Anibal Sanchez: Ready to Take the Next Step?

Doug Pensinger

Ray Guilfoyle takes a look at free agent starter Anibal Sanchez and wonders if he is on the cusp of becoming a Top 30 starter.

When drafting starting pitchers, you want to make sure you grab a fantasy ace to anchor your staff. But if you decide to forgo that strategy, it pays to grab two of the next level of starters. In one of my NL only league drafts last year, I drafted Giants starter Madison Bumgarner in the fourth round and that choice paid off for me as Bumgarner went on to win 16 games with a low 3s ERA.

I then followed up the Bumgarner pick by selecting Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez in the 7th round with the thought that he could build on his 2011 season where he won just 8 games, but with a 3.67 ERA, a 1.278 WHIP and an excellent 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings rate. Well, it turns out the K rate may have been a one year bounce, as his K rate dropped to a respectable 7.8 K/9.

Even though he has never won more than 13 games in any one season, he is quietly showing growth in his advanced statistics over the last few seasons. Let's take a look, courtesy of Baseball Reference:

Year Tm Lg W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2003 Did not play in major leagues (Injured)
2006 FLA NL 10 3 2.83 17 114.1 90 39 36 9 46 1 72 153 1.190 7.1 0.7 3.6 5.7 1.57
2007 FLA NL 2 1 4.80 6 30.0 43 17 16 3 19 1 14 92 2.067 12.9 0.9 5.7 4.2 0.74
2008 FLA NL 2 5 5.57 10 51.2 54 35 32 7 27 2 50 78 1.568 9.4 1.2 4.7 8.7 1.85
2009 FLA NL 4 8 3.87 16 86.0 84 39 37 10 46 5 71 111 1.512 8.8 1.0 4.8 7.4 1.54
2010 FLA NL 13 12 3.55 32 195.0 192 89 77 10 70 5 157 117 1.344 8.9 0.5 3.2 7.2 2.24
2011 FLA NL 8 9 3.67 32 196.1 187 85 80 20 64 8 202 106 1.278 8.6 0.9 2.9 9.3 3.16
2012 TOT MLB 9 13 3.86 31 195.2 200 95 84 20 48 3 167 105 1.267 9.2 0.9 2.2 7.7 3.48
2012 MIA NL 5 7 3.94 19 121.0 119 59 53 12 33 2 110 101 1.256 8.9 0.9 2.5 8.2 3.33
2012 DET AL 4 6 3.74 12 74.2 81 36 31 8 15 1 57 113 1.286 9.8 1.0 1.8 6.9 3.80
7 Yrs 48 51 3.75 144 869.0 850 399 362 79 320 25 733 110 1.346 8.8 0.8 3.3 7.6 2.29
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2012.

His win totals may keep his fantasy value down a bit, but Sanchez is approaching the Holy Trinity of pitching (h/t to Bret Sayre), as his walk rate is in steady decline, his strikeout rate has remained in the low to mid 7 range, and his ground ball rate is inching closer to the 50% level. Here's a quick look at his walk and strikeout to walk ratio over the last three seasons:

2010: 3.23 BB/9, 2.24 K/BB

2011: 2.93 BB/9, 3.16 K/BB

2012: 2.21 BB/9, 3.48 K/BB

The steady improvement in his K/BB rate is a positive sign. His 3.48 K/BB rate ranked 24th amongst qualified starters in 2012, but his second half 4.24 K/BB rate may be a sign of more growth ahead for Sanchez. The 4.24 K/BB rate would have ranked 5th in all of MLB in 2012, behind only Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, yes Joe Blanton, CC Sabathia and R.A. Dickey.

Sanchez has battled some shoulder issues in his career, and has never thrown more than 200 innings in any season. But he has been a picture of consistency as he has made 32, 32 and 31 starts covering 195.0, 196.1 and 195.2 innings over the last three seasons.

In a review if his month to month performance for 2012, Sanchez appears to pitch better in the colder months of the season-April, May and September, and struggled in the warner months-June through August. His career month to month stats support that he indeed does struggle in June and July, as his career ERA in June and July sit at 4.38 and 5.02.

To move into the next level of fantasy starters, Sanchez will need to become more consistent from start to start, and build on his second half where he went 5-7 with a 3.55 ERA, 1.286 WHIP and 4.24 K/BB rate. Depending on where he signs this offseason, he should be considered a Top 30 starter heading into 2013 fantasy drafts. A move to the National League, or to a pitcher friendly park, could boost his value even more.

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