The first base position projects to be a platoon between Andrew Lambo and Gaby Sanchez. However, Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington was asked about the possibility of Sanchez being the everyday guy, and noted that Sanchez is in competition for the job against right-handed pitching.
“As we’ve said from day one, Gaby is in that competition to become the regular first baseman, and to get the majority of at-bats there,” Huntington said. “If we find a left-handed compliment for him that we feel makes us better, then we go in that direction. Gaby is working hard. [Chris] McGuiness is working hard. Lambo is working hard. [Travis] Ishikawa is working hard. And we’re still working through that process. It may be something that evolves even once we get into the season. It’s not something to be written in concrete.”
I personally don’t think Sanchez should be the everyday first baseman. The only way it would make sense to start him daily is if there were no other options available. That would involve Lambo and McGuiness both tanking in their attempts to hit Major League pitching.
In his career, Sanchez has a .700 OPS against right-handed hitters. By comparison, Garrett Jones had a disaster of a season last year, and had a .730 OPS against right-handers. Looking at the yearly numbers, Sanchez has never been that dominant against right-handers, even in his best years as a starter in 2010 and 2011.
2010: .742 in 479 PA
2011: .742 in 503 PA
2012: .566 in 215 PA
2013: .619 in 194 PA
In those 2010-11 seasons, he was successful because he crushed left-handers. His numbers against right-handers weren’t that much better in those years than the numbers Jones put up in 2013. And the Pirates are hoping to upgrade from Jones. There’s no reason to think Sanchez will have everything click this year, to the point where he will post acceptable numbers against right-handers. It’s something he has never done in the majors, and he didn’t even do a good job in the minors.
In 2009, Sanchez had a .780 OPS against right-handers, playing mostly in Triple-A. He had an .825 OPS in 2008 against right-handers, playing mostly in Double-A. Those numbers might be a little better, but those are minor league numbers, which don’t translate to the majors, and haven’t translated to the majors. Sanchez has had over 1400 plate appearances in the majors, and hasn’t been effective against right-handers.
If Sanchez is on the depth chart against right-handed pitching, he should be well down the list. Andrew Lambo and Chris McGuiness should get the first shots. I’d even go with Travis Ishikawa over Sanchez, as Ishikawa has a career .737 OPS against right-handers in his career, which is better than Sanchez. If those options fail, then you’d have to look at a trade, and if you can’t find a trade, then you might turn to Sanchez.
Sanchez is what he is. He’s a great defensive first baseman and he crushes left-handers. But he’s not an everyday first baseman, since his bat struggles against right-handed pitching. The Pirates can put him on the depth chart as an option against right-handers, but he should be low on that depth chart based on his career history.