Mariners' prospect spotlight: Axel Sanchez

Dynamic middle infielder Axel Sanchez looks to put an injury-riddled 2023 behind him and springboard through the system with a loud Northwest League season.
Seattle Mariners v Detroit Tigers
Seattle Mariners v Detroit Tigers / Mark Cunningham/GettyImages
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Two years ago, a dynamic young shortstop who drew comparisons to a young Manny Machado took the California League by storm. As an 18-year-old, Axel Sanchez played across three levels, with the majority of the 2022 season spent with the Modesto Nuts. In 33 games, he'd slash a robust .305/.401/1.019, and while those numbers are telling, it was the tools scouts raved about. 

Despite the setbacks, Sanchez's resilience shines through. His breakout 2022 campaign resulted in a climb up the Mariners' Top 30 prospect list. Unfortunately, many injuries hampered his development in 2023, resulting in an uneven season and losing that prospect shine. He'd play 72 games and author a subpar .199/.285/.638 slash, and even the defense, which was his elite tool, faltered. For tightly bound athletes like Sanchez, lower body injuries like the ones he dealt with in 2023 can derail entire seasons. 

Thankfully, the now 21-year-old infielder is healthy, repeating a season in High A Everett, and the ability to impact games is back in a big way, sparking hope for a promising future. The Aquasox are only four games into the season, so the sample size is small, but Sanchez is displaying more mobility in the field.

Offensively, Sanchez has room for growth and draws many parallels with another Mariner prospect, Jonatan Clase. Both players joined the Mariners system in 2020 with high ceilings and low floors due to untapped potential and the need for development. Four years later, Clase is curbing the swing-and-miss, has improved immensely in the field, and is leaning into his 70-grade speed. While Sanchez is slower than Clase, he could follow this blueprint developmentally, taking incremental steps forward every season. Realizing his potential comes down to having an entire season of uninterrupted development in Everett. 

This season is a crucial one for Sanchez. The excellent news is he is on par with his peers in the Northwest League from an age perspective. However, this could be a make-or-break year for a prospect on the up and up just a season ago. The dynamic shortstop should continue to hone his five-tool skill set in the Northwest League in 2023 with a remote chance to finish the season in Double-A.