding more confidence. He’s been playing a lot this year, doing well in multiple positions and kind of finding his niche, his role.
“He’s seeing the ball well, attacking strikes and laying off tough pitches. He’s doing a nice job staying within himself. He’s able to do a couple things, drive the ball out of the ballpark, get a knock here or there, work a base. That’s his experience starting to come to fruition.”
Sanchez’s niche could be as a utility man, though lately he has been stationed at third base. No matter where the White Sox have played him, Sanchez has proven to be great. He’s provided eight Defensive Runs Saved at second base and seven more in 376 1/3 innings at third.
The defensive production prompted Renteria to call Sanchez his team’s best infield glove.
Pleased as he is, Sanchez thinks he can do more overall in the future. He attributes some to being healthy and part to the confidence he has gained. But Sanchez stopped short of saying he’s happy because he values playing in the postseason over individual performance. But if he stays on the same path, Sanchez is hopeful he can help the White Sox end a nine-year playoff drought.
“I know what I can do,” Sanchez said. “Don’t try to do more than what I can do and that’s number one. I know that me doing the little things, I’m going to help a lot.
“I feel good with the year I’ve had. Not happy really, I know I can do more. But when the goal is to make the playoffs and you don’t, you don’t take it like a good year.
“You can have a good year, but you don’t want to feel good if you don’t make the playoffs. It’s more important that we come together as a team and make the playoffs than any personal numbers.”