SAN FRANCISCO -- When catcher Hector Sanchez made the leap from Class A Advanced San Jose to Triple-A Fresno, many assumed he was being fast-tracked to replace the injured Buster Posey -- to make a quick big league leap like Pablo Sandoval did in 2008.
While Sanchez has put up impressive offensive numbers at every stop along the way, don't expect to hear his named called in AT&T Park anytime too soon. As Fresno manager Steve Decker said on Sunday, the 21-year-old catcher will be a good Major Leaguer someday -- just not quite yet.
"We're talking about a catcher who has to handle the San Francisco Giants staff," Decker said. "This is a guy who's got to go up there and catch [Tim] Lincecum and Matt Cain and [Jonathan] Sanchez and Brian Wilson. You've got to be ready mentally, physically and emotionally to be able to make that next step. We're working hard. He's got a lot of tools, and we hope to develop him sooner rather than later."
The switch-hitting catcher batted .301 with an .832 on-base plus slugging percentage for the San Jose Giants earlier this year, knocking 13 doubles and eight homers in 42 games. One potentially concerning statistic was his walk-to-strikeout ratio, as he drew five free passes while striking out 41 times. Sanchez is batting toward the bottom of the order for the Grizzlies, and he hasn't hit for power nearly as well at that level, but there are no doubts about his ability to produce at the plate.
Decker, a former catcher himself, said Sanchez is "in the process of a lot of classroom time" right now, learning all the basic elements of playing the position. He has done well thus far, even earning rave reviews from Giants lefty Barry Zito after a rehab start, but he still has to refine his talent. Decker pointed to pitch selection as well as receiving, throwing and blocking techniques as chief among the many aspects of his game that need improvement.
But, most importantly, Sanchez is still learning -- and he has plenty of time to do so.
"Aptitude, retention -- just like when Buster was here, a lot of it is when he comes in to the dugout. 'Why did you do this? Why did you do that? That's not a good idea,'" Decker said, recalling times he explained Sanchez how to minimize pitch counts against bottom-of-the-order hitters as opposed to setting up and getting out a quality hitter.
"These are all things that he really has no idea how to do."