The Blue Jays announced on Friday that they signed C Tony Sanchez to a Minor League deal. Sanchez will start the season in Triple A Buffalo, and will slide behind Josh Thole on the club’s depth chart under starting catcher Russell Martin.
While he has struggled to cut it at the Major League level, logging just 155 PA over three years of limited service time, he was selected fourth overall by the Pirates in the 2009 Draft and has made Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list several twice.
Looking at his minor league track record, the most inspiring stat is his .357 OBP. He’s not going to hit a ton of home runs, but he has gap power, and knows how to get on base. He’s projected to slash .259/.313/.404 over 213 PA which seems a bit optimistic but if he produces along those lines that’s better than what the Jays had before. I see him getting called up early in the season and taking the backup role from Josh Thole. The one red flag is that he’s only thrown out 16% of runners in the Majors. It’s a limited sample size, but it’s something to watch.
Any at bats you can reallocate away from Josh Thole is a win for the Jays, but the bigger win is the insurance against having to use Humberto Quintero in any situation. Toronto has its catcher of the future in Max Pentecost, who will be ready to make the jump by the time Russell Martin’s contract is up at the end of 2019. Pentecost missed last season to shoulder and wrist issues, but will begin his journey to the Majors in Single A Vancouver this season. He’s an athletic catcher whose greatest tools are his speed, arm, and raw power, which is pretty different from the Jays’ typical lumbering catcher mould.
If you watched the Jays last season, you probably noticed how many at-bats Dioner Navarro got. Russell Martin is great and all, but without a solid backup catcher the Jays would essentially be negating any surplus generated by Martin’s at-bats by giving at-bats to some below-replacement-level schlub.