Bucs' Sanchez suffered broken jaw

Catching prospect ended difficult year with injury in bar brawl

For a second time, Tony Sanchez has made headlines for the wrong reasons. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

By Brendon Desrochers / MLB.com | January 31, 2012 6:23 AM ET

Pirates catching prospect Tony Sanchez broke his jaw during an offseason bar brawl, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Tuesday.

Sanchez was playing in the Florida instructional league in the fall when the alleged incident occurred. No charges were filed and Pirates management, by policy, doe not comment on player misconduct or discipline.

Sanchez was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 Draft out of Boston College and excelled at stops in Class A West Virginia and Class A Advanced Bradenton, combining high batting averages with a patient approach at the plate and good defense.

Sanchez twice was hit by pitches while playing for the Marauders in 2010, suffering a concussion and a broken jaw. Those injuries limited him to 59 games, and he never seemed quite the same with Double-A Altoona last season.

In a Q&A with MiLB.com following the 2010 season, Sanchez described the aftermath of his initial jaw injury:

"I'm going to go out on the limb saying that breaking your jaw is in the top three worst injures in sports because for a month straight, when you have to throw Chef Boyardee into a blender for both lunch and dinner, every day for a month, you'll realize how bad that injury is. It was so bad, I was so depressed at times. I would watch my roommate, Brock Holt, eat whatever he wanted, and I would have to carry it to him because he was on crutches. It was not something I would wish on my worst enemy."

While suffering through a slump with the Curve last May, Sanchez's controversial Tweet exacerbated his slow start and put him in the headlines. After a game, he posted, "Sometimes the umpires just decide to blow a game. Never seen a winning team[']s crowd go silent as the game[-]winning run crosses the plate."

Sanchez later apologized over Twitter, but the original Tweet led to a suspension for the Miami native, who deactivated his Twitter account soon after.

Sanchez's bat never came around in 2011 as he slugged .318, then batted .206 in 68 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. His prospect star has dimmed as a result. One expert, Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein, dropped Sanchez to 10th on the Pirates' prospect rankings after ranked fourth in 2010.

Goldstein wrote that "Sanchez seemed lost at the plate at times in 2011 and seemed tentative both at the plate and behind it. His swing is long and slow at times. His arm plays down due to a long release."

Goldstein's conclusion was that while Sanchez -- who turns 24 on May 20 -- could still be an everyday catcher, he looks far less likely to be a star than he once did.

Sanchez talked about the pressure of being a top prospect in a late-2010 interview with MiLB.com.

"Pressure -- the more you think about it, the more it'll build up. Everything comes with hard work, and that's the reason why some might say I am the top prospect and others might say someone else is the top prospect," he said. "But as long as you have the right mind-set, everything will fall into place."

The combination of injuries, poor play and off-the-field incidents puts the pressure on Sanchez heading into Spring Training, where he is a non-roster invitee.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told the Tribune-Review, "We are expecting Tony to come into Spring Training ready to go and ready to have a great season."

Pirates pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton on Feb. 18.

Brendon Desrochers is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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