After well documented struggles behind the plate for the past couple seasons, Tony Sanchez will make his first career start at first base Friday night for Indianapolis.
While the future of the position change is up in the air, it will allow the organization to keep Elias Diaz and Sanchez’s bat in the lineup every day. The move that Sanchez would play some first base was announced just after Diaz was promoted.
“I’m not really sure, as far as [the Pirates’] strategy around it, but it comes from upstairs,” Indianapolis hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo said. “If it will add value to the club in Pittsburgh, I’m all for it…It’s good to keep Tony’s bat in the lineup, and he’s starting to really swing the bat well. Hopefully, that’s what they’re looking for.”
Prior to going 0-for-4 Thursday night, Sanchez had a four game hit streak. In those four games, he was 7-for-14 with a double and two home runs. Sanchez has 10 home runs and 16 doubles this season, despite hitting only .228. Much of the average issues stem from a 5-for-55 stretch in June.
Pagliarulo also made a transition to first base in his career as well, so he looks forward to giving some pointers. The expectations for Sanchez at the position are simple.
“My concern for anyone playing a new position that they have never played before is just to not get hurt,” Pagliarulo said. “We don’t want him to play conservatively, but to make the right moves and to know where to go with the ball. We don’t expect any great plays, but he’s a tough kid and a gamer.”
In addition, Pagliarulo said that Sanchez “is buying all in” with the move.
The struggles for Sanchez behind the plate have been well documented. With Indianapolis this season, Sanchez has only thrown out 11 percent of base stealers and committed nine errors. He has also allowed six passed balls in 66 games behind the plate.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Diaz has been tremendous defensively. He has committed just five errors in 91 games, while throwing out 32 percent of base stealers between Indianapolis and Altoona this season. Pagliarulo also said that Diaz has “one of the strongest arms” for a catcher in the organization.
Though Sanchez may or may not have a future at first base, the move makes it clear that the Pirates have changed their interest from Sanchez to Diaz behind the plate. This move makes it more clear that re-signing Russell Martin is a primary necessity for the offseason, as Diaz will likely require some additional seasoning at Triple-A next season.
Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.