Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez added over 20 pounds of muscle this offseason while working with Marcus Stroman in order to handle the workload he expects to earn
One of this offseason’s more pleasant surprises came during the Blue Jays Winter Tour, where Aaron Sanchez arrived looking like he’d aged five years in just over two months.
Working with his partner in crime Marcus Stroman at the Duke High Performance Center, Sanchez added a very visible 20+ pounds with the intent of handling the heavier workload he hopes to earn as Toronto’s fifth starter out of camp.
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Sanchez’s long, wiry frame left him susceptible to injury last season, and the lat injury that landed him on the disabled list eventually led to him being pushed from the rotation despite his upward trend mid-season.
Many of the MLB’s great workhorse’s have not been, well, aerodynamically built.
The young right-hander discussed this change recently with Jayson Stark of ESPN, who is in Dunedin now as the Blue Jays roll in to camp.
“I knew last June (when he strained a lat muscle) what the key was. I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t ready for the workload. Now I am. I know what’s expected. And I know what it takes to pitch over 162 games and then some.”
Of course, this change can’t be treated entirely without concern. Sanchez has lived his entire professional career in a similar body type to the one we saw in 2015, so 20+ pounds of added bulk adds an “unnatural” factor. Perhaps that plays into his mechanics (positively or negatively), perhaps it doesn’t make even the slightest difference. This is something we can’t know until later in the spring.
While the upper-body bulk may be more evident, it’s the growth of Sanchez’s legs and core that are likely to have the biggest impact on his mound performance. The Year of Liam Hendriks sends the mind leaping to a potential velocity jump at every opportunity (see Gavin Floyd). Could the same be true with Sanchez?
A pitcher growing from 220 pounds to 245 pounds would raise the concern of “too much” bulk, which can get in the way, but that shouldn’t be the case with Sanchez at his size. A velocity bump could help as a starter, of course, especially if he’s able to maintain it late into games, but this could become especially prevalent should he land back in a high-leverage bullpen role.
Sanchez’s uncertain role entering spring training is very similar to this time last offseason, but as a pitcher, physically speaking, we’re looking at a different situation.