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January 19, 2007

by Fabian

Humberto Sanchez, 23, RHP
Previously Ranked: N/R
What Others Say: Baseball America N/A, Pinstripes Plus N/A, John Sickels 3rd (B+)

Physical Ability: Humberto is…a big RHP who…pitches off his low to mid 90s fastball. In addition to the being big, right-handed, and throwing hard, Humberto also displays the other Yankee pitching prospect trait of throwing a heavy fastball. The fastball is typically complemented by a slider and change. The change isn’t too great at the moment, but the slider has shown potential. When he’s able to snap it off correctly, he can go to it for the strikeout. Humberto is going to need to improve the control and command of both those pitches because neither is overwhelming to the point that he can miss with them and get away with it. As far as battling left-handed batters, as long as Sanchez holds up physically he has enough stuff to not have to worry too much about platoon issues, but his health is a major question at this point.

What Happened in ’06: Sanchez began the year pitching for AA Erie in the Tigers organization and got off to a quick start. Considering he was repeating the level that was somewhat to be expected. The key to his success seemed to be better command of his stuff than he had demonstrated in the past. He finished the year in AAA and struggled down the stretch as he had to deal with injuries for the umpteenth time in his young career.

What Lies Ahead: Sanchez should open 2007 at AAA Scranton. Beyond that, his role is up in the air. There have been rumors that he may be placed in the bullpen, but that has not been confirmed in any way. Whether he’s in the bullpen or in the rotation he should have ample time to ready himself for big league action as there will be numerous options for both positions. I think the Yankees start him off in the rotation, and based on how he does there, they will decide whether or not that is his final role. I can’t see them putting the ceiling of reliever, even if it is shut down reliever, on a guy that for all intents and purposes is one of their big offseason acquisitions.

Grade: Since Sanchez has only been in the organization this fall/winter, I don’t have as great a read on him as I do a lot of the other guys on this list. That said, I think his prospect status is a bit overblown. Yes, he’s a big guy with a big fastball, but his fastball is not THAT big. Yes, his slider has been a great pitch at times, but those times haven’t been frequent enough. Yes, he showed great progress in his performance last year, but he still had his playing time cut short to injury. As you can tell, I see a lot of red flags with Sanchez. When he was in the Futures Game I remember thinking “how did this guy get here”. However, on the strength of the opinion that others have of him, I am going to concede that there may be something I’m missing. I’m very interested to see how he progresses this year. B

Joba Chamberlain #4