Day eight of the 2013 Arizona Fall League featured the Toronto Blue Jays top prospect, pitcher Aaron Sanchez, taking the mound for the Salt River Rafters to face off against the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Sanchez started off the game by inducing a weak ground ball on a 2-1 count that he fielded without issue. He lost the next batter on four straight pitches to put a man on first with one out. Sanchez tried three times to pick off the base runner at first and forced a swinging strike from Yorman Rodriguez before Rodriguez singled on a ground ball to left field that deflected off the Rafter shortstop. The hit put a runner in scoring position at second base but Sanchez was quickly able to stop the bleeding with a ground ball double play ball to end the threat.
In second Sanchez allowed a single to the first batter he faced, Corey Seager, on a soft line drive that fell in front of left fielder Todd Glaesmann. Sanchez worked himself into an 0-2 advantage to the next batter but couldn’t finish. He missed with two straight curve balls to even the count at two before plunking Marcus Semien with an inside pitch.
Sanchez continued to struggle and fell behind 3-0 to Max Kepler before walking him on five pitches to load the bases with nobody out. The Rafters pitching coach took a trip to the mound and Bernie Pleskoff, who has been a great follow on Twitter during the AFL, was calling last night’s game and made a few points about Sanchez during this time on the radio broadcast.
Pleskoff, who also writes for MLBPipeline.com, thought Sanchez showed good command in the first despite throwing more balls than strikes. However in the second Pleskoff noted that Sanchez appeared to be struggling out of the stretch with his delivery. He was losing velocity (I’m not sure by how much) and Pleskoff said his command was starting to fade and was drifting off the mound. Sanchez appeared to be opening up and Pleskoff advised he needs to focus on keeping his shoulder in while also being less upright, which could help him find some consistency with his delivery.
The check-in on Sanchez at first appeared to help. He did fall behind 2-0 yet again but came back in fine fashion to strike out Brian Cavazos-Galvez. All three strikes were swinging. But that was about as good as it got for Sanchez. With the bases still loaded and only one out Chris O’Brien hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Seager. Brent Keys singled to score another run with two outs before Sanchez got out of the inning with a pop up to the Rafters third baseman Jake Lamb.
That was it for Sanchez. His final line was 2 IP, 3 hits, 2 walks, 2 earned runs and 1 strikeout. Only 21 of his 44 pitches were for strikes but at least none of his outs were in the air. He was thoroughly outpitched by Chicago White Sox prospect Stephen McCray who didn’t show the same swing and miss ability as Sanchez but was perfect in four innings, which included two strikeouts.
With McCray dealing the Rafters struggled to do much when up to bat. Kenny Wilson got the start at DH and was 0 for 3 with a walk batting out of the lead off spot. He stole second base with two outs in the sixth but Lamb struck out to keep the Rafters off the board. Wilson leads the league with six steals in six games played.
Derrick Chung handled the catching duties last night and played solid defensively yet again. He was 0 for 2 with a walk and a strikeout. In six games Chung is batting only .125/.300/.125 but looks at home behind the plate. Pleskoff said that he likes the way Chung receives the ball and also how he takes charge on the diamond.