WEEK 1: CATCHERS IN THE PIRATES ORGANIZATION
The Pittsburgh Pirates enter Spring Training with a corps of young, talented catchers at each level of the system. This list of promising farmhands features a handful of backstops with experience in the International League, including former Tribe catchers Tony Sanchez and Carols Paulino, 2013 Louisville Bats standout Nevin Ashley and IL journeyman Omir Santos, who has seen action with Norfolk, Buffalo, Toledo and Columbus during his career.
Potential Indians Catchers
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Tony Sanchez in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Boston College. That year, Sanchez was selected just three picks behind current Washington Nationals phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
Last season, Sanchez appeared in 76 games with the Indians, batting .288 (75-for-260) with a career-high 10 homers and 27 doubles. Sanchez also caught 24 percent of runners attempting to steal (22 of 71) while he worked behind the plate for Indianapolis.
In addition to his stint with the Tribe, Sanchez also made his MLB debut with the Pirates last season on June 23. The rising prospect concluded the season hitting at a .233 clip (14-for-66) with four doubles, two homers and five RBI in 22 games for Pittsburgh.
Indiana native Nevin Ashley was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth round (169th overall) of the 2006 MLB Draft out of Indiana State University. Prior to his departure from the Sycamores, he also played baseball at North Knox High School in Bicknell, Ind.
Ashley appeared in 80 games for Louisville last season where he batted .235 (56-for-238) and slugged 20 extra-base hits in just 238 at-bats. Defensively, he excelled behind the dish for the Bats by committing only one error and catching 16 of 45 runners attempting to steal (26 percent) on the club.
During his climb to the Triple-A level, Ashley led the entire Rays organization and all rookie-level catchers in batting average in 2006 and paced all South Atlantic League backstops in fielding percentage in 2007. Just two seasons later, Ashley added to his impressive resume when he earned recognition from the Rays as the organization’s “Best Defensive Player” (2009) and from Baseball America as the “Best Defensive Catcher” in Tampa Bay’s system (2009)
The New York Yankees selected Omir Santos in the 21st round (635th overall) of the 2001 MLB Draft. As he progressed through the Yankees’ system, he was rated as high as New York’s No. 29 prospect (after 2004 season) by Baseball America.
Santos spent last season with the Columbus Clippers, producing a .248 batting average (51-for-206) with nine doubles, two triples and three homers in 61 Triple-A contests. He also drove in 28 runs for Columbus, which ranked as the second-most RBI he’s collected in the IL during his 13-year professional career. Santos’ 2013 season also included a brief promotion to the Majors with the Cleveland Indians.
The IL veteran, who gunned down 21 percent of potential base stealers (15 of 58) with the Clippers last year, concluded his solid campaign with a .217 average in 29 games in the Dominican Winter League with the Gigantes del Cibao.
In the System
Among the notable names in Pittsburgh’s system is last year’s first-round draft selection Reese McGuire, who is rated by MLB.com as the seventh-best catching prospect in the Minors, and Carlos Paulino, who is one of only six non-roster backstops invited to Pirates Major League camp.
At just 18 and 24 years old respectively, the duo of McGuire and Paulino brings excitement to the Pirates organization for the upcoming campaign after each flashed impressive potential throughout the 2013 season. Though the two up-and-coming prospects are still awaiting a shot to crack their first big league lineups, Paulino showed his upside last season by throwing out 36 percent of would-be basestealers (40 of 70) between Double-A Altoona and Indianapolis, while McGuire dominated the Gulf Coast League with his team-high 58 base hits on the year.