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.

  • 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.

    • Way to find the bright side!

    • 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.

  • William Wallace
    December 7, 2014 11:31 am

    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.

    • At the time, that would have been just as much as reach as Sanchez, so I would never assume he was an option. They could have easily ended up with Matt Hobgood, who I know some people wanted. He spent the 2014 season as a reliever in A-ball. I might be misremembering(copyright Roger Clemens), but I believe that when the Pirates pick came up, I was hoping they went Tyler Matzek. He really hasn’t done much yet either, though his future seems to be brighter

      • 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.

        • They did load up on young pitching and it hasn’t worked. The only one still in the organization with a shot at the majors is Zack Dodson and that is because he is a lefty. Zack Von Rosenberg is the only other one still around and he probably won’t last long. Brooks Pounders and Colton Cain were traded and neither looks like a prospect, while Trent Stevenson retired.

          • 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.

              • Unfortunately, Cain and ZVR, the two big signings, were both thought of as at least 2nd round talent, so they were top talent where they were taken. I believe Dodson was a 3rd/4th round talent too, so they made some solid picks that just never worked out. That’s the chance you take with HS players, you’re trying to guess where they will end up 5-6 years down the line. They have huge payoff potential and little chance of reaching it.

                • 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.

              • 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.

      • 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.

        • From what I’ve read, the Angels made an immediate change to his batting stance(how he held the bat) and it paid off in results quickly. He went from looking like a solid pick where they got him to looking like the best player in baseball pretty quick, so you have to wonder if that change was something their scouts saw ahead of time and knew they could change for the better. If they did, that might be info that they sit on until he’s in the system.

          • 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.

  • 12 at-bats. 12.

    • No one has 12 at-bats, 2-for-12 in throwing out runners attempting to steal. He has 30 at-bats and three hits(.100)

  • 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?

    • I don’t think he has been mishandled. He spent all of 2010 in Bradenton(missed time with jaw injury). All of 2011 in Altoona. Started back at Altoona in 2012, moving up to Indy mid-season. If anything, they took it slow with him from 2010 on. When they called him to the majors in 2013-14(except Sept) they had him starting so he wasn’t just sitting on the bench when he could have been starting everyday in AAA. It could be mental with the throwing, happens occasionally with players such as Mackey Sasser or Chuck Knoblauch or Steve Blass

  • 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.

    • I think his job short-term is the third string catcher, Diaz will need to show he can hit a little more before he has a spot with the Pirates. That means he will need at least a half season at AAA and a full year wouldn’t hurt him. If Valle returns to prospect status, then that would make Sanchez expendable, but I don’t think he goes anywhere before the season starts.

  • Lee Foo Young
    December 7, 2014 9:24 am

    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.

        • I’ve never heard of anything. I assume you mean alcohol by substance because the minor league drug prevention program is even more strict than the majors. I’ve seen the list of things they can’t take, it’s ridiculous. I knew someone that worked at a GNC and he said a good 75% of the stuff that you could buy there, minor league players can’t use and illegal drug use is obviously a no-no.

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

          • 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.

          • About 90% of the products GNC sells are worthless.

            • And they aren’t allowed to take them due to their banned substance list, so that should tell you how strict the list is

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