Friday, December 29, 2006

Prospect Profile: Humberto Sanchez (#6)

Age: 23
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 230
Drafted: Draft and Followed 31st Round out of Junior College (Originally from the Bronx)
Position: Starting Pitcher
Throws: Right

Stuff: Sanchez has some of the best stuff in the minor leagues, on par with top prospects like Giovany Gonzalez, Chris Volstad, Matt Garza, and Nick Adenhart, although still a step below Homer Baily, Phil Hughes, and Jeremy Sowers. He throws an incredibly heavy 92-95 mph fastball. This heavy fastball will break bats, miss bats, and pound the ball in to the ground. He backs it up with an above average curveball and average changeup. Brian Cashman believes that Nardi Contreras can the changeup into an above average pitch and the curveball in to a plus pitch. He uses his height to his advantage, especially when throwing his curveball.

Command: Humberto has been inconsistent with command. He has the ability to pump his velocity up to 96 when he wants to, but this usually results in Sanchez becoming very wild. He is much more effective when sitting in the 93-94 mph range, where he can pound the bottom of the zone. When he learns to calm down and not overthrow, he is going to become an elite pitcher. His walk rate has improved every year since 2003.

Outlook: Sanchez has struggled with health problems in the past. He suffered from a number of nagging injuries in 2004 and 2005 which resulting in him missing time, including a sore elbow, knee surgery, and an oblique strain. However, he put it all together in 2006, pitching 123 innings between AA and AAA (his innings were limited because of past elbow problems) of 2.63 ERA ball. He struck out 129 and walked 47. He is considered major league ready, although the Yankees plan on sticking him in AAA for awhile to work on his changeup. Despite the injuries and the slow development of his 3rd pitch, the Tigers stubbornly refused to move him to the bullpen. He has the ability to be an elite closer in this league, but he could also be a top starter. If Nardi Contreras can indeed improve his two secondary pitches, and he stays healthy, look for Sanchez to be something very special. The overall pitching depth of the Yankees at AAA will enable them to take it slow with him. Sanchez would have been rated higher, but his health issues concern me.

Grades: Ceiling A, Health C-, Comparison: I've heard Roberto Hernandez, but I am still confident that Sanchez can remain a starter.