CARLSBAD, Calif. — The Chicago White Sox need a second baseman of the present.
Meanwhile, though, a candidate to be their second baseman of the future is causing some buzz in the minor leagues.
Yolbert Sánchez, not to be confused with former South Side second baseman Yolmer Sánchez, is one of the many Cuban signees in the White Sox organization and had himself a nice 2021 season splitting time between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. He's starring out in the desert this fall, recently earning hitter-of-the-week honors for his work in the Arizona Fall League.
Sánchez might not be the uber-prospect that Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez were. He might not even be the most exciting Cuban prospect in the White Sox' system, that title going to outfielder Yoelqui Cespedes. But he plays second base, the biggest current need on the major league roster, after a switch from shortstop, and his upside is something to keep in mind as the White Sox chase a second baseman this winter.
"The first time I came to the U.S., my confidence level wasn't as high as it used to be when I was in Cuba," Sánchez said Wednesday. "I wasn't sure that I would be able to prove (I am) the kind of player I was in Cuba.
"But when I started playing here, I started gaining my comfort level back, and I increased it. Right now, (when) I think about my confidence level, it's very high. It was high throughout the season in High A and Double-A. The good results helped to strengthen that confidence level, and now I think I'm proving to myself that I'm able to play here and I'm able to play with the best players and the best prospects. And I think I can be one of them."
MLB.com's most recent rankings have Sánchez as the No. 15 prospect in the White Sox organization. That's not exactly a ranking to get overly hyped about or build a future around.
Not only that, but the White Sox are obviously in win-now mode, and though they're still doing the necessary work to bolster their chances at sustained success, they've shown the emphasis has shifted to bringing in players who can help them achieve their very active World Series goals.
So don't think for a second that Rick Hahn's front office will take a long-term deal for someone like Marcus Semien off the table because Sánchez is tearing up the Arizona Fall League.
But Sánchez is tearing up the Arizona Fall League, with a 1.063 OPS in 10 games there. That following a 2021 minor league campaign that saw him post a .728 OPS in 60 games at Winston-Salem and an .838 OPS in 39 games at Birmingham.
He moved to second base from shortstop, likely to increase his versatility and with it his value. But considering the White Sox have themselves one of the game's top shortstops in Tim Anderson and don't have a long-term solution at second, it's a potentially important addition to Sánchez's resume.
"When they first moved me to second base, it was an easy transition to me," Sánchez said. "I felt like second base is slower paced than shortstop. You can take more time. I felt good. I was doing all my plays, routine plays, the great plays. I was doing everything very good.
"I started having some problems when they moved me back to shortstop because it was faster. You have to react a different way. You have to be prepared for more action. ... It took me a little bit to readjust. But I've been able to manage and handle that with more playing time. It hasn't been that difficult."
The White Sox' free-agent options at second base this winter include a couple huge names, Semien and Javy Báez, and other names of note, like Eduardo Escobar and Chris Taylor. The trade market could provide even more choices. Though Hahn mentioned currently employed players like Danny Mendick and Romy González when discussing the position Tuesday, it would be very surprising to see either start the 2022 season as the team's primary second baseman.
It points to any future for Sánchez as a part of the White Sox' major league roster as being a farther off one.
But obviously he's keeping his big league dreams alive, buoyed by the success he's experienced in 2021 and the success the White Sox are having as they chase a championship, a motivating factor to be a part of all that excitement.
"I think that there is a chance," he said, asked if he could reach the majors in 2022. "That's my goal, that's every baseball player's goal. But I try to not think about it. I like to keep things simple, just do the best that I can.
"It's definitely a motivation, just to see what the major league team is doing, how they are competing, and just know that in the future — if you do the things that you're supposed to do and you play the game as you're supposed to do it, develop the way you're supposed to do it — we're going to be joining them.
"It motivates you to play harder and do your best every day. I won't lie to you, that also feels like a little push because you know, 'Hey you need to play at that level, you need to play and prove your worth to be there.' ... We're seeing what those guys are doing, and we want to join them and keep the competitive team the same way they are doing it."