First Pitch: Taking the Jordy Mercer Approach With Tony Sanchez
The one thing we can take away from the Jordy Mercer situation is that the Pirates plan to have him as the primary shortstop in 2014, or at least the top candidate for the job. We hope that’s the situation. Otherwise it really makes no sense to get Mercer adjusted to the majors in the short-term as a utility player. But I think that the fact that Mercer was used as a starter when Neil Walker was down speaks well to how the organization views him. Prior to that, I figured that John McDonald would be seeing starts at shortstop if Clint Barmes went down, with Mercer on the bench. Now I’d be shocked if Mercer wasn’t playing every day in that scenario.
Some events over the last few days have me wondering if the Pirates should take the same approach with another position. Russell Martin has been a strong player to have in the lineup when healthy. The problem is that he’s missed a few games this year, leading to Michael McKenry starting a few games in the last week. On Monday, McKenry was 0-for-6 in caught stealing attempts, giving us a reminder of his horrible numbers from the 2012 season. You would think that with McKenry being the backup in the majors, he’d be first in line to start if Martin ever went on the disabled list.
The other thing that has been happening lately is Tony Sanchez has been hitting, and hitting for power. After going 3-for-4 with a double and a homer tonight, Sanchez is hitting for a .294/.400/.518 line in 85 at-bats. That’s a small sample size, but it’s very positive that Sanchez is not only hitting for average, but hitting for power. He has a .224 ISO so far this year, and had a .175 ISO in 206 at-bats with Indianapolis last year. The average returned last season, with a .277 average in 141 at-bats in Double-A, which was up from a .241 average in 2011. The problem was that Sanchez wasn’t hitting for power when he was hitting for average, and he wasn’t hitting for average when he was hitting for power.
This year he’s hitting for power and average so far, which is a great sign. He already has strong defense, with a great arm, plus pitch blocking skills, and he does great work handling a pitching staff. Sanchez would be an upgrade over Michael McKenry on defense. He may not have an immediate impact on offense, but he’s certainly earned a shot in the majors with his recent hitting.
Since Martin was signed for two years, the Pirates don’t need Sanchez as a starter until the 2015 season. However, they could use him as a starter if Martin ever goes down for an extended period, which seems like it could be possible when you consider that he’s dealt with two minor injuries already this year (shoulder and neck). Sanchez would probably be a better all around option over McKenry. That would give the Pirates at least two positions where their Triple-A starters are better than the backups on the bench. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the Pirates start those Triple-A guys in the majors when the major league starters go down.
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.
**Check out the new episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 3: What To Do With Alvarez, Gomez, and Mercer; Casey Sadler Interview.