|Born: September 2, 1983
Drafted: 4th Round, 126th Overall, 2005 (Marlins)
How Acquired: Traded from Marlins
College: University of Miami (FL)
Agent: Beverly Hills Sports Council
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Sanchez missed his junior year at Miami due to a suspension, but the Marlins drafted him based on the familiarity one of their scouts had with him. He put up some gaudy numbers at times in the minors, but not always, and he generally was a little old for his level. He showed mostly doubles power, but also showed exceptional strike zone judgment. He had two solid seasons in the majors for the Marlins, but collapsed in 2012. He’s had strong platoon splits in the majors, with an OPS of .878 against LHPs and .715 against RHPs. He’s shown the ability to steal a base occasionally. In the minors, he played first most of the time, but got considerable time at third in the upper minors and also caught a little in the low minors. UZR and +/- both show him to be above average defensively at first. The Pirates acquired Sanchez and a marginal minor league pitcher for Gorkys Hernandez and the team’s competitive balance lottery pick.
Sanchez had a strong debut in the New York-Penn League, winning the batting title. He played 30 games at third, 12 at first and 11 behind the plate.
Sanchez tore up the South Atlantic League for a while, but had his season derailed by nagging finger and foot injuries. He caught a little but mostly played first.
Spending a full season in the Florida State League, Sanchez hit respectably but didn’t dominate, although at 23 he wasn’t young for the level. He played almost entirely at first, but got into a few games at third and catcher.
In AA, Sanchez had a much better season, with outstanding plate discipline. He split his time evenly between the infield corners. Florida called him up in mid-September, but he saw little action.
Playing in the pitcher’s park in New Orleans, but in the high-offense Pacific Coast League, Sanchez had a good season at the plate. He got brief callups in July and August, then spent September in the majors. He again split his time between first and third.
Sanchez had a solid season as a 26-year-old rookie in the majors. Although the numbers looked superficially good, his OPS+ was 108, which is nothing special for a firstbaseman.
Sanchez’ 2011 season was very similar to his 2010 one. His hitting tailed off just a little, but he had outstanding BB and K numbers.
Sanchez got off to a miserable start with the Marlins. They sent him to the minors in mid-May with his OPS at just .539. He came back up three weeks later and hit about the same. Miami sent him back to AAA again after acquiring Carlos Lee. The most obvious difference with Sanchez from prior years is the sudden drop in his walk rate. He began swinging at a higher percentage of pitches out of the strike zone than the previous year. His line drive rate dropped substantially, with most of the lost line drives becoming popups. That suggests pitchers might have found a weakness, possibly pounding him inside, and he hasn’t adjusted yet. After the trade, Sanchez stepped into Casey McGehee’s role on the short end of the first base platoon with Garrett Jones. He hit well initially, showing more or less his old plate discipline, finishing the season in a 3-for-29 slump. Part of the problem may have been mission creep, as Clint Hurdle played Sanchez increasingly against RHPs; Sanchez ended up getting nearly twice as many ABs against RHPs as against LHPs. Hurdle even started Sanchez at times over Starling Marte, which is truly difficult to comprehend.
Hurdle continued his obsession with playing Sanchez against RHPs at the very beginning of the season, but after watching him struggle for a few games, Hurdle went to the obvious solution, which was a 1B platoon between Sanchez and Jones. Sanchez’ extreme splits continued: he posted an OPS of .987 against LHPs and .619 against RHPs. He got too many ABs against the latter — 61% of his plate appearances — but this happened mainly because other players either were hurt or not hitting. Overall, Sanchez finished with the best BB:K ratio of his career and also the best OPS+ of his career. (OPS+ is a comparative stat and hitting overall was down again in 2013, so Sanchez had his best OPS+ despite having only his third-best OPS.) Sanchez was remarkably consistent; his worst monthly OPS was .717, but he did hit all of his HRs and April and June. According to the defensive metrics, his glovework slipped significantly, but the sample size is small. The Pirates used him at third a fair amount during spring training, but he played only four innings there during the season, his only major league appearance at the position.
Sanchez was eligible for arbitration, but he and the Pirates agreed on a $2.3M contract. Alarmingly, the Pirates stated during the off-season, while they were searching for a left-handed first baseman to replace Jones, that they believed Sanchez could handle the job on a full-time basis, although that may have been for the benefit of potential trade partners. Sanchez ended up platooning with Travis Ishikawa at the beginning of the year, then with Ike Davis for most of the year. Clint Hurdle also, however, gave him 22 starts against RHPs, as the Pirates didn’t face many left-handed starters in 2014 and Hurdle seemed to think giving Sanchez regular starts was more important than having a firstbaseman in the lineup who was a threat to hit. Sanchez got off to a good start, but largely collapsed after May, with the exception of a decent month of August. His monthly OPS:
For the season, Sanchez had barely adequate numbers against LHPs (256/318/429) and was terrible (202/268/341) against RHPs. The poor overall batting average did not result just from bad luck, as Sanchez’ BABIP of .265 was only a little low. Also, unlike many of the team’s hitters, who improved their walk and/or K rates, Sanchez saw his plate discipline regress badly. Although the Pirates stressed patience during spring training and ended up leading the NL in walks, Sanchez swung at pitches outside the strike zone 35% more often than in 2013, struggling with sliders in particular. He did hit well as a pinch hitter, posting a 250/333/481 line. He frequently finished games at first, due to his glove being better than the other alternatives.
Sanchez will again be eligible for arbitration, which means he’ll be due for a raise despite his poor 2014 season. With his inability to hit RHPs, he has to pummel LHPs to be useful, and he didn’t do that in 2014. He should be a candidate to be non-tendered.