Aaron Sanchez - SP - Blue Jays - If you haven't heard much about Sanchez since he was drafted in the supplemental first round in 2010, you're forgiven. Sanchez has appeared on Keith Law's top 100 prospect list twice, but in the latter half of the 90s each time. Aside from that, he appeared below several other pitching prospects on team-centric lists who may have garnered more attention in 2011 such as Drew Hutchison, Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino and in a couple lists, Adonys Cardona. Also contributing to his relative anonymity is that Sanchez amassed a total of 80 innings pitched across the two years since he was drafted. He logged 25 IP in 2010 after quickly signing a below-slot deal of $775,000, and followed that up with 55 IP in 2011, spread across rookie level Bluefield and short-season Vancouver. Though Nicolino and Syndergaard are at Lo-A Lansing as well, it is Sanchez generating the most buzz so far in 2012.
Read more on Sanchez after the jump...
Sanchez's stats might not jump off the page at you, but what I like to see is that despite walking 43 batters in his 80 innings, he's also struck out 93*. His ERA hasn't been pretty to look at in almost any stop he's made so far, but that is pretty much irrelevant when you're looking at someone as projectable as Sanchez. It is all about the progression he makes through each season. Previous to the 2012 season, Sanchez's obvious problem was control, never producing a BB/9 below 3.8 and generally remaining above 5. As the numbers showed earlier, he counteracted this with strikeout rates above 10/9 IP in all but one stop (and even that was above 9/9 IP). An encouraging aspect to Sanchez's game is that he has proved adept at inducing ground balls in his short time in the minors. If I'm going to gamble on a pitcher with control issues, I like to see a strong groundball rate in their profile as well, and Sanchez doesn't disappoint. In his brief 2010 debut, Sanchez averaged a tremendous 2.9 GB/FB ratio, and followed that up with a still positive 1.6 GB/FB in 2011. So far in 2012 it has been more of the same from Sanchez in all respects. He has walked too many batters, with 10 in 19 innings, though he has struck out 24 and allowed only 6 hits in that time. He has also produced an excellent 2.11 GB/FB ratio, in what is a very small sample size. It is hard to trust these numbers not just due to sample size, but also due to the way the Blue Jays have chosen to deploy Sanchez (and Syndergaard and Nicolino as well). Instead of allowing each pitcher to start individual games, the Blue Jays have instead opted to piggyback Nicolino and Sanchez, with each starter going three innings before giving way to another pitcher. The advantage to this for the Blue Jays is that it is an effective way to limit their innings pitched without taxing the bullpen of that minor league club. On the other hand, it doesn't allow us to see how any of those pitchers will adjust to pitching to a lineup multiple times. With a lineup only seeing them once through the order, these pitchers have an advantage, and their statistics could be tainted because of it. The Blue Jays may be breaking with this system though, as Sanchez went four innings in his most recent start.
*These stats are through 2011
At this point you may be thinking...why is this guy worth writing a profile for? Sure he's got some nice strikeout numbers, but it's Lo-A and he's been wild to go with it. It's a fair enough question, and my answer would be that he's been pretty successful so far, and still has a lot of projection left. Sanchez stands 6'4/190 lbs and operates in the low-mid 90s. He will consistently top out at 95 MPH, and see that become his standard as he continues to fill out and mature, as he will only turn 20 in July of this year. He also features an upper-70s curveball with depth and some bite along with a developing change-up. While the curve is average right now and the change-up not even that, yet, Sanchez shows feel for both pitches, and could end up with three average or better offerings as a result. His bread and butter though, is the fastball. Sanchez has a fast arm and a smooth delivery, allowing him to generate easy heat. It's a pitch that produces both ground balls and swings and misses, and it could jump up a notch as he continues to fill out. Control has been an ongoing issue for Sanchez, as indicated by his walks, though he's made strides in that area, working with Blue Jays staff to close his front side and stay aligned with the plate.
The range for Sanchez's projections is wide, as high as a #2 starter and as low as a bullpen arm. A lot will depend on his ability to harness his considerable stuff, and develop a third offering. If he can do those things, it's easy to see him becoming a mid-rotation arm, and if he can add a few MPH along the way, he might bump up to a front of the rotation pitcher. If he falls short, it is easy to see him becoming a quality high leverage reliever with a good chance of his fastball playing up as he airs it out. I am high on Sanchez, and see him becoming a 2/3 type pitcher, though I don't think he gets there soon. If you are the patient type, I think he's worth stashing because he could turn the corner and go from inconsistent to dominant at any time. Realistically, he might never get there, but he's a quality arm with a high floor and worth a spot on your roster, even if you forget about him til 2014.
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