Stone Crabs' Sanchez starting to find groove

Rays No. 4 prospect collects two doubles, first homer of season

Jesus Sanchez led the Midwest League in RBIs last season with 82 in 117 games. (Paul R. Gierhart/

By Rob Terranova / | April 14, 2018 1:01 AM

Jesus Sanchez broke out in a big way Saturday night.

The Rays' fourth-ranked prospect hit his first Florida State League homer and a pair of doubles to lead Class A Advanced Charlotte to a 7-4 victory over Lakeland at Joker Marchant Stadium.

"It was just a fantastic night tonight for him," Stone Crabs hitting coach Joe Szekely said. "He's been real close and we knew it was coming and then tonight it happened. It was just one of those nights you could tell that things were going to go well based on his first at-bat. He ended up lacing three balls tonight as hard as anyone could hit them."

Sanchez was marred in a 2-for-20 slump to start the season but has collected six hits in 12 at-bats since to bring his batting average up to .250.

Gameday box score

"He was clearly pressing a little bit early on here," Szekely said. "Because of his year last year and because of the accolades he was getting, he wants to live up to that. But he was putting pressure on himself and I think he's finally starting to relax and get back to doing the things that he does best. When he's on time and relaxed, he's really fun to watch."'s 57th-ranked prospect led off the second inning with a rocket that bounced over the center field wall for a ground-rule double. He came around to score on a David Olmedo-Barrera two-bagger, giving the Stone Crabs a 2-0 lead.

Sanchez turned around an 0-1 pitch from Tom de Blok with two outs in the third and deposited it well beyond the right-center field fence for a solo shot to provide a 6-0 cushion. He bounced out in the fifth and led off the eighth with a double in his final at-bat.

"I think this is the player he is going to be," Szekely said of the 2015 international class talent. "He's got the ability to hit for power and for average. When you have the speed off the bat that he does, and it makes that special sound, there's not a park anywhere that can hold him.

"He's still just a young man that is growing into his body and trying to figure some things out, but the sky is the limit with him. You don't see guys with his ability a whole lot and when you have somebody like that, it's special. He can beat you a lot of different ways."

MiLB include

Sanchez garnered attention last season at Class A Bowling Green, where he finished second in the Midwest League with a .305 batting average and 145 hits in 117 games. He also topped the circuit with 82 RBIs.

"The way he swings the bat he can create some big things real fast and that's a gift that he has," Szekely said about the 20-year-old outfielder. "We always say, very few guys make that special sound when the ball comes off their bat, and he's one of those guys."

Rays No. 7 prospect Lucius Fox also doubled and drove in two runs, while 11th-ranked Josh Lowe hit his second homer of the season, a two-run shot with two outs in the second. Roel Ramirez threw three innings of hitless relief for Charlotte, striking out three, and Spencer Jones worked a scoreless ninth for his second save.

Rob Terranova is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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