Tuesday, December 22, 2009

#7 - Tony Sanchez

Tony who? Oh no, not Danny Moskos all over again! Don't those cheapskate Pirates ever learn? Those reactions and worse hit the chatboards when prior to the draft, it was leaked that Tony Sanchez would be the Bucs pick at the number 4 spot.

The suits explained that they weren't going to get the day's big kahunas, Steven Strasberg or Dustin Ackley, and the rest of the young guns were pretty well jumbled together, with Sanchez being the fourth player on their list. The fact that the team was top-heavy in catching with no real minor-league prospects played into the decision, too.

They also leaked their grand strategy of getting an affordable guy and putting the rest of the cash into the other rounds; Keith Law of ESPN said behind a pay wall that the Pirates had a deal cut with Sanchez before the draft.

Well, he may have been right. Sanchez was drafted on a Tuesday, and signed on Friday, for just above slot at $2.5M, which was the third-largest bonus in Bucco draft history. No Pedro-like drama; he was shipped to Class A West Virginia to start his career after quick tune-ups at Bradenton and State College, and the Pittsburgh draft board filled up with players picked over-slot.

Sanchez's 2009 line at Boston College was .346/.445/.614 in 228 at-bats, with 14 homers, 63 runs, and 51 RBI, to go with a rep as a good glove guy with the ability to handle a staff. His 19 throw-outs led the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Sanchez ended up as one of the three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award for the best college catcher. He was rated by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN as the top college catcher available in the draft, as well as the best overall defensive catcher and having the best throwing arm of any college catcher, and was considered a mid-to-late first rounder.

The only major concern was his physical shape (shades of Ronny Paulino!) Sanchez got down to fighting weight by joining Jarad on a Subway diet and hitting the gym. He dropped 40 pounds by the time he was a senior, and his conditioning never became an issue.

Sanchez made the trip to West Virginia at the end of June, and handled a wooden bat and Class A competition with ease. He ended up with a .316/.415/.561 line in 155 at-bats in West Virginia, with seven homers, 46 RBI and 29 runs.

Sanchez was promoted to Lynchburg at the end of the season, where he took over as the starting catcher for the Hillcats' Carolina League Championship team.

In his first year as a professional, Sanchez finished with a combined .309 batting average with seven homers, eighteen doubles, 48 RBI, and 33 runs. He's already the #3 prospect in the Pittsburgh organization, according to Baseball America.

Sanchez, 21, came touted as a plus defender, and gave no signs of that being puffery. His arm is OK (average strength, though he did toss out 30% of the base-stealers last year), and he does a good job of blocking balls and framing pitches. The Miamian also, from all reports, works diligently on the pre-game plan with the coaches and pitchers, and has a good rapport with the staff.

He's also considered a solid citizen on the field, a guy that plays hard and plays right, a stereotypical catcher.

The questions about Sanchez center around his bat. He's patient, consistently drawing over 10% walk ratios, but he strikes out a bit, around 20%, and is supposed to be a sucker for the hook. Sanchez has some pop, with 15 homer potential, but his average doesn't project to be anything special.

So far, so good, in that regard. Still, he was a major-college player in low Class A for most of the year, and it's yet to be shown if his stick can handle the pitching at higher levels.

He'll start the year at High Class A Bradenton. How quickly Sanchez will advance in the system is on him; there's no one to block him in the minors, especially with Steve Lerud and Robby Diaz gone. And that should tell you how highly the suits regard him.

(Next - #6 Daniel McCutchen)

1 comment:

WilliamJPellas said...

The guy's a catcher, and that's always been a defense-first position unless your name is Mike Piazza, and that kind of hitter at that position comes around about once a generation.

I'm perfectly fine with Sanchez if he continues to be a good all around defensive catcher with occasional pop. His arm strength is evidently only so-so, but if he can maintain his gun-down percentage in the 30 range, again, that'll do nicely.

So, if we end up with a starting catcher who will give us 120 to 130 games year in and year out, with a .260 - .280, 15-20, 60-80 kinda line, along with good defense and good handling of the staff, that would make him a borderline All Star and more than good enough for our purposes. It's still early, but I think those are reasonable projections for him at the big league level.