ATLANTA — Adrian Sanchez will start at second base against a left-handed starter Sunday, in keeping with Dave Martinez’s recent lineup habits.

Since the Nationals made Sanchez a September call-up, Martinez has found playing time for the infielder on days like these, and his splits support the plan. In a small sample size of 21 at-bats against left-handed pitching, Sanchez is hitting .333 with an .857 OPS. In a smaller sample size of 15 at-bats against right-handed pitching, he is hitting .067 with a .192 OPS. He was already the most reliable defensive second baseman on this roster, less flashy than Wilmer Difo, but more consistent. As a result, while Michael A. Taylor has fallen into a late-game-replacement role and Andrew Stevenson waits for one pinch-hit at-bat a day, Sanchez has pushed his way into September playing time, which can be hard to come by with an expanded roster.

Sanchez was never considered an elite prospect. He played 10 years in the minors before getting his first major league call-up last year. At 28, he has yet to push himself beyond Class AAAA qualification — the unofficial category of players who never quite stick in the big leagues, but always seem to play well enough at Class AAA to get another call-up. For a team that will likely be looking for a starting second baseman next year, could Sanchez be playing his way into consideration for a big league roster spot, providing enough offense that the Nationals would be fine starting next season with Wilmer Difo, Howie Kendrick and Sanchez piecing together at-bats?

Perhaps. Should the Nationals decide to reach outside the organization for a starting second baseman, while bumping Difo down to a utility role, Sanchez might find himself back in Syracuse. His minor league splits do not suggest he will be able to maintain his current pace against lefties. He actually fared worse against left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching in 2017. This season in Class AAA, he hit .247 with a .651 OPS against lefties and .228 with a .621 OPS against righties.

When the Nationals called up Sanchez this year, Martinez said Syracuse Manager Randy Knorr told him Sanchez had figured something out against lefties and was hitting them consistently. But Sanchez is also the rare player who seems to hit better in the majors than he does in the minors. He is a .316 career hitter against lefties in the big leagues in 40 plate appearances. Difo, by comparison, has hit .233 in more than 200 career big league plate appearances against lefties.

In other words, as the Nationals assess their second base situation next year, Sanchez might be playing his way into a conversation — if not the one about the everyday job, then certainly about regular bench duty as a right-handed bat off the bench. That he can play the infield and has tried the outfield should help, too. Then again, a lot can change between now and spring training.


Victor Robles CF

Trea Turner SS

Bryce Harper RF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Ryan Zimmerman 1B

Matt Wieters C

Adrian Sanchez 2B

Tanner Roark P


Ronald Acuna Jr. LF

Ozzie Albies 2B

Freddie Freeman 1B

Nick Markakis RF

Charlie Culberson 3B

Ender Inciarte CF

Tyler Flowers C

Dansby Swanson SS

Sean Newcomb P