Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez a Cy Young dark horse amid bullpen talk

Jul 12, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; American League pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch in the fourth inning in the 2016 MLB All Star Game at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 12, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; American League pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) of the Toronto Blue Jays throws a pitch in the fourth inning in the 2016 MLB All Star Game at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Jays Journal takes a look at the Cy Young award case for Aaron Sanchez as the Toronto Blue Jays decide weather to move him to the bullpen

If the season were to end today Aaron Sanchez may fall into the dark horse category for the American League Cy Young award.  He is sure to get at least a vote if he remains in the starting rotation for the remainder of the season.

He has been on the top of his game this season and Blue Jays fans have fallen in love with the 24-year-old flame-thrower in this role.  Sanchez has been one of the better pitchers in baseball and continues to face a workload limit with a move to the pen looming curiously over his every start.

What a difference a year makes for Sanchez.  Last season he started the year in the rotation and got off to a messy start before finding his level in the rotation.  He was then moved to the bullpen were he continued to show dominance as he did the year prior.

When Sanchez reported to 2016 Spring Training the Blue Jays saw a different player come to camp.  A bulked-up and more motivated Sanchez made it clear that he wanted to be in the starting rotation.  He has since ran with this idea and not only shown he is capable, but shown he can thrive in the role.  The argument could even be made that he is the best pitcher in the rotation.  Sanchez has paired very well with J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey, and Marcus Stroman to form one of the better pitching staffs in baseball this season.

When looking at how dominant Sanchez has been this season you first will see a 10-1 record in 19 starts.  That win percentage (.909) is second to only Stephen Strasburg in all of baseball.  Strasburg has been perfect so far this season with a 13-0 record.  Sanchez has been incredibly hard to hit, as well.  He currently owns a 1.173 WHIP (walks + hits/ innings pitched) where the league average is usually 1.32 according to FanGraphs.  Sanchez ranks 10th among starters in this category that is led by teammate Marco Estrada with a 0.987 WHIP.

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

Hitters have been having trouble squaring him up as Sanchez has a 3.44 FIP (Field Independent Pitching).  This shows how effectively a pitcher prevents runs and base runners.  Sanchez ranks number six in this category in the AL behind former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.  Sanchez has high ranks across the leader boards for American League pitchers and has so far generated a 2.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).  This puts him within some elite company in the American League as he slides into 6th place.  Kuber is currently leading with a 3.6 WAR and is followed by Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Quintana, Chris Sale, and Danny Salazar.  Sanchez is in good company being in the same breath with those pitchers.

Now that you have the resume for Sanchez as a Cy Young candidate, lets see how he ranks on ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor.  He currently ranks #8 and Chris Sale would be the winner as of the moment.  Sanchez is given a 96.6 score that has him just edging out teammate J.A. Happ.

The winner, if the season ended today, would be Chris Sale with a 116.6 score.  When comparing Sanchez to Chris Sale on the stats used here Sanchez currently leads Sale in ERA only.  They have started the same number of games and Sanchez is barely trailing in innings pitched.  Sale gets a ton of points for having a shutout this season where Sanchez does not.  Sale also has 14 wins to Sanchez’s 10.

Looking at all of this just compounds the pending decision that the Blue Jays are fighting with. Sanchez has appeared to be getting stronger as the season progresses and has been using this argument to drive him.  He wants to be a starter and he has been doing everything he should be doing to put this conversation to rest.

Other players have been in this situation recently, including Strasburg.  He was shut down due to inning limits and still had arm issues.  The Yankees tried this way back when with Joba Chamberlain.  The Joba Rules did not pan out as the Yanks kept flip flopping with the idea of him being a starter.  

Sanchez’s career-high innings pitched was in 2014 where he pitched in Double A, Triple A, and with the Jays for a combined 133 innings.  He currently sits at 125.1 innings for the 2016 season where he’s surprised everyone by putting his name in the Cy Young conversation.

Next: The disappearing reliever: What's next for Storen?

What would you do in the Jays position?  Keep the conversation going in the comment section.
Twitter:  @Craigers1221