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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Details on Tony Sanchez Making His First Career Start at First Base

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.

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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.


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Revving up for next years 1B platoon.

R Edwards

With Alvarez well documented struggles this year and his move to first base….as well as the recent revelation that Tony Sanchez is now getting some time at first base, it made me realize that the Pirates continue to strike out on first round picks.Cole looks to be a keeper, but he has had an injury prone and disappointing season this year. Taillon had TJS and is not a proven commodity.

Other than McCutchen and Walker, what other first round picks on last 20-25 years have the Pirates hit on?? Have there been any others??

Kenny Moore

I am on record saying that Sanchez is not a every day catcher in the majors. His bat is major league ready but his defense is what holds him back. When he was drafted #4 overall we were sold that he was going to be a plus defender but he hasn’t shown this in the majors.

I think the front office doesnt think Sanchez can handle the catchers position and are going to fast track Diaz and get him ready to be the everyday catcher in case they can’t sign Russell Martin.

Ian Rothermund

That would be super aggressive. Even if the defense is there, his bat will still likely need some time.


Has this front office ever put a player on the major league roster after a month in AAA?

Kenny Moore

I don’t know but they clearly think Diaz is the future and more and more you will see Sanchez playing first in AAA. Who knows how fast Diaz makes it to the majors but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he is our everyday catcher by June 1 of next season.

Monsoon Harvard

I called for Tony Sanchez to learn first base back in April. That was to get his bat in the line-up though. I now have different reasons.

I believe Elias Diaz has surpassed Tony in skills and the likelihood of future success as a catcher. Also I want Russell Martin to be resigned.

I’m glad the Pirates are flexible enough to consider these things. They need to have this kind of insight to make the most use of their prospects and compete with the bigger-market teams.


I don’t know but a lot of good players after Sanchez including mike minor who is throwing a no hitter tonight. Not a good decision obviously with hindsight.


Except for one player who was suspended twice for drug use, spent two stints in drug rehab facilities, and most recently tore up his Achilles, and a pitcher who had major rotator cuff surgery (Matt Hobgood), everyone of the first 10 players taken in the 2009 draft are currently in the majors except Tony Sanchez. Here’s an article from MLB.com suggesting that the 2009 class was very strong:
“History’s No. 1 Draft? Top choice might be ’09
Group featuring Trout, Strasburg, Goldschmidt stands tall in a decade of strong classes”

Lukas Sutton

You can pick and choose players to point to and say “this is why it was a bad pick” but people who objectively look at that draft admit it was a weak draft with no sure thing top talent. You look at the guys taken before and after him and you realize it wasnt a great draft to pick in.


Yes, there were good players taken after him – no surprise – and it is always easy to be a draft expert in hindsight. But there are more misses than hits even in the top half of the first round. The player taken just before Sanchez was Donovan Tate. The player taken just after him was Matt Hobgood. Some others in the top 20 are Jacob Turner, Grant Green, Matt Purke, Alex White, Bobby Borchering, Chad James, Chad Jenkins, and Jiovanni Mier. Lots of other first round busts in that draft as well.


Kinda unexpected until you stop and think about his yips and that the pirates are turning over every stone trying to find a first baseman for the big club. Keep turning over those stones buccos, just hope ya don’t find a snake.


The Pirates could be thinking of exchanging Tony Sanchez for Gabby Sanchez, and platooning Pedro and Tony at 1B, while Tony could also act as the backup catcher. This would eliminate both Stewart’s and G. Sanchez’s salaries to free up money to add to the kitty to sign Martin. That would give Diaz several years at AAA to mature, and give T. Sanchez MLB at bats at catcher against RHP and at 1B against LHP.


It’s possible that could be what happens, though I’m still leaning towards pedro being traded this of season, hopefully for a nice first base prospect. (Texas anyone?)


Texas sounds great!

Monsoon Harvard

Oooo! that would be scary!


It upsets me how we were told he was major league ready defensively when he was drafted. Maybe that was to quiet the naysayers who thought they reached for him at no. 4 overall. I think we can put the bust label on him now.


The pirates weren’t the only people saying his defense was major league ready as I remember most outlets felt that he was strong on defense and needed to work with his bat…In this instance I don’t think we should hold the pirates to the fire for his lack of defense behind the dish.

Ian Rothermund

Well he has all the physical tools and I believe he won the award for best college catcher the year he came out. It’s purely a psychological thing it seems. That’s unfortunate considering the mentally demanding aspects of the position. If the bat can play though, you have another back up first base option and a back up catcher in one player. At the very least, it allows for both him and the other catcher just up from triple-A (forget his name) to be in the lineup simultaneously.

Lukas Sutton

If he has any type of career in the bigs, even as a bench guy, he isnt a bust. Even among top 10 draft picks the chances of making to the bigs isnt great, and its lower for being a 5+ year starter. With a draft as lacking as that one in top talent at the time, the only way thats a bust is if he doesnt make it on the roster in the next 2-3 years and contribute.


I wouldn’t call him bust. You have to put his high draft position in the context of the rest of the draft. There was no real clear cut pick at the time so they went with a signable guy at a position they coveted. Then they tried to load up on HS arms. The draft did not pan out at all but at the time they were applauded for the approach. And the FO has obviously learned fast since then.
I’m a little perturbed that he was touted as pro-ready defense and then his defense because his Achilles heal, But he’s not a bust in my eyes because nobody in the org ever called him a future all-star and he’s still in the game with a chance to contribute.

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