Pittsburgh Pirates underrated outfield prospect Lolo Sanchez is off to a great start to the 2022 campaign at Double-A Altoona
Outfield is one of the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system’s better strengths. There are plenty of talented players at Triple-A Indianapolis who have gotten regular playing time in the grass, Canaan Smtih-Njgiba, Cal Mitchell, Ji-Hwan Bae, and Travis Swaggerty. But Double-A Altoona has the most robust overall roster.
Aside from the highest-ranking names like Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales, and Quinn Priester, you also have a stacked, young outfield. One of the best starts to the season from the Curve is from Lolo Sanchez, and Sanchez has continued to build for a breakout 2021 campaign and is becoming an underrated potential long-term centerfield option.
In 2021, Sanchez had his best full offensive season. In 437 plate appearances, Sanchez batted .264/.372/.453. Sanchez had previously shown an excellent ability to avoid K’s, which carried into 2021, but always seemed to lack a decent walk rate. However, Sanchez had a 12.6% walk rate and 16.5% strikeout rate this time around.
However, the big headline for Sanchez in 2021 was his power output. He hit 17 home runs with a .190 ISO. In comparison, he had just 13 home runs from 2016 through 2019. His massive power boost came from a giant uptick in flyball rate and line-drive rate. Going into 2021, he never had an LD% above 20% and only ever once had an FB% above 40%, but had a 25.1% LD% and 41% FB% last season. When everything was said and done, Sanchez had a .365 wOBA and 124 wRC+.
Sanchez has kept hitting extremely well into 2022. Through his first 75 plate appearances, Sanchez has 20 hits and more walks than strikeouts (11:9 BB:K ratio). Although his ISO fell to just .115, the outfielder has seen his fly ball rate increase to 43.2%. His line drive rate has taken a step back but is still at a respectable 21.2% mark. His bottom line currently consists of a .883 OPS, .402 wOBA, and 155 wRC+.
He has split his time pretty much evenly between every outfield spot, though he has a few more innings played in left. He has the speed to play center field regularly and is considered a good defensive outfielder. Sanchez also has 60-grade speed, which he has used to swiped 30+ bases in each of the previous three campaigns.
At 23-years-old and doing extremely well at Double-A, Sanchez could find his way to Triple-A Indianapolis later this season. If he continues to hit well, he may end up as a potential long-term outfield option.