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Pirates All 40: Ali Sánchez’s Role Could Suddenly be Much More Important

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Ali Sanchez

This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.

It was a bit of a head-scratcher when the Pittsburgh Pirates signed catcher Ali Sánchez to a major league deal a couple weeks ago.

Though it was a split contract, Sánchez was placed on the Pirates’ 40-man roster along with three other catchers — Endy Rodríguez, Henry Davis and Jason Delay.

What we didn’t know at the time of the signing was something the Pirates were already aware of. Rodríguez injured himself during an at-bat in a winter league game in the Dominican Republic last month. The injury resulted in elbow surgery, which will keep Rodríguez sidelined for the entire 2024 season.

What didn’t make much sense a couple weeks ago is now more clear. Though he’s certainly not guaranteed an opening day roster spot come the start of the season, Sánchez gives the Pirates some insurance and added defense behind the plate.

Since his days as a prospect, Sánchez has carried a reputation as a strong defender. In his minor league career, he’s caught 43% of attempted base stealers.

Davis projects to do most of the catching in Rodríguez’s absence, but there are serious concerns about his defensive abilities. In Sánchez, along with Delay, the Pirates have two catchers noted for their defense to backup Davis.

Though Sánchez’s defense is his calling card, he had a solid season at the plate last year in Triple-A Reno of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization. Sánchez spent the entire year in Triple-A and in 67 games, the soon-to-be 27-year-old slashed .311/.275/.492. He hit 11 home runs, drove in 43 runs and struck out in only 15.7% of his plate appearances.

Sánchez has brief major league experience between 2020-21 with the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. In seven career games as a big leaguer, Sánchez has three hits in 13 at-bats (.231 batting average) with a pair of doubles.

In wake of the injury to Rodríguez, maybe Sánchez will add to his limited major league experience with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2024.

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