GLENDALE, Ariz. — Yolmer Sanchez said he didn’t pay much attention to the chatter, as misguided as it probably was, that the White Sox were entertaining ideas of signing free-agent Mike Moustakas to play third base.
“I don’t really pay attention to that,’’ Sanchez said. “I try to just do my job and focus on getting better. I love the way Moustakas plays. Whenever we play Kansas City, he is a guy I watch to learn from. I know I can play defense, I can play third and I have to show what I can do. They believe in me as the third baseman.’’
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The Sox do believe, at least for this season, that the switch-hitting Sanchez looks to be the guy. And why not? Manager Rick Renteria called him the Sox’ best defensive infielder last season. Sanchez batted .267/.319/.413 with 12 homers and 59 RBI in 141 games and was third on the team in wins above replacement behind Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.
Sanchez, who also has played shortstop and second base and made one major-league appearance in right field, is looking to become a full-time player with the rebuilding Sox.
“The goal is to be an every-day player at one position and to show what you can do in one full season,’’ he said.
Moustakas, who was looking for a bigger contract, settled for a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Royals. He hit 38 home runs and made the All-Star team but was a 1.8 WAR player, according to Baseball Reference. Sanchez, who won a one-year, $2.35 million contract in arbitration (a raise from $546,000), was a 3.5 WAR player.
Sanchez, 25, said he can maintain the numbers he put up at the plate last season. This spring, he is batting .378/.410/.595 with a homer, double and two triples.
“The difference between Sanchy when I was a bench coach [in 2016] and last year was that he got more playing time, continued to mature and gained more confidence,’’ Renteria said. “He’ll give you everything he’s got and will continue to improve as a hitter. He’ll give you a tremendously good major league at-bat.’’
That said, Sanchez enjoys playing defense more than anything — perhaps with the exception of playing the boyish class clown and agitator in the clubhouse.
“I love playing defense, it doesn’t matter where,’’ he said. “I love making plays, helping my pitcher.’’
“He’ll be playing a lot of third base,’’ Renteria said. “I don’t want to discount Matty Davidson playing third — he’ll also be playing first and DH-ing. Sanchy will also play some shortstop and second base when we want to give [Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada] a day. Fortunately for us, we have Sanchy and Leury [Garcia] who can play multiple positions on the infield.’’
What makes third base distinct from the middle infield is less reaction time, not to mention the long throw across the field to first.
“It’s what they call the hot corner,’’ Sanchez said.
We’ve heard that.
But fear not, Sox fans.
“I have good hands. I’m going to catch everything,’’ Sanchez said.
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