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Blue Jays: 2019 will be a make or break year for Aaron Sanchez

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 5: Pitcher Aaron Sanchez #41 of the Toronto Blue Jays sits in the dugout after being taken off of the mound by manager John Gibbons during the fourth inning of a game on May 5, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 5: Pitcher Aaron Sanchez #41 of the Toronto Blue Jays sits in the dugout after being taken off of the mound by manager John Gibbons during the fourth inning of a game on May 5, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /
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After struggling with injuries over the last two seasons, aron Sanchez will have a lot to prove when next season rolls around. It could even be a make or break it year for him as far as his career earnings and trajectory go.

Aaron Sanchez is one of the more polarizing players on the Blue Jays roster these days. Depending on who you ask about him, you could get an answer that varies from a “ace who just can’t stay healthy”, to a “lost cause”.

The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle as it often does with these things, but only time will tell for the former first round draft pick.

We’ve seen him at his best, or at least starting to blossom into the potential the Blue Jays always believed he had. In 2016 he led the American League in ERA with a 3.00 mark, finishing with a record of 15-2 and earning 5.1 bWAR in a breakout season. He also earned an All-Star appearance that year, and finished 7th in Cy Young voting as well. He was pretty darn good on Wednesday night against the Red Sox as well, allowing just one earned run on three hits while unfortunately taking the loss.

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2017 was supposed to be the year that Sanchez really embraced the role as the ace of the Blue Jays staff, and teaming with Marcus Stroman and other veterans like J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada should have given them one of the stronger rotations in baseball. Instead, it was the beginning of Sanchez’s troubles, and a year that saw him pitch in just eight outings, throwing 36 innings.

We all hoped the fingernail/blister/tendon issues he suffered from would be a non-issue in 2018 and he could get back to his All-Star form, but instead he’s dealt with missing significant time because of an injury sustained while moving a suitcase. Yeah, you read that right. The guy just has some bum luck these days.

With all that in mind, I truly believe that 2019 is going to be a defining year for Sanchez, especially in terms of his career earning potential. He’ll enter a new season with two years of arbitration control left in Toronto, and there’s a very good chance the Blue Jays will keep him around to hopefully anchor a young rotation. Last night’s start against Boston was his 19th of the year, and he managed to surpass the 100 innings pitched mark, so that’s a plus. The strong outing also improved his numbers, although he still sits with an ERA of 4.90 and a WHIP of 1.55.

When you look at the numbers, or the fact that he’s been dealing with significant lost time for the second season in a row, you have to wonder how his perception is changing around the game. He was considered an elite starting pitcher just two seasons ago, and while there are many folks who haven’t forgotten what he can do, there are some that think he’s no longer an elite arm, nor will ever be again. Sportsnet’s Jonah Keri said as much on a recent appearance on “The Good Show”, and he’s not the only one losing faith in the 26 year old.

The fact is, Sanchez is still very young, so even if he struggles through the next two years with the Blue Jays as well, he could theoretically turn things around in his late 20’s and still enjoy a really nice MLB career. However, if he wants to have the longest and most lucrative career possible, he’s going to need to show the Blue Jays and the rest of baseball that he’s still an elite pitcher, and that he can sustain the rigours of a 162 game season.

That’s no small task, and for Sanchez it’s starting to feel like something that may never happen. He does have the benefit of youth and time, but even that will eventually run out if he can’t get things back in the right direction. Wednesday’s start was definitely a step in the right direction, and hopefully he can carry that momentum through the remainder of this season and into the 2019 calendar.

It might sound premature to say that a 27 year old is facing a make or break it year in his career next season, but for Sanchez the stakes are definitely high. Perform to his potential and he’ll likely earn a multi-year deal that could approach nine figures. Hang out on the DL and struggle to pitch to his ceiling, and he could even look at a return to the bullpen later in his career.

Next. Don't be surprised or angry about lower payroll in 2019. dark

Like I said, I realize it’s early to be saying this for the young pitcher, but I really believe the stakes are high for him in 2019.

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