After bringing Humberto Sanchez into the fold as draft-and-follow pitcher, Sanchez has carried enormous potential, but has always come up short in production. A breakout Arizona Fall League for Sanchez though could be just the thing Sanchez needs to turn the corner in his minor league career.
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
After transferring to Connors State for the 2002 season, Humberto displayed outstanding skills, including a 92-93 mph fastball with outstanding sink, and was projected to be taken in the first round of the upcoming draft. Smartly, the Tigers didn't let that happen, offering him a $1 million dollar bonus to sign with the organization.
The 2004 season saw Sanchez improve enough to earn a late season promotion to Erie of the Eastern League, where he posted a 2.13 ERA in 2 starts, with 15 strikeouts over 12+ innings. Sanchez's 2005 season was a rocky one to say the least. Various injuries limited him to 15 appearances, before his dominating trip to the Arizona Fall League.
Scouts love Sanchez' intimidating fastball and the incredible sinking action he is able to generate with it. In combination with his overpowering fastball, Humberto flashes an above-average curveball and a passable change-up. His curveball is inconsistent at best, but he has shown progress with the pitch during his three years in the system.
Unfortunately, Sanchez' change-up has not progressed with the same success as his curveball, but the makings of a solid major league pitch can be seen. With his large frame and defining arm action, Sanchez often reminds scouts of Roberto Hernandez.
Much like Hernandez early in his career, Humberto struggles to repeat his mechanics, leading to spotty control, and high walk totals. He is not a natural athlete, and often struggles fielding his position, but understands positioning enough to help compensate for this.
Aside from his minor surgery following his freshman year at Rockland Community College, Sanchez' arm has remained the modicum of good health. Sanchez' promotion to Erie in 2004 was cut short when a freak shower accident caused a serious knee injury, requiring offseason surgery.
He missed the beginning of the 2005 season completing his recovery from knee surgery and also recovering from an oblique strain. Remaining healthy and dedicating himself to a strict conditioning program will be keys to Humberto's future as a pitcher.
In and around his various injuries the last two years, Sanchez has made small strides in becoming the pitcher the Tigers have projected him to be. It wasn't until his AFL performance (2.15 ERA in 29.1 IP) that Sanchez really made everyone take notice of his progress. With his mounting health concerns and maddening inconsistency, Sanchez has quickly fallen down this list.
However, if his encouraging trip to Arizona is a harbinger of things to come in 2006, he could rocket straight back towards the Top 10. The 2006 season will likely be critical in determining Sanchez's ultimate value to the organization. Another step forward and Humberto will solidify himself as a legitimate middle of the rotation starter.
On the other hand, continued struggles could lead to a role as a high leverage reliever by the beginning of 2007. Either way, Sanchez's raw stuff is likely to get him a shot in the big leagues over the next two seasons; it will be up to him what role that chance presents itself.