Winter Leagues: Two Catchers Headed in Opposite Directions

Not many Pittsburgh Pirates players saw action on Saturday night, but it is interesting to note the struggles of Tony Sanchez on both offense and defense during his first ten games of winter ball and compare that to how Sebastian Valle has performed since signing with the Pirates on November 20th. A small sample size won’t do much to change their status going into the regular season. Sanchez still seems like the third string catcher for the Pirates and the replacement option early in the season. Valle will probably start at Altoona and hope to regain his prospect status. Not long ago, he was considered a much better prospect than Elias Diaz and the two players are the same age, so it’s still possible that Valle ends up to be a strong under the radar signing that cost the Pirates nothing.

On Saturday night in the Dominican, Tony Sanchez went 0-for-2 before being pinch-hit for in the seventh inning. On defense, he made his second throwing error and allowed two stolen bases in two attempts. Sanchez is batting .100 and he’s 2-for-12 in throwing out runners.

Willy Garcia struck out twice in three at-bats, but he had a two-run single his first time up. That hit put his team up 2-0, on their way to a 4-0 victory. Garcia is hitting .252 and has a 6:29 BB/SO ratio in 103 at-bats.

Gustavo Nunez went 1-for-4 with an RBI, run scored and two strikeouts.

In Mexico, Sebastian Valle continued to get on base at a high rate. He went 1-for-3 with a double, walk and HBP. In his last ten games, he is batting .483/.595/.862, with three homers. During that span he has driven in ten runs and scored ten runs as well. Perhaps the most important part of his recent success is his 6:3 BB/SO ratio. Valle walked just nine times during the regular season and he has struck out over 100 times in a season twice in the past.

In Venezuela, Jhonathan Ramos faced one batter for the second day in a row. He picked up a strikeout, lowering his ERA to 0.71 through 18 appearances.

Radhames Liz still hasn’t officially signed with the Pirates yet, but they have shut him down for the winter. He made five starts for Estrellas de Oriente, posting a 1.90 ERA in 23.2 innings, with a .195 BAA, 1.16 GO/AO ratio and a 5:29 BB/SO ratio.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Chris Hale

Steelers win !


Maybe if Tony Sanchez was nearly ready or looked adequate a couple years ago, when he was supposed to arrive, we never go after Russell Martin and we never make the playoffs the past 2 years.


The Pirates also wanted three years with Martin. Interestingly the question a couple of years ago was about whether Sanchez could hit enough to be a MLB regular.


Way to find the bright side!

William Wallace

Bet NH wished he had a mulligan on this pick in that draft. He would be named Dapper Dan man of the century if he choose Trout.


How is it then that so many of the scouting professionals under evaluated Trout that he went so late in the 1st round? Given his rapid ascent to MLB his talent in HS should have been impossible to miss.


Very interesting! Thanks.


Also remember he was drafted out of a New Jersey high school. Even as a relatively well known prospect who hit the showcase circuit hard, scouts didn’t get the chance to see him nearly as much as top Texas/Cali/Florida/Georgia recruits.


IIRC one of the reasons I was told that they drafted him (other than supposedly being nearly MLB ready defensively) was to allow them to spend more on pitching in the later rounds. Unless I’m missing something that didn’t exactly work out.


I thought their plan was a great idea that year with the old draft rules. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure this ended up being NH’s crew’s worst draft by far.


The poor results support the old draft logic that you should always draft the best available athlete at every opportunity, regardless of position.


I think the conversation should be much more nuanced than simply taking the best athlete.

I’d argue that the Pirates biggest mistake of the ’09 draft was misreading the bonus demands of potential picks. Only three players taken after the Pirates pick signed for more than $500k over what they gave Sanchez. Not only did they reach with the pick, they didn’t actually save much money in doing so.


Good point.


Yes. It’s unfortunate for the drafting process but men don’t mature at the same rate and peak at the same chronological age. We all know guys who were stars in junior high school, but faded away by their senior year in HS. Or the kids who looked like Greek gods in HS, were good as collegians, but never matured into great pros.


12 at-bats. 12.


Is it possible that Sanchez has been mishandled? Wasn’t his defense his strongest ability? Why has it dipped? It seems like he’s often being bounced around and hasn’t had much of an opportunity to settle in and work out his game. Or am I completely wrong here?

Mark Georg


Ron Loreski

A change of scenery might be best for Sanchez. With the emergence of Elias Diaz, he doesn’t seem to fit into the Pirates plans anymore.

Lee Foo Young

It seems like Sanchez is never going to even be viable as a backup.


I never like to see any young guy failing, but I’m afraid I have seen this before. Professional baseball can be a tough,disappointing career path.


I remember that Tony got his jaw broken in a bar fight. I guess that would have been a badge of honor for a football player back in the day. But is there any hint of substance abuse issues that he may be wrestling with? Everyone has there skills depart at some point, usually in the mid to late 30’s depending on position. It’s unusual for skills to depart in your mid to late 20’s without some sort of reason.


About 90% of the products GNC sells are worthless.


Yea, I was thinking of booze primarily. Glad to hear MiLB is rigorous on other drugs. There was a tv special on Dock Ellis on a few nights ago. Amazing the amount alcohol and drugs that were around in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. It wasn’t just sports, it was music, it was everywhere (hey it was in the high schools too). You have to wonder how much better players like Dave Parker and his whole generation would have been were it not for their drug use. Would Willie Stargell and Dock Ellis have lived longer lives with healthy livers? Probably so. I hope if Tony has a problem he can find his way out soon.


the double fisted chug comes to mind when they beat cincy in the cueto wc game.

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