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First Pitch: Decision Day For Jonathan Sanchez

The Pirates have to make a decision on Jonathan Sanchez.

The Pirates have to make a decision on Jonathan Sanchez.

Today is the deadline for the Pittsburgh Pirates to make a decision on left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez wants to be a starter, and the Pirates have to either add him to the active roster, or grant him his release. Coincidentally, he’s also scheduled to start today. With the current makeup of the team, there should be no reason why he isn’t added to the team.

The Pirates have three guys with guaranteed rotation spots: A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald. From there, they’ve had some injuries, leaving two spots open. Francisco Liriano may not be ready for another month, and Jeff Karstens has been experiencing some shoulder problems. That leaves Sanchez, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, and Jeanmar Gomez battling it out for the final two spots.

Sanchez is coming off a horrible season last year, but before that he looked pretty good. From 2007-2010 he had an xFIP around 4.00, and in 2011 it was 4.36. If the actual results can be like his 2009-2011 range, Sanchez would be better than any of the options the Pirates currently have.

Kyle McPherson has a lot of upside, but doesn’t look ready. He’s only had three starts at the Triple-A level, plus some time in the majors last year. McPherson started Monday night’s game, giving up five runs on seven hits in five innings, with three homers. At this point it looks best to send him to Indianapolis, let him get some more experience, and use him as an option later in the year.

Jeanmar Gomez has the numbers of a fifth starter in his major league career, and could make the club out of the bullpen even if he doesn’t get a starter role. Sanchez has more upside than Gomez, and shouldn’t be bumped for him.

The only other candidate is Jeff Locke, who doesn’t really have anything left to prove in the minors. He’s at the point where he needs a real shot at the majors, with some time to see if he can adjust to the level. Since there’s two rotation spots, the decision shouldn’t be between Locke and Sanchez. The Pirates could go with both.

I’d be surprised if the Pirates let Sanchez walk tomorrow. He has pitched well enough this Spring to earn a spot, he’s still young, and he really only has one down year. It’s not like he’s a guy who has been on the decline for years. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him bounce back, due to his age, and when you consider that he dealt with injuries last year which could have led to the horrible season. Worst case, he struggles in April, they spent about the same money that they’re spending on John McDonald, and they just switch to Francisco Liriano when he returns.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide and the 2013 Annual are both available on the products page of the site. If you order them together, you’ll save $5. Get them both in time for the start of the regular season.

**Prospect Notebook: Hafner Having Success With New Slider; Kingham and Fuesser Pitch Well.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Week Six Recap.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Mock Drafts Have Pirates Going Prep.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Cocktailsfor2

    Though some of those runs last night weren’t really McFear’s fault, I agree [and have been saying all along myself] that he’ll open the season in AAA.

    I’m having a hard time getting either too excited or upset about Sanchez, as many are doing. He’s serviceable, and should get the chance to go north with the big club, but I’d be happier if he could spend some time in Indy just to prove he’s bounced back [such as it is].

    • https://profiles.google.com/113824087346904673399 Dom DiDominic

      I am excited about Sanchez, hoping he is serviceable. Pretty much a given it will continue to be a tryout between Locke & Sanchez (believing McFear goes down & Gomez is in the pen) until Karstens and/or Liriano are ready.
      Sanchez is the one guy that has the strikeout numbers and can dominate a game.

  • ianmonk

    I hope Gomez doesn’t make the team. He will be nothing but a detriment to this team. I would rather see Leroux be the long man until some guys get healthy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      ianmonk….I am with you…I have NO desire for JeanMarie to make the team.

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