Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Spring Training Profile: Tony Sanchez
Tony Sanchez is an extremely likable person. I should probably go ahead and let you know that he is one of my favorite players, but not because of what he does on the field. Sanchez is a rare breed these days; most athletes put way too much pressure on themselves and take themselves too seriously. Sanchez, however, is a really fun follow on Twitter — mostly because of his self-deprecating humor. Sanchez is known by several Pittsburgh Pirates fans as a draft bust, but he is trying his hardest to prove that theory wrong.
Now that my little opening monologue is over, let’s actually talk about Sanchez the baseball player, not Sanchez the social media wizard. The catcher was drafted No. 4 overall in the 2009 MLB Draft by the Bucs. Coming out of college there were questions regarding Sanchez’s offensive game, but he was widely known as a very good defensive backstop.
Sanchez played in the Pirates’ minor league system for five seasons before finally getting the call midway through the 2013 season to join the MLB club. In his five minor league seasons, Sanchez would hit for a .271/.364/.420 triple-slash line. Sanchez would have likely been called up sooner than he was, but there were reports that he was suffering from a case of “the yips” behind the plate for much of the early part of 2013. Apparently “the yips” were a mental problem surrounding him throwing to second base, and he needed to get that straightened out before the Pirates promoted him.
When Sanchez did finally get to play with the Pirates, he made the most of his time there. In 66 plate appearances as a rookie, he hit for a .233/.288/.400 slash line with a 92 wRC+. Sure, he was a bit below average at the plate, but he was the backup catcher — catchers don’t tend to be relied on very heavily to provide offense.
Sanchez was slated to be the backup catcher for the Bucs in 2014 heading into the offseason, but then the New York Yankees came calling. No, no, the Pirates didn’t trade him to the Yankees; but the Yankees did trade veteran catcher Chris Stewart to the Bucs. Stewart is a very good defensive catcher — I would even go as far to say he is elite defensively, especially when it comes to pitch-framing. Offensively he isn’t good at all with a career line of just .214/.287/.288 and a 59 wRC+.
Sanchez will likely start the season at Triple-A, but he will in all likelihood be needed at some point in 2014. Catchers tend to suffer injuries fairly frequently, so he will see plenty of MLB at-bats in 2014. If no catchers get injured, the Pirates could call him up to play designated-hitter in American League parks against lefties; he hit for a 108 wRC+ against southpaws in 2013.