Pirates reach to draft Boston College catcher

Huntington acknowledges signability factor in taking Sanchez

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To those long-worn Pirates followers who are critical about the organization's fiscally sensitive draft philosophy in the past decade and a half, to those fans who are skeptical over this administration's spread-the-wealth strategy for a less starry but deeper draft than the one that netted $6 million man Pedro Alvarez a year ago, Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez wants to throw this at you:

He thrives on exceeding small expectations; he strives to be an over-performing underdog.

"I just felt that they were attracted to my work ethic and how much I invest in my team, the fact that I'm going to work harder for my teammates than for myself," said Sanchez, an admittedly former round kid who shed 25 pounds in the past year and a half through conditioning, working out and dieting -- mostly subsisting on Subway turkey-and-tuna on wheat. "At BC, we were a losing program. Me and my teammates took a mentality that we wanted to turn that around. I hope to do the same thing getting into the system with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I want to help turn that franchise into a winning franchise."

So began a first-year player flesh peddle for a Pirates management planning to spend not only last night but this entire three-day draft carefully selecting more bricks from which to build a contender.

Instead of blowing two-thirds of their draft budget on a first-round selection -- though they still agree Alvarez last June at No. 2 was a power-hitting pedigree well worth it -- they prefer to be more cost effective. They prefer to try to invest more wisely, more widely, if they are to spend roughly equal to 2008's $9.8 million on a 2009 draft carrying more even distribution than top-heaviness.

The Pirates next chose pitcher Victor Black, 21, of Dallas Baptist University with the No. 49 pick in the sandwich round -- compensation for being unable to sign last summer's second-round selection Tanner Scheppers. Black (6-4, 205) was the 16th-rated right-hander by Baseball America. He sports a 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 96 thanks to a newly remodeled, three-quarters pitching motion.

Three picks later came second-rounder Brooks Pounders, 18, a burly, 6-4, 225-pound pitcher from Temecula (Calif.) Valley High who has a scholarship to Southern California. Though not rated among Baseball America's top 80 righties, Pounders throws four pitches well, a rarity for a prep player.

In the third round at No. 84, the Pirates drafted center fielder Evan Chambers, 20, of Hillsborough (Fla.) Community College, considered a fifth- or sixth-round talent as a corner outfielder by Baseball America. He had 39 RBIs and topped his team with 11 home runs and 27 steals in 29 attempts in 49 games this spring.

"We think we can get a number of good players by allocating resources across a large number instead of a small number of players," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "We were excited about what we were able to do last year, but one could argue that we've got $3 million, $3.5 million available to distribute over a large number of players that was tied up just in Pedro Alvarez. If that type of talent was on the board and available this year, in our minds, we would have taken it. We feel that this pick gives us the best ability to maximize our returns over the full draft."

Sanchez appears ready to promptly sign a deal worth around $2.5 million, per his draft slot. He said that there already existed a relative handshake agreement between his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, and Pirates management. He aims to report to work soon, that assignment being Class A West Virginia.

"I like to fly under the radar. I let my game speak for myself," said. Sanchez, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound catcher with polished defensive skills and a bat needing work -- he topped BC with a .346 average and 14 homers.

"It's a premium position," Pirates scouting director Greg Smith said. "He's got above-average defensive skills behind the plate [and] a solid offensive package to complement that. With the leadership, the character, we really think it gives us a great guy to bring on board as a Pittsburgh Pirate."

Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com . First Published June 10, 2009 4:00 AM


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