Pirates Develop Lolo Sanchez's Speed As A Weapon
One of the most exciting plays of the Pirates’ spring was made by an 18-year-old who hadn’t played a single game above the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
In a late March game against the Phillies, outfielder Lolo Sanchez took advantage of Philadelphia’s shift to the right side, took a big lead and stole home on an errant throw to the plate.
It was Sanchez’s only appearance in a Grapefruit League game all spring, but it was enough to make a statement.
"He has speed, but that type of play is more savvy than speed,” farm director Larry Broadway said. "He is a very aggressive player on both sides of the ball. His legs are a weapon for him.”
The Pirates signed Sanchez out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, and in his brief pro career he has proven he has a number of offensive and defensive weapons. Though he’s listed at just 5-foot-11, 168 pounds, he showed both power and patience at the plate last summer in the GCL.
In 51 games, Sanchez batted .284/.359/.417 with four home runs and 42 runs scored. he showed gap power with 11 doubles and a pair of triples. He also stole 14 bases and drew more walks (21) than strikeouts (19).
While putting up those numbers, Sanchez also showed that he can play a top-tier center field. Add it all up and he jumped into the Pirates' Top 10 Prospects list in his first season in the U.S. His spring in Bradenton, Fla., allowed him to build further.
"He continued to show up well on both sides of the ball,” Broadway said.
Assigned to low Class A West Virginia, Sanchez turns 19 in late April as he makes his full-season debut. That speeds up his development track significantly, though the Pirates are trying not to think too far ahead.
"We’ll continue to focus on weaponizing his speed,” Broadway said, "and as a hitter just looking to face the next level of pitching in a full-season league.”
Pirates Focus On Improving Player Development
The fact that Pirates prospects tended to improve dramatically with new organizations did not go unnoticed by ownership.
>> After an injury-plagued 2017 season, outfielder Austin Meadows reestablished himself as one of the top priorities in the system by hitting .368/.429/.737 in nine Grapefruit League games. He also stole a base and showed even more speed in practice. "He was running extremely well and stole a number of bases, which was really encouraging to see," Broadway said. "In the box he looked like he was very comfortable and freed up. More so than I’ve seen from him in a while.”
>> Kevin Kramer made the most of his first big league camp, batting .320/.500/.800 with a home run, three doubles and three triples. He also struck out 12 times but played a capable shortstop as well as a strong second base. "Defensively he continued to open up eyes on the comfort level playing shortstop,” Broadway said. "He has continued where he left off last year offensively (by) looking very comfortable with his approach.”