Last night was the Triple-A All-Star game, which saw three members of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization with strong performances. Tony Sanchez was the starting catcher for the International League All-Stars, while Kris Johnson and Vic Black each made an appearance on the mound.
The player of the game was Sanchez. That’s not just out of the three Indianapolis Indians representatives. Sanchez was named the Top Star for the International League team thanks to his three run homer that ultimately decided the game. With the IL down 2-1 in the top of the second inning, Sanchez came to the plate against Jarred Cosart and lined an opposite field three run homer to give the IL a 4-2 lead. The home run can be seen below.
The biggest thing that has impressed me about Tony Sanchez in the last year has been his ability to hit the ball to the opposite field. A lot of attention has gone to his offense this year, but the opposite field home runs started last year, leading to eight homers in 206 at-bats (25.75 AB/HR) in his time in Triple-A. This year he’s on a similar pace, with a 26.78 AB/HR ratio. In a 450 at-bat season, that’s about 17 home runs, which is great for a catcher. Sanchez also has a lot of doubles, with 26 on the year. His previous career high was 18. The opposite field power will obviously play well in Pittsburgh with the Clemente Wall in right field.
Kris Johnson got in the game in the third inning, pitching a shutout inning with three ground ball outs, and allowing just one hit. That’s what Johnson has been doing all year. He ranks 4th in the International League in ERA out of guys who have made 10 or more starts this year. Johnson could serve as a depth option for the Pirates rotation in the second half, and is a good candidate as a third left-hander out of the bullpen in September.
The other player who stood out was Vic Black. The Indians closer came in for the ninth inning and only pitched to two batters, but showcased his velocity by hitting 98 or higher on all but one of his fastballs. He also flashed his plus slider, showing a lot of break on the pitch. It was only two batters, and only nine pitches total, but Black showed why a lot of people have his upside as a future closer. In the short-term he could also be a good reliever out of the Pirates bullpen, or he could be a very valuable trade chip if the Pirates are looking for an upgrade.