What will come of Pittsburgh Pirate Tony Sanchez?


When Russell Martin signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and left the Pittsburgh Pirates organization this past offseason, the team knew it had taken a big hit at one of the most important positions in baseball. The catcher doesn’t just handle the ball after every pitch during a game, he also gives the pitcher a selection of pitches to choose from, frames pitches, blocks balls thrown in the dirt, makes plays thrown to home, attempts to throw runners out, and so many other tasks that generally go unnoticed throughout the course of a game.

Martin exemplified these traits in an era that is becoming so heavily focused on the value of catcher defense and intangibles. The Pirates did not have another catcher in their system that was strong enough in these attributes that was ready to make the jump to the Majors. This is largely because the team’s 1st round draft pick from 2009 hasn’t panned out as expected.

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Tony Sanchez, drafted 4th overall by the Pirates in 2009, doesn’t even use a catcher’s mit as his only glove anymore. Having decided to hone his skills in the Dominican Winter League this past offseason, management wanted to give Sanchez some work at 1st base to add to his versatility and to hopefully give him greater opportunity for Major League at-bats. That was after the team traded for former New York Yankee backstop Francisco Cervelli and avoided arbitration with Chris Stewart, who figure to be the catching duo the Pirates will go with this upcoming season. That leaves no room for Sanchez behind the dish on the 2015 Major League roster.

Nor does Sanchez have a true opportunity for at-bats at 1st base this season either. Pedro Alvarez is making a highly documented move to 1st base and offseason acquisition Corey Hart figures to spell Pedro against lefties. Sanchez would also have to climb past fellow 26-year-old Andrew Lambo on the depth chart, who should give the Pirates 1st base and outfield depth off the bench.

…management wanted to give Sanchez some work at 1st base to add to his versatility and to hopefully give him greater opportunity for Major League at-bats

So, where does that leave Sanchez in the Pirates mix for 2015? He’ll probably remain a depth option in case of an injury, but not much more than that. He was given the opportunity to backup and eventually succeed Russell Martin in 2013, but  hasn’t been able to take advantage of these opportunities, batting .252 with a 42/6 K/BB ratio in limited at-bats. But Sanchez tries to remain in good spirits. After the Pirates traded for Cervelli, Sanchez had this to say via Twitter:

This offseason, however, news was made when Sanchez received death threats from local fans and natives during his time in the Dominican Winter League due to his poor play. Sanchez had taken to winter ball to improve his two-strike approach at the plate, which didn’t leave him much opportunity for good at-bats. Again, Sanchez tried to remain optimistic:

And this is all @Tony26Montana can really do: play better. It’s a horrible situation that Sanchez was in this offseason, one that no athlete or human being should ever have to endure. But Sanchez will continue to hone his skills and move forward, as he’s always done. Maybe he gets another chance to crack the big league club in 2015 if given an opportunity. Realistically, he may be on a trajectory to be the future backup to Pirate catching prospect Elias Diaz, who has recently passed by Sanchez in the Pirates’ long-term plans. Even young propsect Reese McGuire may have a greater chance of starting for the Pirates than Sanchez. On TribLIVE Radio recently, Sanchez had this to say:

He followed this line up with his usual optimism:

I don’t know if it’s too early to call Sanchez a bust, but personally, I think he still has something to give to this team. It’s up to him to prove it now.