Blue Jays 2015 Year in Review: Aaron Sanchez
Pitching just 33 innings in 2014, Aaron Sanchez was absolutely dominant in his first year stint with the Blue Jays. Entering 2014, Sanchez was ranked as 32nd in “Baseball America’s Top Prospects”. In 2013 he never pitched higher than A+ ball but he was looking for more and he would not disappoint, going 2-0 with a ERA of 0, but showed some signs of pitch control issues.
Sanchez wouldn’t crack a roster spot after 2014’s solid Spring Training, but would hone his control issues playing in both AA and AAA, before being promoted in late July to the majors to pitch out of the bullpen. Sanchez was stellar, as he pitched to a 1.09ERA, .70WHIP, inducing 65.9% ground balls in the majors in 2014.
After a solid second half t0 2014, Sanchez not only proved to Blue Jays fans that he was a big piece of this roster, but that he was ready for more. Entering 2015, Sanchez would fight for the potential closer spot with Brett Cecil, solidifying his role as a major weapon in the Jays bullpen. When Marcus Stroman went down with a torn ACL in Spring Training, Sanchez’s season took a sharp left turn, as he was forced into the role of the fifth starter.
Sanchez would struggle coming out of the gate, dealing again with control issues, keeping his pitch count down, and pitching deeper into games. In just 11 starts, Sanchez would average just around 5.2 innings pitched a game, running his pitch count too high while averaging 5.05 BB/9, including a 6 walk game in Cleveland in early May. Sanchez would begin to break down physically, too. In early June Sanchez would have a start pushed back due to “overall soreness”, followed by “upper-body soreness”, until landing himself on the 15 day disabled list in early July with a lat injury.
The right-hander would come back on July 25th, pitching back out of the bullpen in his setup role. Sanchez would pitch 26.1 innings out of the bullpen in the second half of the season, posting a 2.39 ERA, 6.49 K/9, and dropping his BB/9 from 5.05 to 2.39! With Sanchez coming out of the bullpen, he was able to go 100% for one inning with his fastball which is his bread and butter pitch (2015 wFB 10.0).
The Good —
Sanchez continues to dominate when he is inserted into the bullpen position. As previously stated in the Mark Lowe review last week, Mark Lowe got underused in his own position because both Cecil and Sanchez were dominant in that eighth inning position. This will almost certainly force Lowe to another team in free agency. Sanchez is still under team control for the next two seasons before reaching the beginning of his arbitration years, providing quality innings for a nice base price, with a lot of room to improve on things like his breaking pitches and control.
The Bad —
Sanchez didn’t actually have too many bad aspects to his game this season. You could look at his numbers as a starter and be disappointed, but Sanchez was clearly forced into a role he wasn’t ready for. At one point in the season, inheriting runners out of the bullpen proved disastrous for him, but again Sanchez would prove us wrong in the playoffs. “The bad” might not be the right way to sum up Sanchez’s season, the right word might be “the unknown”. Aaron Sanchez all year left us with questions regarding the future role and potential ceiling.
The Future —
What does the future hold for Aaron Sanchez? Will he be a starter? Will he gain his control? Can he improve his breaking ball? Can he throw for more strikes as a starter? The future of Aaron Sanchez is no doubt bright as we have seen. However, the future of the Blue Jays starting rotation in 2016 is another unanswered question. Sanchez’s career might be forced into the starting rotation, and with Shapiro at the helm now, we seem to be unsure what the future plans hold. How does Shapiro feels about Sanchez and potential starter Roberto Osuna? We don’t know that either. More of our questions will be undoubtedly answered come Spring Training 2016..
Stats Provided by Fangraphs