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Gibbons hints at Sanchez to the rotation

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After Marcus Stroman fell to the year-long disabled list last week, everyone and their brother was predicting the inevitable announcement of Aaron Sanchez to the rotation. This morning, it was announced. Well sort of.

Heading into spring, most thought Sanchez would compete for the closer role and build off what was already an impressive rookie season in the bullpen in 2014. In 33 innings pitched, Sanchez registered a 1.09 ERA with a hardly recognizable 0.697 WHIP. But with best-friend Stroman down, and Sanchez having a relatively decent spring thus far, the Jays seem to have made up their minds on the best usage of Sanchez.

In an interview with Sportnet’s theFan 590, Gibbons said the team was well aware of some of the issues, which may plague the young right hander this season as a starter. Among them is his seemingly poor lack of control and fastball-curveball heavy arsenal. To the first issue, Gibbons seemed to be without worry. He mentioned some excuse about how when you throw that hard with that much movement, you’re bound to walk some batters. Gibbons says he doesn’t expect that to change.

Upon his promotion to the Jays last season it definitely did. After having a BB/9 rate in the mid 4s to low 5s in 2013-2014, Sanchez dropped it to 2.45 in the majors. Granted, he wasn’t using his whole arsenal but that success cannot be ignored either. If the drop in arm angle is the reason for this change, maybe he can hover close to those numbers again this year. Maybe.

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The second so-called issue is also something Sanchez appears to be working on this spring. In the past, his arsenal included a fastball/sinker along with a plus curveball and major league average changeup. FanGraphs projects this changeup to have 50+ potential meaning it truly can become a serviceable pitch in a major league uniform. With that said, Sanchez has also worked on adding another pitch this spring in his slider. He only first started throwing it in his last start, but Gibbons says as he familiarizes himself with the pitch, it may become an “out pitch” for him to use deep in counts.

Going into the season, it’s hard to project what the Jays will get out of Sanchez. FanGraphs Steamer  projection system is far from optimistic, projecting him for a 0.2 WAR season with a 4.43 ERA. Granted, these projections take into account all of Sanchez’s career meaning, if he made a mechanical change late last season, it won’t be able to project future success as accurately. But no doubt in my mind he won’t have a 1.07 ERA either. Last season he held his opponents to a .157 BABIP. Once that number normalizes, he’s going to as well, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be totally useless either.

Unquestionably, this is an interesting time for Sanchez and the Blue Jays. He’s finally going to get the chance to do what he’s longed to do forever: Start a major league baseball game.