Gaby Sanchez will enter the 2014 season firmly entrenched as the right handed hitter in the Pirates first base platoon. This is the same role he has occupied since the Pirates acquired him in July of 2012 from the Miami Marlins. Sanchez is well suited for this rule. In his career he has mashed left handed pitchers to the tune of an .895 OPS. Last year Sanchez beat up on southpaws even more, posting an .987 OPS. But there is a reason Sanchez is a platoon player and not a full time 1B. As good as Gaby is against left handers, he is almost equally as bad against right handed pitching. His career OPS against righties is just .700. For a 1B that is downright terrible.
Unfortunately, Gaby Sanchez’s ability to hit left handed pitching is providing diminishing returns for the Pirates because they face so few left handed starting pitchers. Last year the Bucs faced a left handed starter just 31 times. That was by far the lowest total in the league. 79.1% of all the Pirates’ plate appearances in 2013 were against right handed pitching. The league wide average was 71.2%. Gaby is terrific in the short side of a platoon, but the Pirates have the shortest short side of a platoon of any team in the league. It is not about to get any better in 2014 either. Tony Cingrani, Travis Wood, and perhaps Jaime Garcia are the only left handed starters of note the Pirates will face in the division. This wouldn’t be so concerning if manager Clint Hurdle did a better job of shielding Sanchez from right handed pitchers, but Hurdle allowed Sanchez way too many ABs last year against righties. Without a proven hitter opposite of Sanchez in the 1B platoon, I expect he’ll face even more righties this season. Unless the Pirates can work out a deal for Ike Davis or Justin Smoak, it appears Andrew Lambo will get the opportunity to occupy the left handed 1B platoon role. If Lambo struggles, Plan B will probably consist of Gaby Sanchez playing every day. I do believe Gaby Sanchez is going to get a few more ABs against right handers in 2014. I also believe he won’t rake against southpaws quite as well as he did in 2013. I expect his platoon splits against lefties to line up more with his career averages. For these reasons I feel Sanchez will be less productive offensively in 2014.
Defensively Gaby Sanchez is normally quite good. However, last year his advanced metrics dipped considerably. For the first time in his career he had a negative Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). I’m not ready to call that a trend. I believe in 2014 he’ll return to being a slightly above average defender. Sanchez doesn’t offer much on the base paths. He has little speed but he does avoid TOOTBLANS. I rate him as a slightly below average base runner.
Without further ado, here are the final estimations I’m using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First WAR Calculator to estimate the 2014 WAR for Gaby Sanchez:
AVG – .251
OBP – .345
SLG – .409
Plate Appearances – 350
Games – 135
Position – 1B
Defense – 3 (slightly above average)
Base Running – 4 (slightly blow average)
And the verdict for Gaby Sanchez 2014 WAR is… 0.6