I'm starting up a new series here at FakeTeams, where I take a look at some players who have gotten off to hot starts, and help to discern if this is really what they are capable of, or whether or not they are performing over their heads.
Fresh off his 11 strikeout performance, today's player is Jonathan Sanchez of the San Francisco Giants.
More after the jump...
This is Jonathan's 5th season in the Major Leagues. He worked almost exclusively as a reliever in 2006 and 2007, but was given a spot in the rotation in 2008. In 2008, he made 29 starts, pitching 158 innings and posting a 9-12 record with 5.01 ERA, and 157 strikeouts to 75 walks. In 2009, he made 29 starts, pitching 163 1/3 innings and posting an 8-12 record with a 4.24 ERA and 177 strikeouts to 88 walks.
Clearly, Sanchez has had a lot of success in terms of strikeouts, as he has never posted a K/9 rate lower than 7.43 in the Majors. The walks, however, remain the problem. Sanchez has never walked less than 4.27 per 9 innings in the Majors either.
Can He Make the Jump to an Elite Level?
Looking at the numbers he posted in the minors, he was able to maintain his high strikeout rate, as he never posted a rate below 10.65 in the minors. And the walks, while a major concern, have been shown in his minor league numbers that he has the potential to control them. He posted walk/9 rates in the 2.5-3.5 range at 3 different stops in his minor league career.
While Sanchez is probably not going to vault himself into that truly elite level, where the Halladays and Lincecums reside, I think that he could very well put it all together this season, and show himself to be a top-25 starting pitcher. He's especially valuable if you play in a league with K/9 as a category, as he is likely to maintain his 9+ rate in that stat over the full season.