First Pitch: Tony Sanchez Getting An Early Tryout For a 2015 Starting Role

The last time Tony Sanchez was in the Majors, he didn’t get much of a chance to prove what he is capable of as a potential starting catcher. Sanchez only had 18 at-bats over six games in the first few weeks of the season, serving as the backup to Russell Martin. The sample sizes were limited, and thus, brought big reactions to individual plays.

When Sanchez strung together a few game winning hits the first week of the season, I received a lot of comments saying that he shouldn’t be sent back down once Chris Stewart returned from the DL. When Sanchez made a few poor, and costly, throws a week later, I was receiving comments that Sanchez shouldn’t be the starting catcher in 2015.

In either case, a few plays were being highlighted by the limited playing time from Sanchez. Today, Russell Martin went on the 15-day DL, and Sanchez was recalled in a series of roster moves. That means that, for at least the next 15 days, Sanchez will get the workload of a starting catcher. This isn’t a huge sample size, but it will give a better look at what Sanchez could be capable of as a potential starter.

The issue for the Pirates going forward is that Russell Martin is a free agent at the end of the 2014 season, and is likely to command a huge contract after establishing a lot of value with his defense since signing with the Pirates. It’s unlikely that the Pirates will be able to bring him back, and they might not need to bring him back if Sanchez can establish himself as a starting option.

Sanchez has a lot of the same skills as Martin. He’s strong defensively, with good receiving and pitch framing skills, good blocking skills, and a good ability to handle a pitching staff. Offensively, Sanchez doesn’t hit for average, but does have some pop in his bat, mostly in the form of opposite field power for extra base hits. The main downside to his game is that Sanchez can have throwing problems from time to time, which we saw a few weeks ago.

Those throwing problems are also why Sanchez was held down in Triple-A last summer when Michael McKenry was struggling in the majors. He will occasionally get the yips, to the point where even a routine throw down to first base, or a throw to third after a strikeout, can go wild.

This is a pretty glaring problem, as it gives away free bases, or turns easy outs into extra bases. It’s also a problem that could potentially prevent Sanchez from being a starting catcher in the majors. However, that would largely depend on the entire body of work from Sanchez as a starter. If he can limit those throwing issues, then I think he’s got the overall skills to provide value as a starting catcher, in the form of a lite version of Russell Martin.

We haven’t really seen Sanchez get this kind of opportunity in the majors, even in his time in the big leagues last year. The next few weeks with Martin on the DL will give us the first real look at Sanchez, and what he is capable of as a starting catcher. In another way, the next few weeks could be seen as a tryout for the 2015 starting job.

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: Three Hits For Andrew Lambo in Walk-Off Win

**Draft Prospect Watch: Sean Newcomb is Back on Track

**Francisco Liriano Leaves Today’s Start With Flu-Like Symptoms

**Russell Martin and Jason Grilli to the DL; Tony Sanchez and Jared Hughes Recalled

**Prospect Highlights: Gregory Polanco With An Outfield Assist

**Minor League Schedule: Casey Sadler Brings Amazing Road Show to Indianapolis

Tim Williams

Author: 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.

Share This Post On
  • John

    I got a feeling he will be backing up Stewart do to Hurdle’s love of veteranosity.

    • BobDH

      I hope not.

  • emjayinTN

    Excellent summary of the positives and negatives of Tony Sanchez. If he keeps that knack of getting a clutch hit when we need it, he will most certainly get the nod at Catcher in 2015. He has a lot of game experience with Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Brandon Cumpton, Jeff Locke, Stolmy Pimental, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, and Jared Hughes. Morton and Gomez were down at AAA last year and Nick Kingham will be with him at AAA after he is promoted. That grouping will contain our Rotation and much of the bullpen in 2015.

  • skliesen

    Hamstring injuries for 30+ year olds tend to take time to heal. As such, I’d expect to see a lot of Sanchez for more than a couple weeks. I’m definitely excited to see how he handles the opportunity. I am optimistic he will be a solid contributor on offense and not make too many mistakes on defense. Go get em Tony!

  • piratemike

    If he cannot overcome his throwing issue ML teams will take advantage of this perceived weakness and possibly run him out of the majors. Even a back up cannot last long.

  • Shane

    I don’t know about anyone else but I would much rather have Russell Martin back for another 2 or 3 years until Reese Mcguire is closer to the majors. Tony Sanchez is a great bench piece, in my opinion but nothing more. His defense scares the hell out of me, but maybe I’m just so spoiled by watching how Russ makes it look so easy.