For you non-Pittsburgh Pirate fans out there this entry may be somewhat irrelevant. I recently went to Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio-about a 15 minute drive from Youngstown to take in a minor league baseball game.
Eastwood Field is home to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, low class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Although I have a deep hatred of the Indians I do support the hometown team-the Scrappers. It is always a fun time at the field with wacky promotions and close to the action seats. Over the years a slew of Major League players have played for the Scrappers, most notably:
-Ben Francisco, Ryan Garko, Chris Gimenez, Trevor Crowe, Tony Sipp,and Victor Martinez-all current Inidans
-Ryan Church- outfielder for the Mets
-Kevin Kouzmanoff-infielder for the Padres
-C.C. Sabathia-hurler for the Yankees
It is a good place to go to take in a baseball game and see just drafted young play their hardest to reach the next level.
My trip to the field this week was to see young talent at its finest. The Scrappers were playing the State College Spikes, the farm team of the Pirates. I was there to mostly see Tony Sanchez, the first round pick of the Pirates in this month’s draft. There has been much talk and speculation about Tony. He was named the collegiate catcher of the year and has the batting numbers to prove it. However, he was ranked at about number 30 in terms of talent in the draft. With the 4th overall pick the Pirates nabbed Sanchez. Many pundits felt it was a security issue for the Bucs. They were able to quickly sign him with a contract rather than picking the best available player who may not have signed with the organization. Personally I like what Sanchez has to offer. I’d rather take a position player than a pithcer in any draft. In the Pirates case a position player is usually the right move regardless, we have a long history of pitching busts.
Decked out in my Pirates gear me my dad and my friend Andrew were able to get front row seats right behind the Spikes dugout. The tix were courtesy of my buddy Jared, The Indians fan. He is working as an intern in the Scrappers ticket office for the summer. It is a good gig for him as he is pursuing a career in sports management. The hours are long but he enjoys every second of being around baseball.
We headed down to our seats while the Spikes were warming up. Tony was playing catch with the starting pitcher. He looks like he has a strong arm for a catcher. He has a quick relaease and can really zoom the ball to his target. As he walked towards the dugout I started yelling his name holding up a ball and picture for him to sign. He was very cordial as he signed my items. We were able to have a brief conversation. He seems like a very genuine guy who is legitimately happy to be playing in the organization. He has a nice smile and a nice voice. Female fans around us were intrigued by his good looks. He said he hopes to do his best for a quick rise through the system and cracking the major league roster in the near future.
Here are pictures of my signed items.
I printed this picture off postgazette.com. It is Tony at PNC Park for the first time after signing his contract. He was there for a brief press conference and intorduction to his future stomping grounds.
He signed this ball right on the sweet spot without being asked to do so. Big props in my book as most players just carelessly sign any spot.
Tony began the game batting in the 3rd spot in the lineup. A perfect notch for him as he needs to develop into that same spot in the future. He is known to have slight pop in his bat, but not overwhelming power. Hopefully the minor league staff can hone his skills so he can drive the ball deep.
FIRST AB- Tony deleivered a frozen rope shot to right over the shortstops head. It flew off his bat and he was safely aboard with a single. He could have had an RBI on the play but the third base coach held the runner at third. Very discouraging as we booed him for not sending him home.
SECOND AB- He got bad wood on the ball and slowly dribbled it to the shortstop. The shortstop then stepped on second for a force out. On the throw to first the shortstop threw it in the dirt. Sanchez reached on the error and turned on the jets. He took advanatge of the situation and jetted to second base. The next batter ripped a drive to right field and Tony would come around to score what would be the lone Spikes run of the game.
THIRD AB- A pitch got in on his hands and he wasn’t able to turn on it. It was a roller right at the first baseman who easily stepped on first for the unassisted out
FOURTH AB- In hi slast time up he drilled another shot into left field and recahed with a single.
He finished the game 2-4 with a run scored. Not a bad day at the plate. In the other two game of the series he was help hitless in one but reached base once in the other game. It was a single too and he drove it to where else but left field. He also scored a run in that game after the hit.
Behind the plate Sanchez did a solid job keeping balls in front of him. He had one passed ball but othe rthan that it looks like he will be a big body who can mow down runners and be a solid overall defensive backstop.
As a whole I wa simpressed. Tony is a nice guy and a good face for the Pirates organization. There is a lot of work to be done. He can’t just be a singles hitter. He must add some depth to his batting arsenal. We need power at the big league level and if he works at it Tony can be the bopper we need. (no I am not suggesting steroids)
I wish I could have scouted the Spike better as whole instead of focusing on Tony the whole game. This guy sitting a row behind us was a big Pirate fan from Sharon, PA. He had notes about every player in the lineup and telling me who to look out for. There are some guys who may be able to sneak through the system liek second baseman Brock Holt and firstbaseman Kyle Morgan. There are also some pitchers on the team that have the right stuff-so he says.
In the corwd of 4,000 people a good thousand of them were Pirate fans. Alot of cheers went out for the Spikes.It was nice to hear and nice to give a “Lets Go Bucs” to passers by.
The loudest cheer of the night when the Indians score was announced. The Indians were beating the Pirates 5-0 in the 7th inning. Many people were pumped about that. The Youngstown area is loaded with Tribe fans. Pirates play second fiddle once again. I wa stracking the Pirates game on my cell phone and was very dissapointe din Ian Snell. He was shelled again giving up 5 runs. Things took a turn for the better for the Pirates in the car on the drive home. We tuned in to the radio after the Scrappers game, btw Mahoning Valley downed the Spikes 2-1. It was the ninth inning and the Pirates were scratching back with a 5-2 thanks to an Adam LaRoche homer that landed in the Allegheny River. The Pirates rally continued as Kerry Wood came into the game and started blowing up. The Pirates scored 2 off of Wood. Nyjer Morgan, Andrew McCutchen, Brandon Moss, Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez all collected hits in the 2 runs scored. The lineup batted around as Adam stepped up to the plate again. He did not deliever the same heroics as he popped out to right field to end the game. Very dissapointing but I hold my head high after a strong come back. The Bucs did win last night 10-6. Hopefully the offense will be alive again tonight. I will be in attendance at PNC Park for this rubber match between the interleague rivals.
In a handful of years you very well could be seeing this guy in a Pittsburgh uniform. History tells us chances are you won’t but the Pirates have full intentions of getting him up to the majors. After all he was their first pick in the 2009 draft. His name: Tony Sanchez, a catcher from Boston College out of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC is known for its baseball poweress, but not so much from a school such as Boston College.
Sanchez completed his Junior year of college at BC and was known as the best collegiate catcher in the draft. Nice accolades, but only one problem, he wasn’t expected to go untill laster, much later in the draft. The pick was done for signability issues, the Pirates front office knew what they were getting into picking a lesser player talent wise, in hopes that he would be an easy sign and that he would easily become a Pirate. The firestorm on Pirates message boards erupted after Sanchez was chosen. Many fans hoped the Pirates would choose a pitcher, specifically Aaron Crow. Crow fell to the 12th pick where he was chosen by Kansas City. Crow was a standout for Missouri so the hometown pick will surely be welcomed as a Royal.
Now I really have no problem with Sanchez, however I just don’t see the need for a catcher. While I can’t really say they Pirates are loaded at that position, I just know we have some solid guys waiting in the wings. Currently Ryan Doumit is first on our depth chart. He is widely regarded as a strong presence at the plate, unfortunately he is on teh DL and looks to remain there for a better part of the year. On the active roster now there is Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz. Both are rookies and done fantastic filling in for Doumit. In the minors the only catcher that has a legit shot at cracking the majors is Steven Lerud. He has been around for quite sometime but is still mentioned on top prospect lists.
I would have much rather seen an infielder drafted, preferably shortstop or 2nd baseman. Outside of current Pirates Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez the depth is pretty weak. Ideally a corner outfielder or first baseman could have been drafted. The Pirates have a stacked lineup with speed and average, just no power. If Sanchez can be developed properly, perhaps he can be able to put the ball in the seats. In college his numbers were .346, 14 homers, 51 RBI, from covering teh West Virginia University baseball team I can tell you those are very solid. Nobody on the Mountaineers hit more than 14 homeruns and a .346 averagee is very nice.
In later rounds the Pirates went after pitchers. From previous drafts Pirate pitchers have been nothing but busts. Bobby Bradley was injured and faded from baseball, number one overall pick Bryan Bullington never panned out and is probably floating around some Frontier League team. 2 years ago the Pirate nabbed Daniel Moskos. Moskos is a great guy and has a popular blog here on mlblogs, but he is tabbed to become nothing more than a decent relief pitcher. WIth a first round pick common sense would tell you to go after an impact player, not a decent relief pitcher.
Victor Black, Brooks Pounders and Zackary Dodson are a trio of pitchers thats were chosen in the first 5 round by the Bucs. With all the hoopla about the Pirates skipping over Aaron Crow, I look back to the previous busts by Pirate pitchers. Maybe it was a good thing he was passed over. Hopefully Black, Pounders, and Dodson can make teh impact that Maholm, Duke and Snell have made since being drafted by the Bucs and rising through teh farm system. Those 3 certianly aren’t major league elite but they’ve proved themselves through every phase and continue to hold down a spot on a major league rotation.
OTHER NOTABLE PLAYERS CHOSEN:
Pick 1455- Pat White. Yes, yes indeed this is THE Pat White. WVU football legend and Miami Dolphin Pat White. He made the decision out of high school to come to West Virginia and bypass the chance of playing baseball for the Los Angeles Angels. Based on his speed and pure athletic abilty the Yanks picked White. Once again he will give up baseball to pursue football in the NFL. This just show that 50 rounds is kind of meaningless when half the players will not even sign with their respective teams.
Pick 162-Tobias Striech. Following him the last two years and hearing nothing but the best, I knew Streich would be picked up in teh draft. Every single one of the WVU pitchers I’ve talked to said if it wasn’t for Tobias’s knowledge of the game and management skills the Mountaineers would lose more games than they won. He was a great defesnisve catcher with a quick release. Compared to Tony Snachez his numbers lack, but he still has a great opportunity with the Minnesota Twins and their organization.
Pick 834- Vince Belnome. Belnome was an RBI machine at WVU. His 84 this season gave him the all time single season record as a Mountaineer. He was a scrappy second baseman and always put the ball in play. The Padres picked him up and plan to use him as a utlityman. He was the cleanup hitter for the Mountaineers, a great spot to drive in runs and he did just that.
Its hard to tell what will happen with this draft. I wish all the Pirate picks the best of luck, they are the future and a cornerstone to give the Pirates a winning chance. I also wish Streich and Belnome the best. Once a Mountaineer always a Mountaineer, they have a chance to show the nation what West Virginia Spirit is all about.
PHOTO CREDITS: mlb.com, msnsportsnet.com