Pittsburgh Pirates: Four Unsung Minor League Performances

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JULY 21: The socks of Adam Frazier #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates as he stands on first base during the seventh inning of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 21, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JULY 21: The socks of Adam Frazier #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates as he stands on first base during the seventh inning of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 21, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Outfielder Lolo Sanchez

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed outfielder Lolo Sanchez back in July 2015. Going into this season Sanchez had a few solid seasons, but nothing that really stood out. He showed plus speed and a decent ability to reach base. But that was about it.

This season, however, he added a fair bit of power to his game. Sanchez played the full season at High-A Greensboro where he batted for a good .264/.372/.453 line, along with 17 home runs. Sanchez hit more home runs in just 437 plate appearances this year than he did in total between 2016 and 2019. He put up a strong .190 isolated slugging percentage, along with a .365 wOBA, and 124 wRC+.

Sanchez struck out just 16.4% of the time, the best strikeout rate in the Pirate minor league system (min. 300 plate appearances). Plus he continued to walk at a strong pace, having a 12.6% walk rate. But his massive power boost didn’t come at the cost of his speed. He still swiped 30 bases in 39 attempts.

Sanchez’s big power output comes from his career-high flyball rate of 41%, and career-best line drive rate of 25.1%. Plus he was hitting far fewer ground balls with a sub-35% ground ball rate (33.9%). Heck, you may even be able to argue he got unlucky. Despite a line drive rate of around 25% and a healthy flyball rate while avoiding grounders, he only had a .282 batting average on balls in play.

Overall, it was a very promising season for the 22-year-old outfielder. If the Pittsburgh Pirates decide to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft (something I think is very likely for Sanchez), he’ll probably start the season out at Double-A. If his power output wasn’t just a fluke, he may even get his first taste of big-league action late into the 2022 season.

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