Morning Report: Ranking a New Prospect

The Pittsburgh Pirates picked up right-handed pitcher Angel Sanchez off waivers from the Chicago White Sox on July 31st. It was a busy day in the sense that trade rumors were flying all day and picking up Sanchez wasn’t anything more than trading one minor league pitcher (placing Josh Wall on waivers) for a better pitcher. It turned out that it wasn’t even that trade-off because the Pirates kept Josh Wall when he cleared waivers. Anyway, getting back to Sanchez, where would he rank in the Pirates system if we actually updated the list now?

Sanchez made his debut in the Pirates system earlier this month (photo credit: Donald Lancaster)

Sanchez made his debut in the Pirates system earlier this month (photo credit: Donald Lancaster)

I’ll start off by saying that this is just my own preference and I haven’t spent nearly half the amount of time putting the list together as I will when we make up the top 50 for the Prospect Guide. That list will also have the inputs of others. Right now, this is just me trying to fit Sanchez into the system after looking through his past and following three starts from him since he joined the Pirates. As you can see by the schedule below, he will make his fourth start tonight and he will make two more before the season ends.

We start by looking at former rankings for Sanchez. Baseball America had him ranked as the 12th best prospect in the Dodgers system going into 2012. He was a late signing out of the Dominican Republic and he put up strong stats in Low-A ball, while flashing a fastball that was a plus pitch at times. After a very tough season in the California League in 2012, Sanchez dropped down to the Dodgers 25th ranked prospect. He was then dealt to the Miami Marlins during the middle of the 2013 season and finished on a high note in the Florida State League. That led him to being ranked 16th in the Marlins system coming into 2014.

Sanchez has had his first taste of AA this year and it hasn’t gone well at all. He has pitched for four different organizations and even went back to Low-A ball for two starts. He has a 6.26 ERA this season in 22 starts. Since joining the Pirates, he has made three starts with mixed results. The 11:4 K/BB he has put up in 16 innings is good, but he has given up 20 hits for a .317 BAA. Sanchez has shown a strong ground ball rate with a 1.43 mark this season in 105 innings. It’s the best rate of his career and he’s always been above 1.00 GO/AO in his four-year career. His strikeout rate has taken a turn for the worse from the high of 8.5 SO/9IP last year, down to 5.6 this season.

So summing up, you have a pitcher that turns 25 in November, who is struggling in his first season of AA. He’s getting more ground balls that usual and he has a decent walk rate, though he also has seen a sharp decline in strikeouts. At his age, he is average for AA and not many foreign-born pitchers reach AA in their fourth season. He seems a little rushed at first, but his success in Low-A three years ago, means that he should at least have seen some AAA time by now if he progressed like a prospect. Right now, he seems like a pitcher that could do better in a relief role, where he could really let loose and sit 95 MPH in short stints. That isn’t going to get you ranked high in a deep system like the Pirates.

Going by my mid-season rankings, I’d have a tough time putting him in the top 40, but based on upside and past performances, he should reach the top fifty. I mentioned yesterday that Jonathan Sandfort, Billy Roth and Neil Kozikowski are having bad seasons, even worse than Sanchez, but they are all 4-5 years younger than him, so they have plenty of time to reach their upside. All of them will drop in their rankings(we had them all in the 26-35 range), but you would still probably take their upside over Sanchez, who isn’t going to fill out anymore at his age. The last three starts by Sanchez could actually decide if this whole post wasn’t all for nothing, because the Pirates will need to add 4-6 players to the 40-man roster this off-season. There is a chance if Sanchez shows nothing late in the year, he could be one of the cuts to make room for new players.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates are 4.5 games behind St. Louis for the first Wild Card spot. They are 2 games behind San Francisco for the second spot. They are currently seven games back from the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.

Indianapolis: The Indians are six games back in the International League West, and seven games back in the Wild Card with 13 games left in the season.

Bradenton: The Marauders are in first place in the Florida State League South, leading by one game over Palm Beach. They need to win the second half division to make the playoffs. The Marauders have 13 games left in their season, four against Palm Beach.

Today’s Schedule

Minor League Starter of the Day:  For Indianapolis this afternoon, Adrian Sampson makes his second start since being promoted to AAA. His first one wasn’t pretty at all. Sampson allowed ten hits, three walks and hit a batter in just 3.2 innings. He was in trouble every inning, giving up a total of six runs. West Virginia was rained out yesterday and the game won’t be made up at a later date. Today gives Cody Dickson a second chance to make his scheduled start. He has pitched well since the All-Star break, especially compared to the first half. In 13 starts before the break, Dickson posted a 5.58 ERA and a .301 BAA. In 11 starts since the break, he has a 2.70 ERA and .257 BAA.

MLB: Pittsburgh (64-62) vs Atlanta (66-60) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (3.78 ERA, 78:29 K/BB, 85.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (65-66) @ Louisville (64-67) 1:35 PM
Probable starterAdrian Sampson (12.27 ERA, 0:3 K/BB, 3.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (55-74) @ Akron (70-59) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (4.50 ERA, 11:4 K/BB, 16 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (70-56, 35-22 2nd half) vs Fort Myers (75-52) 6:30 PM
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (3.86 ERA, 85:18 K/BB, 130.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (48-77, 28-29 2nd half) vs Lakewood (49-77) 7:05 PM
Probable starter:  Cody Dickson (4.18 ERA. 92:53 K/BB, 116.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (29-32) vs Batavia (29-34) 7:05 PM
Probable Starter: Frank Duncan (3.22 ERA, 38:9 K/BB, 50.1 IP)

RK: Bristol (18-40) @ Burlington (24-33) 7:00 PM 8/21
Probable Starter: TBD

GCL: Pirates (18-34) vs Tigers (28-23) 12:00 PM
Probable Starter: Nick Hutchings (4.54 ERA, 21:10 K/BB, 37.2 IP)

DSL: Pirates (33-35) vs  Mets2 (27-40) 10:30 AM

Highlights

Andrew Lambo hit two homers on Monday night and both are shown below. The first one was a solo shot in the first inning.

The second homer looks like such as easy swing, showing the power that Lambo possesses. This was a little more towards the gap and easily cleared the fence. It was his seventh homer for Indianapolis this year. He also hit one in the GCL while on rehab.

Recent Transactions

8/19: Andrew McCutchen activated from disabled list. Michael Martinez sent to Indianapolis.

8/19: Josh Bell placed on disabled list. Ralph Henriquez activated from DL.

8/19: Adam Wilk placed on disabled list.

8/18: Matt Hague claimed off waivers by Toronto Blue Jays

8/18: Clint Barmes assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/18: Pat Ludwig placed on disabled list.

8/17: Charlie Morton placed on disabled list. Brent Morel recalled

8/17: A.J. Morris assigned to Indianapolis.

8/15: Elias Diaz promoted to Indianapolis.

8/15: Stolmy Pimentel placed on 15-day disabled list. John Axford added to roster.

8/14: Clint Barmes assigned to Altoona on rehab.

8/14: A.J. Morris assigned to Altoona.

8/14: John Axford claimed off waivers from Cleveland Indians.

8/14: Matt Hague designated for assignment.

8/14: Pirates sign pitcher Matt Nevarez. Assign him to Altoona.

8/13: Ernesto Frieri outrighted to Indianapolis.

8/13: Ramon Cabrera claimed off waivers from the Detroit Tigers. Assigned to Altoona.

8/13: Wirfin Obispo designated for assignment.

This Date in Pirates History

The Pittsburgh Pirates have made two trades of note on this date, one in 1981 when they exchanged first baseman with the Montreal Expos. The Pirates gave up John Milner and took back Willie Montanez that day. Exactly 68 years earlier, the Pirates traded away one of their all-time best pitchers, sending Howie Camnitz to the Phillies. This trade also involved Bobby Byrne, who was the focal point of yesterday’s “This Date”. He was the player the Pirates acquired to help their 1909 World Series run.

There were three former Pirates players born on this date, including HOF’er Al Lopez, who caught for the Pirates from 1940 until 1946. Also covered in the article for August 19th history, is the story of Pirates pitcher Bob Gibson…check out the link for details.

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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  • leadoff

    I don’t see where Sanchez is much more than an organizational pitcher, you would have thought if he were going to be a pen pitcher they would have pointed him in that direction by now.

    • John Dreker

      I think it’s because he has had recent success and being someone new in the organization, there is no sense not giving him a good look over the last month. Basically, they have six starts to see if he is worth keeping. With his arm, you have to think he has a big league future in the bullpen at some point, but isn’t it better to give him as many innings as possible? It’s not like he is blocking anyone, the Altoona rotation is pretty empty right now

  • R Edwards

    I saw Sanchez pitch against Reading, in Reading, a couple of weeks ago. His velocity was decent – anywhere from 91-94 on the fastball and he only have up 2-3 runs in 6-7 innings.

    But, he was hit hard on a fairly regular basis – a lot of hard outs and if not for the SS (Ngeope) who made a couple of phenomenal plays, he would twice a few more runs. I was not overly impressed with him – did not seem to be fooling too many batters. Looked like a career minor leaguer to me.