Pirates Tony Sanchez Hopes For A Stronger 2012





PITTSBURGH—Tony Sanchez, the Pirates' 2009 first-round pick, batted .241/.340/.318 for Double-A Altoona last season. While none of those numbers is great, the one that jumps out is the weak slugging percentage.

The emphasis there is on the word "weak." Eschewing the standard video study that most players do following a season, Sanchez chose instead to bulk up, to put more strength into his swing. He has added 15 pounds from his playing weight of last season and currently checks in at 225 pounds.

"I know I can drive the ball at this weight," Sanchez said. "And I can still move well behind the plate and run down the first-base line. Last year, I wasn't hitting the ball like a man."

Sanchez has never offered much in the way of over-the-fence power. He has 16 home runs in 787 professional at-bats, including his five in 2011. But he had just 20 extra-base hits last season, roughly one every 25 plate appearances. Management remains high on Sanchez, in large part because of solid defense. But more has to come from the bat, which is why he is expected to repeat Double-A.

"Tony never quite got in sync last year," assistant general manager Kyle Stark said, citing Sanchez's broken jaw in 2010 and an emphasis on defense in 2011. "He has some moving parts to his swing and both challenges kept him from finding that rhythm.."

However, it might not be that simple. The Pittsburg Tribune-Review reported that Sanchez was involved in a bar brawl earlier this offseason in which he broke his jaw. No charges were filed and the Pirates do not comment on player misconduct and discipline.

Treasure Trove

• Righthander Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft, will be one of a handful of prospects invited to major league spring training.

• Outfielder Robbie Grossman, the organization's minor league player of the year last season, is recovering well from a hamate bone injury sustained in the Arizona Fall League. He should be ready for spring training.