MLB reports: “With the 4th overall selection of the 1st round in the 2009 Major League Baseball Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates select, Tony Sanchez, Catcher, from Boston College.” With those words spoken, life would never be the same for Tony. Much publicity surrounded the most recent 1st round pick of the Pirates, centering around the reasons for his selection. To fully understand what was transpiring, one would need to look back briefly at the recent 1st round draft history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2008: Pedro Alvarez 3B – 2nd overall
2007: Daniel Moskos P – 4th overall
2006: Brad Lincoln P- 4th overall
2005: Andrew McCutchen OF – 11th overall
2004: Neil Walker C- 11th overall
2003: Paul Maholm P- 8th overall
2002: Bryan Bullington P – 1st overall
2001: John VanBenschoten 1B- 8th overall
2000: Sean Burnett P- 19th overall
With the Bryan Bullington pick still fresh in Pirates’ fans minds, the 2006 and 2007 drafting respectively of Lincoln and Moskos were difficult to swallow. The moves were seen largely as cost-sensitive selections, with the Pirates foregoing Morrow, Miller, Kershaw, Lincecum and Scherzer in 2006 and Wieters, LaPorta and Bumgarner in 2007 respectively. Some missed players could be pointed to poor scouting and drafting, but others were seen by many as being salary restrictive. The most notorious omission being Matt Wieters, a “can’t miss” catching prospect nabbed by the Baltimore Orioles in with the following 5th pick in the draft. After selecting Pedro Alvarez in 2008, the Pirates maintained their 1st round selection of position players by choosing Tony Sanchez with the 4th overall pick. Players left on the board were Mike Minor, Mike Leak and Drew Storen. 2009 was an interesting draft in the sense that Trout, the 25th overall pick of the Angels was just selection as MLB’s top prospect for 2011; proving that drafting is truly more of an art than a science. But the Sanchez pick was not hailed as a victory by the analysts. Reports seemed to indicate that the Pirates were attempting to make up for their Moskos/Wieters blunder by grabbing the best available catcher with the 4th pick, although Sanchez was considered by some to be a late 1st rounder. Money was also thrown into the equation as Sanchez was seen as an easy sign for Pittsburgh. But who is the aforementioned Tony Sanchez? Lets take a look at the man behind the pick.
Standing 6’1” and weighing a solid 213 pounds, Jorge Anthony (Tony) Sanchez was born on May 20, 1988. Tony attended Boston College and played the catcher position as a junior upon being drafted by the Pirates. Known for having taken the “Jared Subway” diet, Tony committed himself to training and exercise and excelled on the diamond in his last season at Boston College. In his 1st season of pro ball, Sanchez split his time between 3 minor league spots, finishing at a .309 average in 48 games, with 7 homeruns, 48 rbis, .408 obp and .539 slg. Building upon that season, Sanchez was enjoying a solid 2010 season in Bradenton which ended prematurely by suffering a broken jaw after a beaning. The final 2010 stat line for Sanchez was a .314 average in 59 games with 4 homeruns, 35 rbis, .416 obp and .454 slg. Solid numbers for any hitter, especially a catcher. Sanchez was named to the 2010 All-Star Futures Game and his future appeared to be very bright. Despite having his season ended early, Sanchez fought weight loss and rust by rehabilitating and joining the Mesa Solar Sox for the Arizona Fall League season. Despite subpar statistics, Sanchez did enjoy a 2-home run game on November 11th and was named a Rising Star in the AFL and most importantly, proved his health and commitment to playing to the Pittsburgh Pirates, its fans and the MLB community at large.
On February 13, 2011, Tony Sanchez will be reporting to spring training with the Pirates in Bradenton, Florida which ironically was his home field this past 2010 season. The only other catchers drafted in the 1st round by the Pirates were Neil Walker in 2004 and Jason Kendall in 1992. If the Pirates get a solid major leaguer like Kendall from Sanchez, the team and its fans will be overjoyed. Baseball America has rated Sanchez as having the potential to being the first Pittsburgh catcher gold glove winner since Mike “Spanky” LaValliere in 1987. It is time for the fans of Pittsburgh and baseball to let go of the ghosts of drafts past and live in the present and future. Tony Sanchez, in addition to Pedro Alvarez and 2010 1st round pick James Taillon represent solid Pirates building blocks for years to come. In his short time in baseball, Sanchez has shown that he has a potentially live bat and has received strong reviews for his work with the glove. With an MLB ETA of 2012, the Tony Sanchez era in Pittsburgh will soon be upon us. With a blue collar approach to the sport that will be well received in his new hometown, Tony Sanchez is starting to silence the critics and build upon the hype surrounding his play. Remember the name: Tony Sanchez, catcher, Pittsburgh Pirates.
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