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DRaysBay Top Prospects 2019: No. 4, OF Jesus Sanchez

The Rays have emphasized adding international talent, and Jesus Sanchez is one of their top prospects.

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SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays signed Jesus Sanchez on July 2, 2014 for a $400,000 bonus. He was one of the secondary prizes of the signing period for the Rays behind the top overall international prospect, Adrian Rondon. Sanchez ranked No. 27 on Baseball America’s list of international prospects for the 2014 signing period.

In the years since his signing, Sanchez has become the top prospect the Rays have signed in what could become a bounty of talent even with Rondon busting.

Juan Toribio, while with The Athletic ($), wrote a fascinating piece about Sanchez’s early life and his baseball background.

Sanchez had a successful season with Class A-Advanced Charlotte as a 20-year-old. He hit .301/.331/.462 with 10 homers in 378 plate appearances, good for a 125 wRC+. Sanchez’s reasonable 18.8 percent strikeout rate was offset by a below-average 4.0 percent walk rate.

Sanchez earned the opportunity to represent the Rays in the Futures Game for the World Team.

In August, he was then promoted to Double-A Montgomery. It would be the first time he really struggled at the plate in his professional career. He hit .214/.300/.327 with a 79 wRC+ in 110 plate appearances with only one homer.

Sanchez’s strikeout rate stayed flat at 19.1 percent, but his walk rate soared to 10.0 percent. He was more patient, but he wasn’t able to maintain his contact quality.

Sanchez’s best attribute at the plate is his elite bat speed and hand-eye coordination. He hits for above-average power. He has the arm and instincts to be an average right fielder defensively.

The thing that could limit his upside from being an elite middle-of-the-order hitter could be his lack of patience. A lack of walks will force the batting average to do the heavy lifting but doesn’t preclude him from being a successful major league hitter.

What to expect in 2019

Sanchez is likely to start the season with Montgomery. It would be nice for him to keep some of the walk gains, but more importantly, he needs to go back to making quality contact with the baseball. It’s unlikely he becomes a Joey Votto-type hitter where OBP is his strength, but small gains can be incorporated into his batting profile.

Around the middle of the season, it’s quite likely that Sanchez will have the opportunity to advance to Triple-A Durham.

Sanchez was placed on the 40-man to avoid the Rule 5 draft, and now the clock starts ticking on his timeline to the majors.

He isn’t likely to be in the majors in 2019, but with a successful season in the minors, he could put himself on track to help the big league club by the middle of 2020.