CLEVELAND — A maturation process that was evident in spring training has carried over into the regular season for White Sox rookie Carlos Sanchez.
Though the hot prospect struggled throughout last season at Triple-A Charlotte, Sanchez has once again displayed the traits in 2014 that had the White Sox excited about his future headed into 2013.
Starting with winter ball last offseason, Sanchez’s play has been so good that the White Sox brought him up Sunday with Alexei Ramirez sidelined.
Sanchez — who is hitting second and starting at shortstop Sunday in his major league debut — said the experience gained in 2013 has been critical to his success this season. The infielder had a .291/.352/.405 slash line with five homers and 42 RBIs in 401 plate appearances this season.
“The experience just of knowing and preparing yourself for who you’re facing definitely helps,” Sanchez said through a translator. “That’s what I’ve been doing this year, and I’ve continued to improve in that area.”
The improvement has been evident since Sanchez — one of the youngest players in the International League in 2013 — was named the Venezuelan Winter League rookie of the year in the offseason. Sanchez, who hails from Maracay, Venezuela, hit .358 with 10 doubles, four triples, a home run, 31 RBIs and 48 runs. He also drew 30 walks.
Sanchez followed that with a strong — but brief — showing in spring training as he went 7-for-13 for the big league club.
The two performances have reminded many in the organization why they were excited about Sanchez’s prospects in the first place.
“There was so much hype to him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think that probably got carried away a bit too much. This year he came in and worked at it a little bit differently. Once you continue to go through that as a player, I don’t think it was a negative, but you look at him differently now just as the maturation process that he’s gone through. He’s a better player now than he was then.”
Just how long Sanchez will stick in the majors on this first tour is unclear.
The rookie is primarily here because Ramirez and Adam Eaton are out of the lineup and the White Sox are short-handed. The belief is that Ramirez, who has a sore lower back, should be fine by Friday, when the White Sox have their post-break opener.
Regardless whether it’s for a day or for good, Sanchez, who signed with the White Sox as a 16-year-old in May 2009, is excited for the opportunity. He said he just tried to look forward as he struggled in 2013 and learn from his difficulties.
Clearly he has.
“This has been a long dream for me, ever since I signed to play professional baseball,” Sanchez said. “I feel like last year wasn’t a great year for me, but that’s why I went out, worked hard, made some adjustments, did some things I thought were necessary to improve, and that was the whole goal. Now the results have changed.”