Blue Jays: The Difference Aaron Sanchez Can Make

BOSTON, MA - JULY 19: Aaron Sanchez
BOSTON, MA - JULY 19: Aaron Sanchez /

After watching Aaron Sanchez dominant in his first spring start, Blue Jays fans were reminded of what could be if he has a healthy season in 2018.

In 2016, the Blue Jays’ rotation was the envy of most of the league as they enjoyed unprecedented health, and had a rock solid performance from the group. In fact, they used just seven starting pitchers the entire season, with Francisco Liriano joining the list after being traded for, and Drew Hutchison making just two spot starts to round out the seven.

Last season was a completely different story, as Francisco Liriano missed some time due to injury before being traded, J.A. Happ missed over a month, and Aaron Sanchez was limited to just eight starts. The latter arm was badly missed, especially after a 2016 season that he lead the American League in ERA with a mark of 3.02.

Turn the calendar to 2018 and the Blue Jays hope to see better health from their rotation, and especially when it comes to their budding star. The hope was that he might even challenge for the Cy Young award last year, but after a season spent battling blister, fingernail, and tendon issues in his pitching hand, the Blue Jays are likely they can get a healthy season from the 26 year old, first and foremost.

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If they can get that out of him, he drastically changes the outlook of the 2018 rotation. Happ returns as a healthy arm, as does Marco Estrada, who re-signed to a one year deal with the Jays before last season concluded. Jaime Garcia was added to round out the rotation and give the club the extra depth they sorely need, and Marcus Stroman should be among the league’s best this season as well as long as his shoulder inflammation doesn’t progress any worse. It’s a rock solid group, but it’s the names at the top that really set one team apart from another.

Sanchez would have been considered the ace leading into last season, but that title likely belongs to Stroman, at least for the short term. However, if the two of them want to battle it out for that honour, it only benefits the Blue Jays, and for many of us that’s exactly what we’re hoping for.

It’s rather simplistic way to look at things, but just imagine if you could swap out Sanchez’s 2016 performance for those that pitched in his place last season. According to Joe Biagini made 18 starts and earned a 0.0 WAR grade, Mat Latos made three starts for a -0.1 score, and several others like Casey Lawrence, Nick Tepesch, and more struggled to provide quality starts. By comparison, Sanchez earned a 4.9 WAR in 2016, which is a significant difference for a number of reasons.

We’re not just talking about just an additional five wins if you could have swapped them out either. The difference trickles down to a ton of other areas including the workload of the bullpen, the starting depth, and even the confidence of his teammates knowing that he’s on the mound. And if you combine Sanchez’s 4.9 WAR mark with Marcus Stroman’s 5.8 wins earned last year, the potential exists for the Blue Jays to have one of the best one-two punches in all of baseball.

Next: Blue Jays injury updates

Of course, they both have to stay healthy, and achieve or surpass their potential, but the possibility exists. In a season that saw the Blue Jays bring a half dozen new faces to the roster, there’s little doubt that Aaron Sanchez can be the biggest difference maker between last season, and what’s to come in 2018.