The Pittsburgh Pirates should forget about Justin Smoak, and Ike Davis, and Kendrys Morales, or whomever you’ve heard about coming to Pittsburgh this winter. Perhaps the answer to the “who’s on first’ debate is right under our noses.
No, not Andrew Lambo or Pedro Alvarez changing positions or anything like that. Remember folks, the Pirates do have a guy on the roster that made an All-Star team in the recent past playing first-base. Granted, it was one of those “your team stinks and we have to pick someone from your squad” selection, but an All-Star nonetheless.
Gaby Sanchez was once a hot commodity with the Florida Marlins and as we all know he fell off a cliff production wise as soon as Ozzie Guillen arrived in South Florida. Since being acquired mid-way through the 2012 campaign the Pirates haven’t seen much of the player Sanchez used to be. He’s been decent at times but he’s mostly struggled at the plate. His biggest problem quite honestly has been his lack of bat speed. Perhaps that has changed.
Word out of camp is that Gaby Sanchez is twenty pounds lighter and more muscular. Someone took the off-season seriously and that’s music to my ears. What a terrific opportunity this is for Gaby. James Loney never signed here, Garrett Jones was shipped out, Justin Morneau bolted for Denver, Ike Davis and Justin Smoak were never acquired. This is a golden ticket just waiting for Sanchez to cash in. If his bat speed improves and he stops popping up to third every other at bat we could have a legit diamond in the rough. Defensively, Sanchez has always been above average. Without the spare-tire around the mid-section he could be even better. There were a few balls hit his way last season that range wise he should have gotten to had he not been so chunky. Now with the blubber gone he should be getting to those grounders.
Even if everything goes great for Gaby Sanchez this Spring Training and he wins the job he won’t nor shouldn’t get more than 400 at bats. No amount of Jenny Craig or DDP Yoga will make him hit righties better than a .250 clip. The Buccos are still going to need to find someone to hit against tough right-handers and I guess that’s where Andrew Lambo comes in. I’m worried that Lambo can’t handle sitting on the bench most nights and getting 200 AB’s spread over 6 months. Perhaps that’s where Chris McGuinness could come in. Either way the starting job right now is Gaby Sanchez’s to lose and I don’t think he’ll drop the ball. I expect a good year out of him. 425 AB’s, 15 HRS 65 RBI’s .265 AVG .375 OBP.
A quick note on A.J. Burnett. I live around the Philadelphia area and I can tell you they are giddy they signed him. They don’t care about the money. They just cared about whether or not their GM would be dumb enough to give him a multi-year deal and he didn’t. Burnett won’t do well with the Phillies and won’t enjoy the media there. He bombed out in New York mainly because the ballpark played with his mind but also he couldn’t deal with the beat reporters who routinely called him out for his crybaby antics. I remember one game where he blew a 6-0 lead by the 4th inning and nearly threw a temper tantrum on the mound when Joe Girardi hooked him. The fans booed him and you could just see he was close to giving the Bronx fans the old Jack McDowell middle-finger.
A.J. was fortunate he came to Pittsburgh after the New York Yankees soured on him. He played in a pitcher’s ballpark and on a team who cared about defense and positioning. He found success early and thrived when cheered and relished the fact he was a clubhouse leader. He isnt getting that in Cheesesteak-land. He’s going into a veteran clubhouse full of spoiled underachievers like Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley. He’s going to struggle in that ballpark and wait till he gets ahold of that geriatric infield. You think he can bully J-Roll around the way he did with Clint Barmes in Texas last year? Rollins will ignore him or worse scream back and still not get in position to make the double-play. The first time he acts like a child when Sandberg pulls him the Philly fans will shower him with boos.
If he wins 8 games for the Phillies I’ll be amazed. I think he’ll be gone to a contender by trade deadline.