Angel Sanchez enters the 2012 season competing for a spot on the Astros roster as a backup infielder. The 28 year-old Sanchez should have a leg up on the competition thanks in part to a productive Winter League. Sanchez is a veteran of the Caribbean Winter Leagues and spent this off-season playing in his native Puerto Rico. Sanchez hit .293 for the winter but finished strong, hitting .421/.476/.632 over his last ten games. Sure it’s a small sample size but Sanchez has shown the ability to wield a hot bat from time to time. Sanchez had a nice hot streak after joining the Astros in 2010 and got off to a great start last season.
New G.M. Jeff Luhnow said there will be plenty of competition for jobs once Spring Training rolls around. In addition to being a serviceable shortstop and second-baseman, Sanchez added the hot corner to his repertoire last season. His versatility could be enough to win Sanchez a spot on the Opening Day roster. Newly acquired Jed Lowrie is slated to be the every day shortstop and Rule 5 pick Marwin Gonzalez will be in the mix for the backup role. Sanchez could prove to be the odd man out if the Astros decide to keep Gonzalez. The Astros will certainly take a long look at Gonzalez to determine whether or not he is a keeper.
Although what Gonzalez brings to the table remains to be seen, we pretty much know what to expect from Sanchez. He doesn’t hit for power and he’s not a fast runner but Sanchez does possess some desirable offensive skills, in my opinion. An excellent bunter, Sanchez put down six sacrifices in only half of a season with Houston in 2010. Last year Sanchez was successful on ten sacrifice bunt attempts. Sanchez is a gap to gap line drive hitter. As a rookie in 2010 Sanchez hit .277 aided by a .337 BABIP and a line drive percentage of 25. Last season Sanchez managed only a .278 BABIP and a line drive percentage of 18. As a result his average dipped to .240.
Sanchez has a career strikeout rate of 14.8% and a walk rate of 6.1%. This is an area where I think he will improve. I think Sanchez is a decent option as a role player and would expect his 2012 numbers to land somewhere in between those of his first two seasons. Whether or not he stays with the Astros remains to be seen. Marwin Gonzalez will play a key role in determining Sanchez’s fate with the team.