Cardinals Acquire Catching Prospect Ali Sanchez from the Mets

Photo: Ali Sanchez (Getty Images)

After Ali Sanchez was designated for assignment by the New York Mets Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced on Friday their acquisition of the catching prospect in exchange for cash considerations.

Sanchez was originally signed by the Mets as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in July of 2013. He received a $690,000 signing bonus and began his professional career the following summer. The catcher got off to a strong start as he slashed .303/.406/.394/.800 with nearly as many walks as strikeouts in the Dominican Summer League.

However, after coming stateside, Sanchez showed his limitations as a hitter. The right-handed hitter has not tallied a wRC+ above 100 (league average) since leaving rookie-level ball. Much of this is due to his lack of power as he has hit just 11 home runs in six minor league seasons.

Ali Sanchez

However, even though Sanchez does not have much power in his bat, he has a solid overall hit tool. The 24-year-old batted .265 between Single-A and A-Advanced in 2018 before hitting .278 in Double-A in 2019.

Sanchez struggled at the plate upon receiving a promotion to Triple-A, as he posted an OPS of just .527. Despite this, he rebounded in the Arizona Fall League after the 2019 season, slashing .262/.347/.310/.656. This was also an improvement on the .401 OPS that he posted in the AFL in 2018.

Additionally, Sanchez has shown an ability to limit strikeouts as he has posted strikeout rates of 17.7% in Double-A and 16.9% in Triple-A. Further, his 2018 strikeout rate was around 11% across the two full season Single-A levels.

This is due in part to Sanchez’s swing mechanics. The Venezuelan has a small stride and a small load, and this limited pre-pitch movement helps him stay in control of his body. This allows him find his timing more easily and make more consistent contact, even if he does sacrifice some power.

To go with this ability to avoid strikeouts, Sanchez also has a decent proficiency in drawing walks. This is a relatively new development for the backstop as his walk rates typically hovered around 5-6% for much of his minor league career before ticking up to 7.8% in 2019.

Even though Sanchez has shown a decent hit tool and solid plate discipline, he still has a relatively limited offensive profile. His production at the plate will largely be carried by his on-base percentage, as he does not have much power to speak of. However, an OPS of around .650 could be enough to keep him at the big-league level considering his defensive prowess.

According to Baseball America, Sanchez has been the top defensive catcher in the Mets organization since 2018, and due to this, he was ranked as the Mets 27th best prospect for the 2020 season. What really stands out is Sanchez’s arm, as he threw out 44% of base stealers in 2019. This was no fluke either, as Sanchez has consistently thrown out a high percentage of base stealers in his career, including throwing them out at a 57% rate in the 2019 AFL.

This success is due to solid arm strength, but also quick exchange and great accuracy. Additionally, Sanchez has received high marks for his ability to call a game and block balls in the dirt, as well as his framing of pitches. This combination of defensive skills should make Sanchez a favorite with Cardinals pitchers.

The Venezuelan made his MLB debut in 2020 as he spent much of the year alternating between New York and the Mets alternate site. Sanchez received just 10 MLB plate appearances, tallying a hit and a walk while striking out three times.

In the offseason, the Mets added Sanchez to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. However, the club needed to make room on the roster after other recent moves, and they ultimately decided to remove Sanchez by designating him for assignment.

This acquisition by the Cardinals allows them to add another upper level catcher to the Spring Training roster. Sanchez will likely compete with 29-year-old minor league signing Tyler Heineman for duties as the third catcher on the depth chart, behind Yadier Molina and Andrew Knizner. With the big league taxi squad likely returning in 2021, all three backstops could travel with St. Louis with the fourth assigned to Memphis.

With the addition of Sanchez, the Cardinals’ 40-man roster now is at 39 players.

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To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.

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