Blue Jays: Former top prospect – success and injury woes in the Bay Area
One of the top Blue Jays prospect pitchers in the organization from 2010 to 2014, Aaron Sanchez was known for his size, his arsenal of pitches including a mid 90’s fastball and a sweeping curve, and explosive delivery to the plate. While he was once one of the organization’s top prospects roughly ten years ago, Sanchez did experience some success (and some rough years) when he was a member of the Blue Jays.
Drafted in the first round of the 2010 MLB draft (a compensation pick for losing shortstop Marco Scutaro in free agency), Aaron Sanchez would make his major league debut for the Jays back in 2014. He would spend six years in Toronto, pitching to a 3.96 ERA over 146 appearances (92 starts), and would strike out 458 batters over 571.0 innings with a 1.368 WHIP. His best season came in 2016, where the right-hander would pitch to a 15-2 record where he led the league with his 3.00 ERA while also earning an All-Star selection before pitching in both the ALDS and ALCS series later that year.
For Sanchez, the pitcher had the frame and build to be an effective starting pitcher, but his issue was that he could never stay healthy enough to really gain momentum or fortify a rotation spot over his six years with the Blue Jays. In particular, Sanchez struggled with blister and nail issues on his pitching hand, injuries that would keep him sidelined for most of the 2017 season. He also missed quite a few games the following season with a finger contusion, an injury that saw him make only 20 starts in the campaign. After his 2016 season, Sanchez also started to struggle on the mound, posting ERA’s above the 4.25 mark and struggling with his command, leading to many walks and earned runs, some of which is most likely attributed to the injuries he was dealing with.
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During the 2019 trade deadline, Sanchez alongside Cal Stevenson and Joe Biagini were traded to the Houston Astros for outfielder Derek Fisher, signaling the end for a past top prospect in the Blue Jays organization. While Sanchez did find some success in Houston (started a combined no-hitter), he would struggle on the mound with the Astros before finishing the season on the injured list and eventually undergoing shoulder surgery. The surgery would keep the California native dormant for the 2020 season but also a free agent after the Astros decided to non-tender him later that year.
Before the 2021 campaign, Sanchez would throw a few showcases for major league teams, with the San Fransisco Giants, a team interested in him before he was traded to the Astros in 2019, eventually signing the former Blue Jays right-hander to a one year deal worth $4 million.
The Giants were set to compete in a tough NL West division, and while most were predicting the Bay Area team to find themselves at the bottom of the division, the organization has performed well early this season, currently tied for the lead after almost two months of action.
Aaron Sanchez has also found success early this season while with the San Francisco Giants, as he is being utilized as a starter and already has six games under his belt. So far, he has pitched to a 3.18 ERA with 10 earned runs, 10 walks, and 24 strikeouts with a 1.200 WHIP in 28.1 innings of work. While Sanchez has been pitching well early this year, the injury bug has caught up with him again, as he is currently on the IL with right bicep tightness and hasn’t pitched since May 4th.
Considering Sanchez has been a strong presence on the mound this season, he can be a major league contributor in the rotation when he is healthy. The question will be whether or not he can stay healthy long enough to keep a spot in the rotation, or if injuries will haunt his career as he continues to fight for time on a major league roster moving forward.
Once he started to battle the finger issues in Toronto, his numbers started to steadily decline, and one wonders if this trend will also occur when he returns from his injury as he is starting to ramp up activity again. One must also consider that quite a few pitchers have spent time on the IL this season and that if it wasn’t for Sanchez’s injury history, there would not be as much skepticism as he returned to the IL earlier this month.
While Aaron Sanchez didn’t turn out to be the next dominant ace on the Blue Jays roster when he made his debut in 2014, he was an influential part of the playoff years in 2015 and 2016. He became a fan favourite by many Blue Jays faithful and while he is no longer a member of the organization, some hold memories of his time in T.O., whether good or bad.