In a crowded middle infield situation, Yolmer Sanchez is carving out a utility role with the Chicago White Sox for what could be the next several years. After some disappointing seasons at the plate and shuttling back and forth between Triple-A, he’s turned around his fortunes with a breakout offensive campaign and solid defense at third base.
Yolmer Sanchez is Carving Out a Utility Role
With the White Sox committed to developing top prospects Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada in the middle of the infield, its unlikely Sanchez will be able to do much more than carve out a utility role as a member of the White Sox. He’s played a respectable third base, but given the power numbers required to be a marquee performer at the position, he’s nothing more than a stop-gap at the hot corner.
Change your Name, Change your Life
In 2015, his longest stint with the big league club until this year, the switch-hitter played in 120 games with a slash line of .224/.268/.326 with a 0.7 WAR. His production in 2014 and 2016, when he split time between Chicago and the minors, didn’t offer any more encouragement. Most White Sox fans had written him off as another good-glove, no-hit, see-you-later type of player.
After changing his name from Carlos to Yolmer at the start of 2017, his offensive production skyrocketed. If you weren’t paying attention you might have thought the White Sox acquired his evil twin. In 134 games this year, he’s slashing .264/.317/.411 with an impressive WAR of 3.3. If that weren’t enough, Sanchez hit a paltry nine home runs in his first three seasons with the White Sox. He’s eclipsed his career total in 2017 alone, clubbing a whopping, by his standards, 11 round-trippers.
Emerging from the Pack
With the starters in the middle of the infield locked in place, the competition for a utility role is crowded as well. Tyler Saladino was penciled in as the starting shortstop going into the 2016 campaign before veteran Jimmy Rollins took the job in the latter stages of Spring Training. The White Sox were considered a contender going into last season and preferred a veteran in the key role. After both the team and Rollins underperformed, he was DFA’d and replaced with Anderson, relegating Saladino to backup status.
Saladino’s numbers have suffered this year; he owns a slash line of .183/.257/.237, with zero home runs and 63 strikeouts for a negative 0.8 WAR. He still remains in the mix for a utility role, despite his sub-par performance in 2017.
Another player who made the leap to respectability this season is Leury Garcia. Despite limited availability due to injuries, he’s substantially improved his career numbers with a slash line of .270/.316/.423 and nine home runs in 87 games. This snagged him a positive WAR of 1.2. He’s another player who’s experienced an infusion of power in his game, as he’d previously only had two career long-balls to his credit. He’s spent most of this season in the outfield, but is capable of playing the infield as well.
2018 and Beyond
With the White Sox undergoing a long-term rebuild and in possession of a potent farm system, it’s difficult to project which ancillary players will be around for the long-term. Perform too well, and you’re trade bait. Under-perform, and there are plenty of younger options for the team to take out for a test drive. Any player able to find a comfortable middle ground may be around for a few more seasons and beyond. Yolmer looks like he’s settling into that niche perfectly.