Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #13 – Tony Sanchez

The Pirates Prospects 2013 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features over 250 prospect reports, the 2013 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find.  While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks.  Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Jin-De Jhang, C

19. Andrew Oliver, LHP

18. Vic Black, RHP

17. Adrian Sampson, RHP

16. Wyatt Mathisen, C

15. Bryan Morris, RHP

14. Justin Wilson, LHP

We continue the countdown with the number 13 prospect, Tony Sanchez.

Tony Sanchez
Tony Sanchez

13. Tony Sanchez, C

The Pirates made a controversial pick when they took Sanchez with the fourth pick in the 2009 draft. Sanchez was rated as a late first rounder, and there were several prep pitchers ranked at the top of the lists that year. None of the prep pitchers really stood out, but all of them had big demands. The Pirates picked Sanchez to save money, opting to spend the saved money in the middle rounds on several different prep pitchers. That’s an approach other teams took as well. It doesn’t look good for the Pirates that their group of over-slot picks have been disappointing so far.

As for Sanchez, he’s seen his prospect value drop the last few years due to a poor bat and no power. He’s suffered two broken jaws, getting hit with a pitch in the face in 2010 and getting in a bar fight in 2011. That has set his progress back some due to the weight loss that came from his all liquid diets during the recovery periods. The jaw injuries can’t account for all of the struggles.

Sanchez hasn’t hit for a strong average in the upper levels, and hasn’t hit for a lot of power. He did hit for a decent average in Altoona during the 2012 season, but it was his second year at the level. He finally showed some power in Triple-A later in the year, but it was in a small sample size and his average was down.

On the positive side, his defense has been coming along as expected. He’s got an above-average to plus arm, and is very athletic, specializing in blocking pitches. He’s improved his game calling the last few years, and works well with the pitching staff. His defense is strong enough that he could split time behind the plate in the majors in 2013.

The Pirates signed Russell Martin over the off-season, showing that they didn’t think Sanchez was ready. That will give him a year or two to iron out his hitting in Triple-A. Sanchez will make the majors because of his defense, but his offense will determine his value. After his struggles the last two years his potential has fallen somewhere in the range of a strong defensive backup and an average starter with defense and power.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Didn’t the Pirates basically pay Sanchez slot money?

They just weren’t willing to go over slot with that pick. For Sanchez it was a good deal since he would have gotten a lot less (maybe a million or more) if taken towards the end of first round.

Lee Young

Tim…I missed this the first time around. You say:

“The Pirates picked Sanchez to save money, opting to spend the saved money in the middle rounds on several different prep pitchers. That’s an approach other teams took as well”

Do you know who those other teams are? I’d love to do a comparison.



Lee Young

one of these days, I am going to look at all 2009 over slots.

I am also following T Bay’s 637 comp picks they got.

Steve Zielinski

The 2009 draft class has not proven itself to be a strong one. Of the following, only Skaggs and Trout were available when the Pirates took Sanchez and have proven themselves worthy of #4 -pick money.

Strasburg — all world
Trout — all world
Skaggs — looks good
Ackley — bust?
Myers — jury remains out (whiff machine)
Miller — jury remains out (inconsistent)
Hamilton — jury remains out (will he hit)
Singleton — jury still out (whiff machine)
Wheeler — seems overrated
Green — seems overrated
Marisnick — seems overrated
Davidson — jury still out (whiff machine)

One might claim that the Pirates would be better off if they had taken one of the above available players instead of Sanchez. But that claim or belief must be balanced against the strategy used by the Pirates in that draft. The strategy was not wrong. It just failed to produce the desired results. Drafts are gambles. The risk of losing one’s bet are high.

That said, it would be nice to have an outfield of Trout, McCutchen and Marte!


Would beg to differ with some of your assessments there. Miller and Wheeler look like pretty damn good prospects to me.
I’d agree with you up to a point on the strategy. If I remember right, they thought that there were two top talents in that draft (which everyone thought of as Strasburg and Ackley) and that the rest of the first round was pretty even. If thats their assessment, I can’t say its a terrible plan, but I think Sanchez was the “safest” option among their choices and it shows that even safe choices don’t necessarily pay off. So you if its such a crapshoot, maybe its better to go with a high-ceiling type guy.

Steve Zielinski

The conundrum is this: Teams should take the Best Player Available unless his salary demands are irrational when compared to his feasible projection. Teams have draft budgets, and GM’s authorized to spend within the limits of those budgets. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to try to maximize the talent acquired by rationally allocating those scarce dollars. Only the elite talents break this kind of reasoning. A Harper, Trout, Strasburg, Cole, Bundy promise to produce enough baseball value that a team can expect to recover the costs met when acquiring him. They are risks worth taking. The lesser talents are more likely to fail and thus more likely to sink the costs met while acquiring them.

The draft is not akin to shooting craps. It’s more like betting on horses. One does due diligence, places a bet and hopes for the best.


I understand its a crapshoot; I hear all kinds of people stating that the 2008 draft is a failure because it basically produced just Alvarez. Mainly, I think this is due because people compare the MLB draft to other sports (mainly the NFL when comparing the Bucs and Steelers) when the two drafts couldn’t be more different.
The thing that kind of…bothered me about the Sanchez pick was it just didn’t seem to be the type of talent a team desperately needing high-end talent should be taking. Under the old CBA they still could have spread $$ around on prep pitchers if they had taken a higher impact talent instead of Sanchez to begin with. Shelby Miller only got a few hundred thousand more than Sanchez.
I realize I’m using a lot of hindsight is 20/20 on this; we obviously wouldn’t be having this discussion if Sanchez had gone all Johnny Bench on us. I think the thing that his selection asks me now is how would you rather fail? By going with a safe pick or taking a risk on a higher end talent? I’d rather err with talent, because especially with a small market team, the draft is the only somewhat level playing field they have

Lee Young

yep…2009 draft hasn’t been kind to too many teams.

I remember how excited we were when we got ZVR, a supposed first round talent.


Baltimore is one of them. They opted to select Matthew Hobgood, who is an absolute bust that may never get past A-ball. With Sanchez, expectations need to be adjusted, but the fact is that he will still be a major leaguer.

Whether he is a starter or backup is the point of contention.


He will be a fine catcher for the Pirates in time, catchers take longer to develop than most positions and with the setbacks he has had a year or two more of seasoning will only help him, he might even be in the majors this year if there are any injuries or trades. Defense is the key, not hitting to his value, hitting is a bonus.

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