The Pittsburgh Pirates have loads of speed in the minor leagues, and, there may be no player who personifies that quite like Lolo Sanchez. Sanchez signed with the Pirates at 16 years old out of the Dominican Republic. Now 20, Lolo is advancing ahead of schedule through the system. He finished the season in single A(adv), where the average age is 22 years old.
Sanchez's speed has been touted since we first saw him play in 2016, but it took some time for it to showcase on the field. Over the last two years, Sanchez has stolen 30 and 33 bases (respectively) at about a 70% success rate. That's not bad, but he's going to need to improve his timing and his jump if he's going to get that up to an elite level. The good news is that he has the physical tools.
Sanchez is actually one of many speedsters in the Pirates' prospect pipeline. I could see the likes of Ji-Hwan Bae, Sammy Siani, Travis Swaggerty, and Jared Oliva all being capable of 30 - 40 stolen bases a year.
When Lolo Sanchez is comfortable at the plate, he's a patient, solid contact hitter that doesn't strike out. He's struggled adjusting to better pitching after promotions, but given that he is routinely two years younger than the average player at his level, that is totally reasonable.
That dichotomy showed up this season as he started the year off at low A Greensboro, but was called up to high A Bradenton midway through the season. In low A, Sanchez looked comfortable. In 263 plate appearances, he hit .301, slugged .451, and had a 10.6% strikeout rate. Those are the numbers you want to see from Sanchez. When he was promoted to Bradenton, he looked outmatched - hitting .196, slugging .270, and had a 19% strikeout rate. Even a 19% strikeout rate isn't bad, but Lolo has shown the ability to be elite when it comes to not striking out.
Like I said, it's absolutely reasonable for a young player to need time to adjust to a higher-level of competition, and the good news for Sanchez is that we've seen this from him before. His first year in low A ball (2018), he had very similar, disappointing numbers. After getting a year to adjust, he was a force. I see no reason why he cannot do that again.
In the field, Lolo uses his wheels to shrink gaps and he has a solid glove to make plays. He has experience all over the outfield - primarily in center while in Greensboro, but was moved to left when he was promoted because Travis Swaggerty occupied center in Bradenton. I could see Sanchez developing into a Gold Glover - especially once he nails down a home in the outfield.
I would expect a full year from Sanchez in Bradenton this season. We should look for him to improve upon his plate approach - getting that average up and those strikeout numbers down.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife