CHARLESTON, W.Va — Calvin Mitchell and Lolo Sanchez entered the 2018 season as two of the names to watch for the West Virginia Power. Six weeks in, and those of us that have been watching see players heading in different directions.
Let’s start with the good:
Mitchell, to put it plainly, has been among the best players in the South Atlantic League this season. The 19-year old from Southern California is among the team and league leaders in batting average (.306), slugging percentage (.507), on-base percentage (.362), home runs (4), he doesn’t strike out too often and has shown some patience in taking walks — you get the idea.
When Pirates Prospects caught up with Mitchell last month, he talked about his work to refine his approach at the plate — being more selective, being able to identify and punish mistakes by pitchers and some tweaks to his swing mechanics — and how, to that point, that work had been paying off.
One month later and Mitchell is still getting better. The numbers are there, clearly, but one thing noticeable on a game-to-game basis that won’t show up in a box score is how Mitchell carries himself.
The minor leagues are all about development, but that means more than just swinging a bat or throwing a ball. Players at this level need to develop all of their skills, and that includes the mental ones. Power manager Wyatt Toregas has mentioned Mitchell’s “Southern Cal” demeanor, but he also heaped praise on the outfielder for showing the maturity to stick to a work plan, see the results on the field but not be satisfied or complacent at the same time. That’s still the case for Mitchell.
Sanchez, on the other hand, just can’t seem to buy a break.
The 19-year old Dominican has been one of the biggest disappointments in the Pirates minor league system in 2018. When we checked in on him early in the season, Sanchez was just inconsistent. One month later and it’s safe to label what he’s dealing with as a full-blown slump.
Two weeks into 2018 Sanchez was slashing .225/.311/.425 with 13 stirkeouts and four walks. Entering play Tuesday those numbers are .165/.242/.243 with 34 strikeouts and 11 walks. He’s not really a power guy, so his one home run is not really a red flag, but there are plenty of those to go around right now with Sanchez.
Toregas said he thought Sanchez was pressing a month ago, and he was. In fact it appears he never stopped pressing. Watching a Sanchez at-bat now, even if you’re not professionally obliged to pay attention to such things, you can tell something is off. He doesn’t look comfortable in the batter’s box.
If Mitchell has the look of a player that will be climbing the ranks in the Pirates’ system in the years to come, Sanchez, at least so far in 2018, has the look of a player that will be back in Charleston in 2019. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a thing that sometimes happens.
It’s always nice for the organization when a player pans out and can continue to make the leaps in the minors without any hiccups, but those hiccups are a part of the development process for some players. Patience, to a point, will be key with Sanchez going forward. He’s very young and can turn things around, but whatever he is doing now is not working. It’ll be up to Toregas, Power hitting coach Chris Petersen and Sanchez to figure out what that is and make the proper adjustments going forward this summer.