If you look at the Mariners' top prospect lists, you'll see a heavy concentration of up-the-middle talent. Quality catchers, centerfielders, and shortstops are littered throughout the Mariners' farm system. Recent draft picks Cole Young and Colt Emerson and international signee Michael Arroyo come to mind. The forgotten athletic toolsy prospect in the bunch is Axel Sanchez.
The Mariners signed the Dominican middle infielder in the 2019-2020 international class. He had a solid first professional season in 2021 in the Dominican Summer League, slashing .259/.358/.679 while flashing his 55-grade arm routinely. However, 2022 was his true breakout season as he starred and climbed three levels of the system, ending up in High-A Everett.
His stay with the Modesto Nuts was arguably his most successful stint, as he flashed all five tools as an 18-year-old for most of the year. The power and speed combination was evident, causing many scouts to throw out Manny Machado comparisons. Sanchez authored a stellar slash line in the California League (.305/.401/1.019) in 33 games.
Most of the helium is out of Sanchez's balloon after he struggled with injuries and a lot of swing-and-miss in Everett this season. The strikeout rate has always been a concern for most scouts, but this year's 29.7% in High-A is alarming. For Sanchez to realize his potential, which is probably a quality utility infielder at the big-league level, he needs to add more contact to his game. Defense, the arm, and legitimate speed will always be the tools that propel Sanchez up the organizational ladder, though.
2024 will be a big year for Sanchez, as he will likely repeat High-A (Everett) with a chance to rise to Arkansas by the end of the season. That trajectory depends on the system's high-upside shortstops (Arroyo, Peete, Young).