TAMPA, Fla. -- Gary Sanchez may have missed his chance to be on the Yankees' Opening Day roster, but the organization's top catching prospect hopes to take those frustrations out on Minor League pitching to punch a return ticket to the Bronx.
Sanchez, rated as the Yankees' No. 3 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, is preparing to begin the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Coming into camp, he was viewed as the front-runner to serve as Brian McCann's backup, but he produced just one hit in 21 spring at-bats (.048).
"It was definitely a nice opportunity to be here," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I had a chance, like any of the other catchers here. Just to be here and be part of that group, it was definitely an opportunity, but it's a long season. If I work hard, anything could happen in the future."
While the hits did not fall for Sanchez this spring, the Yankees still see plenty of promise in his right-handed bat.
He posted a robust .274/.330/.485 split line last year at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A, then enjoyed a monster showing in the Arizona Fall League that saw him slug seven homers and throw out 62 percent of runners attempting to steal.
"Unfortunately, the offensive numbers were not very good [in Spring Training]," Sanchez said. "I tried very hard. I worked really hard every day with my hitting coach. Unfortunately, I couldn't get better results. I'll keep working hard.
"I felt fine playing defense. I felt great. At the same time, I also felt great in my at-bats. It's just that I didn't get the results that I wanted."
Manager Joe Girardi believes that Sanchez, 23, may have been pressing as he sensed his first legitimate opportunity to make an Opening Day roster, and he still has a bright future as a starting big league catcher.
"I just think there's little things that he could work on defensively and offensively, but I really think he's going to be a really good player," Girardi said.
"When you look at Sanchey, he has the upside to be an everyday player. For his development, it's probably important to go finish him off [in the Minors] and at some point see what you have, but I think you're going to have a really good player."
The Yankees saw Sanchez improve as a blocker and receiver last year. They will look for him to continue honing those skills as the year begins, remaining very much on the radar to help the big league club later in the year.
"The decision is up to them where I go and where I should play," Sanchez said. "What I need to worry about is that wherever I go, I need to keep working and keep improving, keep getting better, and hopefully, one day make the team."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.