Blue Jays: Fan base starting to believe in Aaron Sanchez again

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 8: Aaron Sanchez
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 8: Aaron Sanchez /

After an incredibly frustrating 2017 campaign for Aaron Sanchez, the talented righty is turning doubters back into believers this spring.

The 2017 season was supposed to be the year that Aaron Sanchez was finally unleashed from any restrictions on innings or pitch counts, within reason of course. Instead he made just eight starts on route to the most frustrating season of his career. He hit the disabled list on four separate occasions and couldn’t get past the issues he had with his pitching hand.

A combination of blister, fingernail, and eventually tendon issues held him to just 36 innings pitched, and with it a lost of the lustre that had been on his star early in his career. He had pitched so well in 2016 that not only did he leave the starter-reliever debate firmly behind in the dust, he announced himself as one of the premier young pitchers in baseball. He lead the American League in ERA in 2016 with a 3.00 mark, and went 15-2 in his 30 starts.

All of that said, the last 12 months have served as a greater reminder of how short our memories can be. Depending on what projection system you look at, there are plenty of doubters about the 25 year old’s ability to stay healthy and perform like the pitcher we watched in 2016. For example, has him projected for just 89.0 innings pitched, going 6-3 with a 3.54 ERA, and even included a save.

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The projections from ZiPS and Steamer are a little more kind, but still don’t see him returning to the type of star he looked like he was going to be 18 months ago. Steamer has him tabbed for a record of 8-8 and an ERA of 4.54 across 130 innings pitched. ZiPS projects him for an 8-6 record with a 3.85 ERA and 142.2 innings pitched.

The key of course is health, and the projection systems are being conservative with their expectations, and understandably so. However, Blue Jays fans are keenly aware of what Sanchez is capable of if he can avoid the disabled list, and there’s a good chance he’ll blow all of those projections out of the water. That’s the hope anyway, and the difference for the rotation and the team would be enormous.

The good news is Blue Jays fans seem to be behind him, as the narrative has become a lot more positive around the 2016 All-Star. A good example can be found in our own Ari Shapiro’s recent poll on Twitter, where he asked fans who they would extend to a long term contract if they were the GM. Their choices were Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Josh Donaldson or Roberto Osuna. As of this writing, Sanchez was leading the pack at 33% with more than 750 votes already cast.

I’m not suggesting that my friend Mr. Shapiro has the entire Blue Jays fan base following him on Twitter, but that’s a large enough sample size to draw a few conclusions. If Blue Jays fans had no faith in Sanchez’s ability to stay healthy, he would likely finish last in the poll. Instead, it seems that the majority believe he’s turned the corner and will go back to being someone who continues at or near an ace level performance in the rotation.

For what it’s worth, he has looked good this spring, and even more importantly he’s looked healthy. His fastball has been sharp and he’s talked of adjusting his grip in order to avoid blister issues. Ian Hunter of also had a great article recently that showed the effects of the whole order on Sanchez’s pitching hand, which is definitely worth checking out.

Personally, I’m pleased to see that Blue Jays fans seem to be believing in Sanchez again. His talent is undeniable, and if he can can perform anywhere near the way he did in 2016 then the Blue Jays are very well set up in the rotation, both in 2018 and going forward.

Next: Don't let Marcus Stroman rush back to the mound