Image courtesy of DesertDispatch.com

Top 50 Jays Prospects, Jays Journal Edition: #5 Aaron Sanchez

Up next on our list is a pitching prospect with perhaps the most potential out of all of the Jays’ 2010 draft picks.

Never has a compensation pick for letting a free-agent shortstop walk via free agency after a career year ever looked so good…

#5: Aaron Jacob Sanchez

Pitcher / 18 years old / 6′4″ 190 lbs

Born: July 1, 1992 in Barstow, California

Bats: Right    Throws: Right

High School: Barstow H.S.

College: N/A

Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round (34th overall) of the 2010 amateur entry draft

Signed: June 15th, 2010 for $775,000

Jersey Number: #28 for the Auburn Doubledays

Quick Facts:

  • The Blue Jays flew him out to Toronto for a private workout prior to the 2010 draft
  • His father, Mike Shipley, was a 10th round draft pick by the Angels in 1977
  • Was caught by Washington Nationals uber-prospect Bryce Harper in 2009
  • Signed a letter of intent with the University of Oregon
  • Highest draft pick in Barstow High School history
  • Had Major League Baseball show up at his door at 6 a.m. for a drug test
  • Considered 2007 Royals draft pick Matt Mitchell a role model
  • 2010 Rawlings 1st Team All-American
  • 2009 and 2010 Daily Press Baseball Athlete of the Year winner

Career Statistics:

Year Age Level W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 K/9
2010 18 GCL 0 2 1.42 8 8 19.0 19 3 1 12 28 1.632 9.0 5.7 13.3
A- 0 1 4.50 2 2 6.0 4 3 0 5 9 1.500 6.0 7.5 13.5

GCL Blue Jays Team Stats Ranking for Aaron Sanchez (min. 2 GS):

  • 2nd in ERA (1.42)
  • 3rd in walks (12), hit batters (4), home runs allowed (1)
  • 4th in strikeouts (28)

Video:

  • MLB.com 2010 Draft video can be seen here.

Extra information and previous experience:

Tall and stick-thin with exceptional upside, Aaron Sanchez was a name few had heard of prior to 2009, as he was just a 16 year old attending high school in the outskirt town of Barstow, California.

Scouts really started to take notice of Sanchez in the summer of 2009, though.

At the time, Sanchez was a 6’3″, 175-pound right-handed pitcher who physically resembled Jered Weaver, and whipped his arm quickly in his delivery with a low three-quarter arm slot. Baseball America had this to report on Sanchez’s pitch arsenal at the time (July 2009):

“His 91-92 mph four-seam fastball is complemented by an 81 mph circle change and an exceptionally promising 75-78 mph curveball. The first two curves delivered by Sanchez  simply moved up and down; he eventually sharpened that pitch and it exhibited a bit of depth along with a distinct tilt and a tailing finish.”

“Unlike most young righthanders, Sanchez can confound lefthanded hitters with an 89 mph variation of his four seamer which moves suddenly to his arm side at the last moment.”

Just over one month later, Sanchez appeared in the AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego, which was one of the biggest stages he had ever pitched on. In front of over 100 family members and friends, Sanchez pitched the fourth inning of the game, notching 1 strikeout , issuing 1 walk, and allowing 1 hit and 1 earned run. He was part of a crazy pre-game autograph session with Bryce Harper, who also caught Sanchez during his one inning of work.

The future 2010 first overall pick by the Washington Nationals had kind words for Sanchez.

“I liked his stuff a lot. He has pretty good off-speed (pitches). His fastball ran a little bit so that was a little hard to catch, but I thought he threw really well actually,” Harper said.

Image courtesy of DesertDispatch.com

After nearly a full year of appearing at prospect showcases and professional tryouts that saw him pitch in a total of five big league ballparks, Sanchez signed a letter of intent with the University of Oregon in November 2009. After resurrecting their baseball program in 2007 after a 26 year absence, Sanchez was drawn to Oregon because of their coaching staff and the chance to help re-establish the university’s presence in college baseball.

Sanchez had no idea what would be in store for him in 2010, though.

After going 7-0 with a 0.73 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 57.2 high school innings, Sanchez was drawing serious consideration as a first round pick in the 2010 MLB draft. Not to be overlooked, Sanchez hit .403 with 5 home runs as well for his high school team, but obviously scouts cared more about his pitching ability. Many scouts were interested in Sanchez, as upwards of 30 or more appeared at his high school games, sometimes doubling the amount of people that normally attended the games.

Prior to the draft, Keith Law and ESPN had ranked him as the 15th-best prospect available, and Baseball America ranked him as the 59th-best prospect available. With some clubs taking position players and others not having the luxury of being able to wait for a talent like Sanchez to develop, he was able to fall into the supplemental round of the draft, where the Jays were quick to steal him with their 34th overall selection.

That 34th overall selection, by the way, was obtained by the Jays as one of two compensation picks they received when they let Marco Scutaro – a shortstop who had a career year at the plate for the Jays in 2009 hitting .282/.379/.409 – walk via free agency when he signed a 2-year/$12.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

One amateur scout from a rival team was stunned that the Jays were able to grab Sanchez when they did.

“The Jays got a real good one in Aaron Sanchez, I liked his arm a lot, we were interested in on him and are sorry we missed him, he was ready to sign.”

The Jays managed to sign Sanchez very quickly – for $143,000 below the recommended slot amount – and he managed to start 8 games with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.  The Blue Jays kept Sanchez on a very strict pitch limit, as he pitched only 19 innings in those 8 starts, but he allowed only 3 earned runs. Overall, Sanchez allowed 19 hits while issuing 12 walks (1.632 WHIP & 5.7 BB/9) and finished with a 1.42 ERA (3.46 FIP). He also struck out 28 batters (13.3 K/9).

After the Blue Jays promoted him, Sanchez got 2 starts (6 innings) in with the Auburn Doubledays, giving up 3 earned runs (4.50 ERA, 2.70 FIP), 5 walks, and 9 strikeouts (13.5 K/9) in the process.

With Sanchez having already started to fill out his pencil thin frame, his fastball velocity is now between 91 and 94 mph, touching 95 periodically. It gets good, late sinking life when he throws it low in the strike zone, and he can blow it by opposing hitters. As he starts to fill out his frame even more, particularly his lower half, he could add anywhere from 1-3 mph to his fastball, which would make it become a true plus pitch.

Sanchez now pitches his low-to-mid 70s curveball with excellent break almost as often as his fastball, and it easily has the potential to be a plus pitch with more refinement and consistency. One thing scouts considered a drawback was how little Sanchez used his 80 mph circle changeup, but with more chances to use it and professional tutelage, it’s considered to develop into at least an average to above-average pitch.

Mechanically, Sanchez is smooth with a controlled delivery, though sometimes he has issues repeating his delivery, which is something the Jays coaches will look to address in 2011. His athletic frame and repeatable whip-style delivery hold serious potential for years to come.

Expected 2011 Team: Vancouver Canadians

Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Rotation Ace/#1 starter

It’s easy to get excited about the potential Sanchez has, but he is a lot farther away from the Majors than people think. He is less polished than other prospects and is considered to be raw. It’s important to note that his #1 starter/ace ceiling mentioned above is contingent on him putting together everything he has, but time is on his side. Early on, the Jays will work on the control issues he has displayed while getting him to become more confident in throwing his third pitch, his circle changeup.

Some experts have pegged Sanchez as being even 5-6 years away from the Majors, which really isn’t the end of the world considering he turns 19 years old in July. The Jays can afford to be as patient as they want with Sanchez due to their strong, pitching-heavy minor league system.

After seeing Sanchez with the GCL Blue Jays this past season, Mel Queen, the Blue Jays’ Senior Advisor of Player Development, mentioned in a radio interview with the Fan 590 that Sanchez was even better than Chris Carpenter was out of high school. If anyone could declare this it would be Queen, who worked with Carpenter when he was the Blue Jays’ pitching coach from 1996-1999.

Having a prospect in Sanchez that could actually be better than a Cy Young Award winner and 3-time All-Star? That could be downright scary, but ultimately time will tell.

-JM

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Tags: Aaron Sanchez Auburn DoubleDays Baseball America Bryce Harper Chris Carpenter Gulf Coast League Blue Jays Marco Scutaro Mel Queen Toronto Blue Jays

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