Toronto Blue Jays top prospect pitcher Aaron Sanchez. Credit: MLB Prospect Portal

2013 Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects: #1 Aaron Sanchez

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There’s been a lot of internet buzz recently concerning Jays Journal’s 2013 number one Blue Jays prospect, and the cynics out there may equate the timing of this piece with an effort to piggy-back that buzz.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It just so happens I’m simply exceedingly tardy finishing the list and my timing is good/bad, depending on your viewpoint.

After all the off-season trades took a large chunk out of the Jays farm system, I don’t think there was any doubt as to where we were going to end up for the top spot.  What should be interesting however, is if, after what has been a pretty frustrating season, 2013’s top prospect remains there in 2014, or is usurped by some of the more major league ready talent.

Of course, that only serves to remind me that I need to start compiling next year’s list.  Super.

Name: Aaron Sanchez
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 01/07/1992 (21)
Acquired: 2010, Drafted in the first round (supplemental) 34th overall
High School: Barstow HS, California
College: N/A
Height/Weight: 6’4”/190 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R

Awards and Accomplishments:

Pre-2013 Rated #35 prospect by mlb.com

Pre-2013 Rated #65 prospect by Baseball America

Pre-213 Rated 2nd on Blue Jays (pre-trades) Fangraphs Top 15

2012/13 Stats and Analysis:

Year Age Tm Lev ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 19 Lansing A 2.49 18 90.1 64 33 25 3 51 97 1.273 6.4 0.3 5.1 9.7 1.90
2013 20 Dunedin A+ 3.34 20 86.1 63 40 32 4 40 75 1.193 6.6 0.4 4.2 7.8 1.88
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2013.

I said above that it was a frustrating season for Aaron, but if you look beyond all the peripherals (which I will discuss later) and solely look at the numbers as per above, it really wasn’t all that bad.  First, the positive. His WHIP improved from 2012, mainly predicated on the reduction in walks.  Considering it is his control which most worries scouts, seeing his walk numbers dip despite the move up in competition is a good thing.

The strike out numbers dropped, but again, Sanchez was just under three years younger than the average batting age for the Florida State League so had to expect a drop off in some categories.  With the fall in both walks and K’s the K/BB ratio barely moved.  Still a bit low at 1.88 considering the raw stuff the right-hander possesses.

Everything else stayed pretty much equal, which is part of the problem.  He didn’t take the innings jump that was expected of him, due in part to a shoulder injury and the Jays handling the situation with kids gloves.  Sanchez is now in Arizona trying to make up for the loss of innings in the Arizona Fall League.

Delivery Mechanics:

video courtesy of mlbprospectportal.com

Which leads us to the delivery mechanics.  The buzz I mentioned above came from a comment Keith Law made in his podcast from the 15th of October.  He had Sanchez as one of his AFL ‘disappointments’ due to a more upright delivery which used less of his trunk and, according to Law, made arm issues a potential factor.  I’ve tried to include a video from the AFL but it is not sticking and my limited IT skills make it difficult to fix, so, if inclined, you can see it over here.  The clip above is from the Florida State League and if you compare the two, the difference is small.

Law insinuates that the Jays were the architects of the change, whereas I have also read that the lack of leg drive could simply be a symptom of a skinny kid getting tired late in the season.  Either way, the sample size is tiny.

arizona fall league

Toronto Blue Jays top prospect, pitcher Aaron Sanchez. Credit: MLB Prospect Portal

Whatever the reason, if you disregard the lack of leg drive, the videos still give you a feel for why scouts drool over this kid.  He delivers from a three quarter slot and has a very smooth repeatable delivery.  The fact he can touch upper-90s with his fastball and has plenty of room for physical growth screams projectability.

Pitch Arsenal Breakdown

Sanchez throws three pitches which all have future plus potential.  His fastball will always be his bread and butter, and for good reason.  It can sit in the mid-90s, while occasionally hitting the upper 90s, with good, late movement.  There was rumours that the Jays were having him work on a power sinker this past year which may have contributed to some of the blister problems he suffered.  Will be interesting to see if that is something he continues to develop in 2014 or if it will be shelved.

The off-speed repertoire consists of a change and curve.  Both have the potential to be plus major league offerings if they can be controlled. In the video above, Sanchez’ second pitch gives you a feel for how good his curve ball can be.

A change up was added in 2012 and has already been called major league ready by some scouts.  With a ten mile separation from his fastball out of the same slot and arm speed, the late movement consistently keeps hitters off balance and generates swings and misses.

Risk, and ETA

It wasn’t just the injuries that made 2013 such a frustrating season for Sanchez but also the perception that the only ‘untouchable’ of the Lansing Big Three got left behind by his now departed former teammates Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard.  Both former Jay farmhands made the leap to double-A in 2013 while Sanchez stayed in Florida.  Of course, the injuries did contribute to this, but it was disappointing nonetheless.

The risk is that the lanky righty doesn’t learn to harness his stuff and continues to struggle with his control.  He’ll start 2014 in New Hampshire and there is no doubting that his stuff will play in double-A.  Where he goes from there is the key question.  A good season and we could see him in a Blue Jays uniform by 2015.  A poor one, or another beset by injuries, and I think the timeline will expand, not just by a single season, but by a few at the very least.

I (half jokingly) added in a ‘timeline to be traded or TBT’ for Roberto Osuna‘s piece.  I shudder to think that Sanchez could be dealt this off-season, but considering what went on this past off-season, the possibility cannot be overlooked.  To get a front line starter for the major league team, the farm would be need to be gutted further.  I don’t think that would be the right decision as, if this past season proved not to be a fluke, then you’re left with an aging core at the big league level and very little in pipeline for replacements.

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