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Freddy Sanchez

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Frederick Philip Sanchez (Steady Freddy)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Freddy Sanchez was born with a club right foot and a severely pigeon-toed left foot. The initial medical opinion was that he might never be able to walk. After surgery at 13 months of age and years of therapy, he not only was able to walk, but run fast enough to play baseball professionally. He would go on to win a batting title and make 3 All-Star teams (through 2009).

[edit] Minor League Career

He was drafted in the 30th round of the 1996 amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves but did not sign. Going to college in the NAIA, Freddy hit .434 with 13 homers as a senior for Oklahoma City University, making the Baseball America All-America NAIA team at shortstop. The Boston Red Sox selected him in the 11th round of the 2000 amateur draft and he was signed by scout Ernie Jacobs for a $1,000 bonus. Debuting with the Lowell Spinners, Sanchez hit .288/.347/.439 and then batted .303/.372/.367 for the Augusta GreenJackets.

Freddy moved up to the Sarasota Red Sox and Trenton Thunder in 2001, putting up lines of .339/.388/.446 for the former and .326/.363/.471 at the AA stop. He hit 39 doubles that year and would have been first in the Florida State League and second in the Eastern League in batting average had he been among the qualifiers. Baseball America listed him as the 17th-best prospect in the FSL.

[edit] Major League Debut with Boston

Rated as the 6th-best Boston prospect by BA entering 2002, Sanchez continued to top .300 that year - .328/.403/.437 for Trenton (with 19 steals in 22 tries) and .301/.350/.432 with the Pawtucket Red Sox. At age 24, he was just a step away from the major leagues, but Boston's shortstop slot was held down by Nomar Garciaparra. He hit .188/.278/.188 in 16 late-season at-bats. That year, he also married his high school sweetheart, Alissa.

In 2002-2003, Sanchez hit .308/?/.444 for the Navojoa Mayos and was rated the #5 prospect in the Mexican Pacific League by Baseball America.

In 2003, Sanchez hit .235/.235/.294 in 34 AB for Boston and .341/.430/.493 for Pawtucket. Hitting .323 in the minors to that point, Freddy was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates as the key player in a trade with Mike Gonzalez and cash for Brandon Lyon, Anastacio Martinez and Jeff Suppan. The interesting thing is that Lyon, Martinez and Gonzalez had just been dealt between the same teams nine days prior - when the Bucs found that Lyon was damaged goods, the new deal was arranged, in effect being a deal of Sanchez for Sauerbeck and Suppan. Freddy went 2 for 5 for the Nashville Sounds, then suffered severe tendonitis in his right ankle. Having surgery, his career was derailed for a couple of years. He was ranked the #5 prospect in the International League and the 7th-best prospect among all shortstops by Baseball America.

[edit] Catching on with Pittsburgh

The 2004 season had Sanchez play just 44 games for Nashville (.264/.326/.360) and nine for Pittsburgh (.158/.158/.158) at less than top form. In 2005, Freddy finally was in the majors to stay. When Ty Wigginton was a bust at third base and 2B Jose Castillo was injured, Sanchez saw at least 58 games at both spots. He hit .291/.336/.400 for the second-best average on the club and got better as the year progressed and he returned to health. He also became a father as he and his wife had their first child, Evan.

Despite fine defense, hustle, a strong finish and respectable 92 OPS+ overall, only one person in the Pirates management spoke up for Sanchez as the starting third sacker for the 2006 Pirates. Instead, the club (showing the fine sense that had led to 13 consecutive losing seasons) threw money at free agents Bill Mueller and then Joe Randa. Pirates fans and the Pittsburgh media noted that Sanchez was about as good as Randa, younger and a good deal cheaper. Instead, Randa was made the starting third baseman. Sanchez was given a chance when Joe got hurt and was hitting .341 after 44 games, the top mark of any National League third base regular. For his fine work at third, he was nicknamed "The Rake" by Jason Bay. Despite this and recognition by even Randa that Sanchez should start, Pirates manager Jim Tracy and general manager Dave Littlefield said Randa would start when healthy and Sanchez would become a utility man. A 14th straight losing season was in sight with such brilliant guidance at the helm. When Sanchez took over the NL batting lead, Tracy and Littlefield finally conceded to give Sanchez regular time when Randa returned.

He became the first Pirate to lead the league in average at the All-Star break since Al Oliver in 1976 and made the All-Star team. In September, he became the only player other than Paul Waner to reach 50 doubles in the entire history of the Pirates. He became the 11th Pirate to win a batting title and gave the club its 23rd all-time batting crown, extending the major league record, but no Pirate had done it since Bill Madlock in 1983.

With second baseman José Castillo having struggled defensively in 2006 and being criticized by SS Jack Wilson, Castillo began spring training of 2007 at third base with Sanchez at second. Unfortunately, Sanchez sprained his right knee when Rod Barajas took him out on a play there, raising questions about whether it was worth the risk. Freddy missed the next couple weeks of spring training and started the season on the Disabled List. For the season, Freddy hit .304/.343/.442. In the 2007 All-Star Game, Freddy backed up David Wright at third base and flew out in his only at-bat, facing Jonathan Papelbon.

Sanchez struggled in 2008, hitting .271/.298/.371 for a 79 OPS+ while playing good defense at second base. He started 2009 strong, with a .320 average and a NL-high 16 doubles after 41 games. On May 25, he went 6 for 6 with a double, homer, 4 runs and 3 RBI to become the first Pirate since Wally Backman in 1990 to have a six-hit game. He made the NL roster for the 2009 All-Star Game but did not appear in the game. After 86 games, he was batting .296/.334/.442 and was down to 5th with 28 doubles. He was then traded to the San Francisco Giants for pitching prospect Tim Alderson as part of a rebuilding program. He was traded the same day as Jack Wilson, his longtime double play mate and friend. Pittsburgh had recently offered both of them extensions but had been turned down by their agents.

[edit] A Championship with the Giants

Sanchez hit just .284/.295/.324 in 25 games for the 2009 Giants following the trade. He was sidelined by injury for part of 2010 and batted .292/.342/.397 in 111 games while healthy, a 98 OPS+. In the 2010 World Series, though, he started with a bang, doubling in his first three World Series at-bats, something no player had ever done before. All three doubles came off Cliff Lee, who entered the game with a career mark of 7-0, 1.26 in the postseason. He was thus a key part in the Giants' first World Series stitle since moving to San Francisco, CA in 1958.

Sanchez suffeerd a separated shoulder diving for a ball on June 10, 2011. He was batting .281 with 3 homers and 24 RBI at the time.

Sources: 1997, 2001-2006 Baseball Almanacs, "Why not Freddy" by Dejan Kovacevic in the May 26, 2006 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Home base" by Gretchen McKay in the July 15, 2006 Post-Gazette

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 3-time NL All-Star (2006, 2007 & 2009)
  • NL Batting Average Leader (2006)
  • NL Doubles Leader (2006)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (2006)
  • Won a World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010

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