Prospect Highlights: Taking a Look at Some of the Pirates Catching Depth

With the top two teams in the minors on their All-Star break now, the highlights from Altoona and Indianapolis will be light for the next few days. Yesterday, we focused on some GCL players, including first round pick Cole Tucker. Today, we take a look at some catchers in the system, with two clips from Tony Sanchez, who has been on a recent hot streak. The other catcher is near the bottom of the minor league ladder, but interesting in his own right. More on him below.

Sanchez was in a slump until he broke out the other day with a three-run homer. In his last five games, he has eight hits, three doubles, a homer, six RBIs and three walks. In July, Sanchez is hitting .349 with a 1.032 OPS. Below is a video of him hitting an RBI single.

Here is Sanchez hitting an RBI double, coming up a few feet shy of a homer.

Yoel Gonzalez signed with the Pirates for $350,000 in 2012. It was the third highest bonus during the 2012 international signing period that year. Gonzalez is very interesting because he is the youngest player on the GCL Pirates roster. He turns 18 on August 1st. Gonzalez was described as a strong defensive catcher, who was a little raw at the plate. That showed last year when he hit .188 as the primary catcher for the DSL Pirates. This year, he is hitting well early and getting the bulk of the playing time. Gonzalez has a .271 average in 15 games.

Due to his age, he probably won’t hit for much power for at least the next couple years, especially if he keeps moving up a level each year. That would keep him among the youngest players in the league and catchers usually develop at the plate slower than other position players. His defense should keep him on a steady path towards the Majors and if the bat comes around, he could eventually be a strong overall catcher for the Pirates.

Gonzalez is in the GCL, but he isn’t the end of the catching prospects in the Pirates system. On Sunday we took a look at DSL catcher Mikell Granberry, who is hitting well recently and improving on defense. After him, the Pirates also signed two young international catchers recently, Roberto Noguera and Gabriel Brito, who required a $200k bonus to sign. From Tony Sanchez to Gonzalez, the Pirates are loaded with catchers in their system. With Elias Diaz at Altoona, Jin-De Jhang at Bradenton, Reese McGuire at West Virginia, and Jamestown with 2014 draft picks Taylor Gushue and Kevin Krause, it shows the Pirates have great depth behind the plate from top to bottom.

Below are a couple short videos of Gonzalez, the first look we get at him. Both are courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page.

Swinging away.

John Dreker

Author: John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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  • https://profiles.google.com/105668650510920614054 Brian Bernard

    This is depth that is valuable as trade material. Sanchez should be the first out the door and I like him, but not nearly as much as Russell Martin – Signing Martin to a three year deal should be a priority. Sanchez can be packaged with Hanson as part of a significant move to upgrade the team especially if any arm with quality is included.

  • John

    That is good news because if they are able to resign Martin and it’s anything longer than two years that is risky. I doubt Martin and his agent will settle for anything less than at least a third year option. Russell is top of the line but he takes a hell of a beating day in and day out behind the dish and is 31 years old with more than a thousand starts at catcher.

    • piraddict

      My thought is that they ought to offer Martin to cut back on his catching to 60% of the time with another 30% as either at 3B spelling Pedro against LHP or 1B replacing Gabby Sanchez essentially supplementing JHay when he is in the outfield. Martin might take it because it could extend his career, and because I think he is a frustrated infielder at heart. Remember he came up with the Dodger’s as an infielder, and was switched behind the plate due to organizational need as much as his own potential? Bring T. Sanchez up for the other 40% of catching duty. This downgrades the catching the 20% of the time that Sanchez is catching when Martin would have, but really the choice may be between 60% of the time with Martin or 0% of the time, because if the choice comes down to just dollars there’s no way the Pirates will be able to afford him.

  • ElGaupo77

    I like Sanchez in AAA next year. Keep Diaz in Altoona too. Jhang will stay in Bradenton and share the catching duties with McGuire. Gushue and Krause will be in West Virginia etc.

    Resigning Martin will take 4 years but that’s OK. So:

    2015- ML Martin/Stewart AAA Sanchez AA Diaz…

    2016 – ML Martin/Sanchez AAA Diaz AA McGuire/Gushoe -Stewart DFAed/traded due to 3rd arb

    2017 – ML Martin/Sanchez AAA McGuire/Diaz AA Gushoe

    2018 – ML Martin/Mcguire AAA Gushoe/Diaz – Stewart DFAed/traded due to 2rd arb

    2019 – ML McGuire/Gushoe/Diaz – McGuire takes regular duty at age of 23

    • S Brooks

      I think Stewart’s gone after this year. The Bucs have to add Diaz to the 40-man or risk losing him in the Rule 5. Given NH’s penchant for roster flexibility I don’t know if he would want to use 2 spots on minor league catching depth. I just get a feeling that the scenario we’ll see is Martin & Sanchez in Pittsburgh with Diaz at AAA. They can’t keep Jhang, Stallings and McGuire on the Bradenton roster, so someone’s getting a promotion, and I think it’ll be Jhang. The bat is slowly coming around, and his defense has been solid.

      • ElGaupo77

        Concur on Jhang.

        On Diaz I don’t think we’re in that much of a 40 man crunch to worry about 2 catchers. Depends on what they do with Gift and Allie. I think 2011 is too fresh with the catcher merry-go round to not have good depth.

        • S Brooks

          Agreed – though Gift and Allie are more vulnerable this year. Also, Kingham, Taillon and Rojas have to be added. Heredia too, though they might take that risk. And don’t forget about Tabata – he’s owed $10M after this year, and NH is going to think long and hard about it before he pays the guy to play for someone else. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

          • smurph

            I wasn’t aware they have to add Heredia to the 40-man next season. With that knowledge, I would be looking to trade him. He just has not progressed very well. There is still a high ceiling, but the odds of reaching that ceiling look slim to me. Maybe they can pair him and another player and get something worthwhile.

            • jalcorn427

              Its 5 years from signing for the latin signings, it should be after 2015 to add him, no? Pretty sure he is not rule 5 eligible after 4 years.

              • S Brooks

                I was just going by his player page, but you could be right on that.

        • leowalter

          You have never seen Diaz play ?

      • leowalter

        Now, THAT makes sense !

  • leadoff

    Sanchez will be the starting catcher next year as of now, that could change, make up all the scenarios you want. Martin is a top 5 catcher in MLB baseball and the Pirates have said several times they don’t think they will be able to sign him. I don’t know how clear they can put it, it would take a miracle for him to be here next year. Of course there is a dropoff after him, most teams starting catcher is a dropoff from Martin.

    Sanchez lacks experience at the major league level, when he gets it he will be a good catcher also, I don’t know about top 5, but I think solid would be a good bet.

    • jalcorn427

      Brian McCann got 5 years 85 million last offseason coming off two worse years than Russell will be. Martin will be a bit older, but this talk radio fed delusion that he will take a 3 year $36 million deal has to stop. At the same time you can’t really go beyond 3 years for a C his age. Thus, the odds are very small that he will return.

      • S Brooks

        Fortunately the market for catchers is softer than it was last winter, in part because McCann, Ruiz and Salty all signed multi-year deals. Almost everyone else has a solid guy under contract and/or a high ranking prospect in the upper minors. The Jays and White Sox are probably the most in need.

      • smurph

        Yeah, to me 3 years, $45 million with a club option should get it done.

        • jalcorn427

          You’re dreamin’ Smurph. Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants (if Posey to 3B as expected), Atlanta, Philly, Toronto, both Chicago’s, Texas, and Aanheim could all be in the market. Free agent prices don’t get cheaper as time goes by, they go up, especially with the understanding of Martin’s value as a pitch framer. You’re going to have to go a minimum of 4 years guaranteed and likely a 5th year.

        • leowalter

          I would bet it will be at least 3 years min.,well north of $ 50 mil.

        • NorCalBuc

          Martin ain’t no dummy; he realizes he has a great thing goin’ here; he has said he would like to stay. He’ll give a “hometahn discahnt”.