Pittsburgh Pirates: Three More Forgotten Position Changes

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Manny Sanguillen - Catcher to First Base

Manny Sanguillen is arguably the best catcher in the Pirates’ history. He spent a dozen of his 13 years in the big leagues with the Pirates. Among all Pirates’ backstops, Sanguillen’s 27.3 fWAR is second to only Jason Kendall. Sanguillen was renowned for his defensive work behind the plate, but many forget his late-career transition to first base.

As a backstop, Sanguillen racked up +33 total zone runs while averaging out with a 35% caught stealing rate. He wasn’t overly impressive as a batter, slashing .296/.326/.398 with a .321 wOBA and 99 wRC+. But given his defensive value, Sanguillen had five seasons with an fWAR of 3.0 or greater.

Sanguillen’s transition off of catcher happened during his one-season stint in Oakland. This was in 1977 and in his age-33 campaign. He served as their catcher and designated hitter, splitting his time in about a 55/45 split. Sanguillen did not do great, posting a mediocre .275/.302/.354 line, .291 wOBA, and 81 wRC+. It was the first time he had a sub-2.0 fWAR in a season.

Sanguillen was then traded back to the Pirates in early 1978 and saw very little time behind the dish that season. He still had 126.2 frames caught, but he mostly played first base, seeing 322.1 innings at the corner infield position. This wasn't the first time the Pirates tried him out at another position other than catcher. In 1973, he played 523.2 innings in right field, and did pretty well. Despite the low amount of innings, he had +8 total zone runs. He rarely took the field in the following two years, serving as a pinch hitter. His last three years in Pittsburgh weren’t nearly as productive as his first eight, as he only hit .254/.285/.336 with a .274 wOBA and 65 wRC+.