Blue Jays need full commitment to Aaron Sanchez decision
At some point over the next several months, the Toronto Blue Jays have a decision to make with Aaron Sanchez. A move to the starting rotation seems likely, but will initially depend on the Blue Jays ability to lure back one of Marco Estrada and David Price or add an external arm via the trade market. If Sanchez becomes destined for a starting role again, the organization needs to fully commit to him in that role.
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Sanchez began the 2015 season in the rotation, and before an injury knocked him to the D.L. and eventually the bullpen, he finally seemed to finally be turning a corner. His diving fastball and high-end arm talent give him encouraging potential over 180.0+ innings, but this past year was not without reason for worry.
In a starting role, Sanchez allowed a .738 opponent’s OPS compared to just .467 as a reliever. Very small sample sizes, of course, but this begins to scratch the surface on Sanchez’s greatest challenge ahead: developing a strong and consistent arsenal of secondary pitches that can produce outs. Especially when working through an order multiple times. In 2015, Sanchez threw his curveball just over 14% of the time, but his changeup and slider were put on the shelf.
His lefty-right splits were also ugly. Left-handed hitters mauled Sanchez to the tune of a .878 OPS with nine home runs. In a similar plate appearance total, right-handed batters recorded just a .435 OPS without clearing the wall once. If Sanchez is going to work as a starter, it’s quite likely he’ll face left-handed hitters.
This move could cause some initial turbulence, but regardless, I feel strongly that the Blue Jays must commit fully to Sanchez as a starter for the bare minimum of one season if they do make the call. The back-and-forth between the rotation and bullpen is not giving him an opportunity to realize the fullest potential of his arsenal, and even if a full season in the rotation reveals that this potential is lower than we’d thought, there’s still value in that. It’s important to gain a full grasp on what the Jays have in Sanchez.
Some dominos need to fall first, but the sooner the better with this decision. Once Sanchez gets the green light as a starter, he’ll be able to alter his offseason training plan to begin stretching out in time for spring. There’s work to do, too, both physically and in terms of his mound approach. For someone with his talent to record 4.3 BB/9 and 5.9 K/9 in 2015 is downright bizarre. Sanchez, and the Jays, need to get to the bottom of that.
A similar conversation will follow with Roberto Osuna, but that’s an arm I consider to be in a different class than Sanchez’s at this point. Alex Anthopoulos has noted that the current “window of opportunity” may allow for another year of Sanchez in the bullpen, which is also fine. When the time comes for his rotation move, however, whether that’s in one month from now or two years down the road, it’s got to be a long-term move.
Next: Blue Jays Year in Review: RP Roberto Osuna