Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez has shown glimpses of stellar play at times with his bat over the last two seasons as one of the Pirates’ backups.  

At other times, he has looked completely lost.  

Such is not the case this spring, as Sanchez has been undoubtedly the Pirates’ best player in camp, and if he makes the Opening Day roster, it would be perhaps the most soothing story for Pirates fans.

Sanchez, who will turn 27 in May, has spent six seasons in the minors, collecting just 445 hits in 1,679 at-bats, which equates to a mediocre .265 average. He spent four full seasons playing in the minor leagues before making his Major League debut in 2013 for the Pirates.  

Sanchez has played in 48 games for the Pirates over the last two seasons, batting .252 with four home runs and 18 RBI. He had served as the third-string catcher behind backup Chris Stewart and three-time All-Star Russell Martin.  

According to R.J. White of CBS Sports, Stewart has a hamstring injury, and he has collected a hit in only five at-bats this spring.

Francisco Cervelli, who the Pirates acquired through trade with the New York Yankees during the offseason, has yet to live up to the Pirates’ expectations, collecting just two hits in 12 at-bats.  

With star catcher Martin a distant memory after he left the club during free agency for the Toronto Blue Jays, Cervelli struggling at the plate and Stewart trying to stay healthy, Sanchez has excelled in the role he has taken on with the team.  

Sanchez currently leads all teammates with two home runs and seven RBI in nine games this spring. He has remained red-hot at the plate throughout camp, batting .526 with 10 hits in 19 at-bats.

Now, all indications point to Cervelli still being considered the Pirates starting catcher. 

Jason Butt of CBS Sports reported Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said: “The nice part is, Sanchez has had a great camp on all sides of the game. And if Chris is not ready, we feel strongly about having somebody who can step in.”

By those words, it seems that Huntington has no intention of stripping Cervelli of his title as the starting catcher for the Pirates just yet.  

However, if Cervelli’s offensive woes continue over the next two weeks while Sanchez continues to rake, could Huntington really be so adamant about keeping Sanchez as a backup, at most?

Sanchez clearly has the talent to be a catcher in the big leagues. Whether he has the ability to lead a pitching staff throughout a full season is yet to be determined, as he simply hasn’t had the opportunity to prove his worth with Martin patrolling the backstop position over the last two years.

Sanchez is a prime example of a hard-nosed player who has had his fair share of long bus rides in the minors and who has found his form after struggling to get things going offensively in the past, which is why it makes Sanchez’s journey such a feel-good story.     

With two mediocre catchers as starters in Cervelli and Stewart, the competition is wide open for Sanchez, and he is doing pretty much everything in his power to take over.  

According to Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sanchez said when he walked into the clubhouse on the first day of spring training, “Hey, if I could play half as well as Russell Martin, I’d be happy.”

So far, so good.  

*Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference

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