Prospect Smackdown: Gary Sanchez vs. Blake Swihart
It’s been a while since our last Prospect Smackdown, when we saw Archie Bradley earn a narrow victory over Taijuan Walker in a battle of potential future No. 1 starters. Today, we’ll return to the offensive side of the ball and compare two prospects who are about as different as they come: Gary Sanchez and Blake Swihart.
It’s a battle of upside vs. probability, of average vs. power and, of course, of evil vs. good. A year ago, the answer to this question would’ve been “Sanchez” without hesitation. Now, it’s much closer.
Prospect Smackdown No. 7: – Who’s the better catching prospect: Gary Sanchez or Blake Swihart?
The Case for Sanchez
Quite frankly, the case for Sanchez is an obvious one: he’s got a much greater offensive upside than Swihart. With 6-plus power potential and the ability to hit for non-embarrassing averages, Sanchez could put up some gaudy numbers from a fantasy POV. His .254/.313/.420 line in High-A last season isn’t terribly inspiring, but he was a touch better in a smaller sample size in Double-A, and he doesn’t turn 22 until December. There are several factors that limit the likelihood of Sanchez reaching his ceiling, and we’ll get to those below. But if we’re talking pure ceiling, Sanchez might have the second highest of any fantasy catching prospect, trailing only Jorge Alfaro. One season of sub-par baseball with aggressive assignments doesn’t change that.
The Case against Sanchez
Upside is one thing. Probability is quite another. Sanchez’s hit tool might limit the ultimate utility of his power, as he’s no lock to even reach the .250 mark. His lack of defensive progress might make him a first baseman, despite a plus-plus arm. And his questionable makeup and rumored lack of work ethic means he might not make it at all. If Sanchez is a catcher who hits .250 with 25 homers, he’ll be plenty valuable. If he’s a first baseman who puts up those numbers, he’ll be undrafted in most leagues.
The Case for Swihart
While catching prospects are inherently risk, Swihart is a fairly safe bet for a player of his profile to reach the majors and be at least a semi-interesting fantasy piece. He’s hit at every stop in the minors, including a .296/.366/.428 mark in High-A as a 21-year-old last season, and he’s a switch hitter, which makes him even more intriguing. Swihart is considered a good defender with zero risk of moving out from behind the plate, and a successful stint in Double-A this year would put him on track to make his MLB debut in mid-to-late 2015. He lacks top-5 fantasy catcher upside, but the odds of you rostering Swihart in a fantasy league some day are greater than the odds of you rostering Sanchez.
The Case against Swihart
As you can probably infer from above, a lack of upside is the real issue here. Scouts don’t doubt that Swihart can hit, but they do doubt how much he’ll hit for power and the results to this point in the minors haven’t been terribly promising. Swihart has hit just nine homers in over 800 career PA, and while he does hit his fair share of doubles, it’s reasonable to doubt whether he’ll ever become a true 15-homer threat at the MLB level. That won’t matter too much if he hits .285, but if he hits .260-.270, which is more likely, it will leave him as a fairly uninteresting fantasy name. There’s top-10 catcher upside here, but that’s as high as I can go in good faith.