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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boston Coll. Catcher Tony Sanchez, LHP Belfiore

Anup Sinha        

TALLAHASSEE, FL- Just a couple weeks ago I watched Josh Phegley (http://www.pgcrosschecker.com/Articles/DisplayArticle.aspx?article=593).  Phegley is a potential 1st-round catcher out of Indiana University who wasn’t even drafted out of high school.  Boston College’s Tony Sanchez is out of the same mold.  The thickly built 5-11, 210 backstop wasn’t selected out of high school, either, yet has early draft written all over him as a college junior.

Usually when perennial powerhouse Florida State plays ACC opponent Boston College, the scouts are there to watch someone from FSU.  This year is the exception; I didn’t notice a single area scout.  The scouts in attendance were crosscheckers, all of whom came to Dick Howser Stadium primarily to watch Tony Sanchez.

Boston College didn’t take batting practice on the field, but I was able to watch Sanchez swing up close and personal in the cage. 

There were no numbers on the back, but I could pick him out based first on his build and then on his swing.  Like Phegley, Sanchez is powerfully built and has spent considerable time in the weightroom.  I eye-balled him at 5-11, 210 (he’s listed at 6-1 by BC).  Sanchez has a large frame with broad shoulders.  He’s thick in his torso and his lower half.  It’s a build that works for the grind of catching, but has only minimal projection.

The ball jumped off his bat in the cage.  The righthanded hitting Sanchez stood with a square stance and high hands.  He generated average big league bat-speed with plus line-drive power.  He showed me that he was short to the ball and had a quiet stride with good balance.

I was lucky enough to watch six Tony Sanchez at-bats during the game though he walked in three of them (two intentional).  Sanchez went 2-3 with a double and a safe-on-error that was hit hard to FSU shortstop Jason Stidham. 

Sanchez is definitely on the aggressive side and to me it’s an asset, it’s what makes him a threat.  Twice he jumped on first pitches, including a hard double down the opposite-field line.   That double impressed me because he truly handled the bat and went with the outside pitch. 

Though he walked three times today, I can see him walking much less as a big league hitter because he likes to jump on pitches early.  But he has a good enough eye and plate coverage that he won’t be a big strikeout guy. 

Like Phegley, I think he’s more of a good average hitter with doubles power who only occasionally drops one in the seats. 

And defensively, Sanchez received the ball well.  He has short arms and soft hands, plus he looks comfortable in his crouch.  I project him as a 60 receiver (on the 20-80 scale) and a future average 50 thrower.

Sanchez’s raw arm-strength is a 40 by my evaluation.  But his feet are quick and short, as is his throwing arc.  I timed all of Sanchez’s practice throws before innings and the two best were 1.96 and 1.97.  I think he’ll be a consistent sub-2.0 game guy in the end.

Sanchez has gotten off to a quick start, hitting .455-4-19 in his first 55 AB. 

I can see him going in the second or third round.  I think the lack of projection hurts him, but the present-day tools are very solid across the board. He is strictly a catcher (well-below average runner, body-type not suited for infield), so I don’t see him as a utility option down the road.  Still, it’s not hard to see him as a backup catcher in the big leagues and I think he has a chance to do even better and become a quality starter. 



An intriguing arm for me is the Eagles’ junior closer Mike Belfiore.  A two-way player who started at first base, the lefty came in and pitched the last 1.1 innings in a 12-5 victory over the Florida State Seminoles.

Belfiore threw 88-92 with running action on his fastball and a 79-83 MPH slider that’s best described as “falling out of the sky”.  It’s a big breaker that can strike out major league hitters if he throws it near the plate.

I can see his fastball as average (including velocity and movement) and his slider as a 60 pitch, but right now his command of both is well below-average.  Belfiore was wild high and he threw a few 30 sliders in there as well.  His ERA in his first 6.2 IP is an unimpressive 6.75, but don’t let that dissuade you.  Belfiore has upside as a pitcher. 

He’s not only their closer, but a middle-order hitter.  Nevertheless, I can’t help but want to move him into a completely different role as a pro; starting pitcher.

The 6-3, 220 native New Yorker is strongly built with a delivery and arm-action that puts minimal strain on his shoulder and elbow.  Though he only pitched 28.2 innings coming into this year, he has the look to me of someone who can handle a 200-inning load in the future.  That was the first thing I thought of when I watched him warm up. 

Of course, his command issues are even more of a concern as a starter than they are as a reliever and he’ll need something for a third pitch.  My thinking is that if he concentrates solely on pitching in pro ball, the command will come if a team is patient.  And the lack of inning workload as a collegian may give him a fresher arm than most. 

If he doesn’t click as a starter, at least he’ll develop his pitchability along the way and it will make him a better reliever.

Belfiore threw two wild pitches in the ninth, leading to a run.  But he showed good body language despite it.  As I’ve harped before, you can tell a lot about a prospect in how he handles failure and though Belfiore wasn’t sharp, I felt that he maintained mental toughness and continued to battle.

The scouts noticed Belfiore.  The ones down the line moved behind home plate and turned on their radar guns. 

I really can’t pinpoint a round for him now, but if I were turning him in for a club based on this one sighting, I’d conservatively put down 5th-7th consideration and ask for someone else to follow up.


OTHER BC NOTES: Boston College ended up taking two of three games from FSU.  Those were their two first victories ever against the Seminoles….  Junior centerfielder Robbie Anston caught my eye as a plus (60) runner who handled the bat okay from the left side.  He hits the low ball hard and has 40/50 bat-speed.  While he looked bad against one low-slot lefty, he got a hit off another with a line-shot.  Anston is 5-11, 181.  I graded his arm a 40 and didn’t get to see his range tested in the outfield, but he seems to have a sound radar.  He’s a player I’d want to check on later in the year; while he doesn’t have high-ceiling tools, he might have enough to become a useful backup outfielder one day.


Check back tomorrow for my blog about Florida State rightfielder D’Vontray Richardson, a high-ceiling sleeper for the 2009 Draft.  The redshirt sophomore is also the #2 “change of pace” quarterback for the FSU football team, but I believe his future is definitely on the diamond.  I’ll report on his showing against Boston College.


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