CHARLESTON, W.VA. — Lolo Sanchez entered the 2018 season with lofty expectations placed on him, with good reason, but through the first few weeks of the schedule it has been a somewhat rough start for the West Virginia Power center fielder.
The 18-year old Dominican emerged as one of the top prospects in the Pirates’ organization during his two seasons of professional ball — first in the Dominican Summer League and last year in the Gulf Coast League — and logged an impressive spring at Pirate City that included a highlight-reel straight steal of home against the Phillies in action with the big league spring team.
Sanchez was tabbed as one of the players to watch for the Power prior to the season, but in his first 10 games through Monday he has posted a .225/.311/.425 slash line, struck out 13 times compared to taking just four walks, accounted for zero stolen bases and hasn’t hit for much power with one home run and six runs driven in. He has hit much better against right-handed pitching (.267) than left-handed pitching (.100). In the field, he’s been tagged with two errors.
Last season with the GCL Pirates, Sanchez slashed .284/.359/.417 with four home runs, 14 stolen bases and just 19 strikeouts in 204 at-bats across 54 games played. Compared to those numbers, his dip in production to start the 2018 season has been noticeable.
Power manager Wyatt Toregas, however, is not ready to push the panic button on the young prospect.
“I saw him in spring when he was feeling good, and this kid is a player — especially for his age,” Toregas said. “He has power and he can hit for average. He’s pressing a little bit to make a good impression. He’ll settle down. You can tell he’s way out in front trying to go get everything, he just needs to relax and trust his ability.”
The Power players as a whole seem to be taking their time warming up, which can be expected to some degree with players at this level considering the unusually cold weather for this time of year around the South Atlantic League contributing to a handful of postponements. These are players that are still learning how to be professional baseball players and routines are important. With all of the weather issues, developing those routines can be tough. Still, it’s hasn’t been all bad for West Virginia. When things are good for the Power, they have been very good. Consistency, however, has been a problem.
The club leads the SAL in home runs (13), but also has more strikeouts (118) through Monday’s games than any other team in the league. West Virginia is among the worst in the league with a .233 team batting average, but is among the league’s best with a .330 on-base percentage and leads the SAL in slugging at .434.
Toregas thinks his players, including Sanchez, can turn the corner to become more consistent on the field. It’s just going to take a little time and more reps.
“They’re just young,” Toregas said. “They haven’t played enough ball to know. We see a lot of things going on. The thing with these guys right now is they’re up and down. We win one and we kill them, then we lose 15-2. These guys are inconsistent because of their age. They’re going to be thrown into some situations at the professional level that are a little faster and they don’t know where to go yet. So that’s our job, to point that out. They just haven’t done a whole lot of that yet. It’s not that they can’t do it, they just haven’t had enough experience.”
Sanchez flashed the talent that made him one of the top players in the Pittsburgh farm system on Monday at Charleston (S.C.). He went 2 for 4 with two doubles and took a walk in West Virginia’s 5-1 win. They key going forward will be, like Toregas said, settling down and being consistent.
“(Sanchez) can run, he can throw — he’s got all the tools,” he said. “He needs to learn a little bit more. Being young, he needs more experience obviously but the kid is a gamer. He shows up to play every single day. I love having him the lineup. He’s a fire starter, we just need to get him comfortable, get him hot. Once he does that, he’ll be really fun to watch.”