Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2012 Top Prospects #8: Aaron Sanchez

Name: Aaron Sanchez
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Acquired: 1st round (2010)
Opening Day age: 19
Height/weight: 6’4”/190 lbs
Best/worst tool: Fastball/control
Risk factor: High
ETA: 2014

Scouting Report

Aaron Sanchez is the kind of pitcher that scouts love to dream on, as he simply oozes projection. His 6’4”, 190 lbs frame has ample room to add muscle, particularly in his chest and legs. A realistic goal would be for Sanchez to bulk up to around 210 lbs over the next two years, further augmenting his power arsenal. His fastball is his best pitch, already sitting in the low 90’s. It touches 95 mph consistently and has some natural run and sink, giving it plus potential. Those numbers could spike to sitting 93-95 mph and touching 97 mph as he matures, making plus-plus potential very possible. Sanchez' primary breaking ball is low-to-mid 70’s straight curve, also with plus potential. He’s very inconsistent with the slow looping pitch, though his long arms generate a tight spin that gives the curve plenty of break. His third pitch is a changeup, though he doesn’t throw it as often as he should while facing professional hitters. The change sits in the low 80’s, giving nice separation from his fastball. The arm speed isn’t on par with his fastball, but if he can better close the gap the pitch has the potential to be average. Sanchez is very athletic, and it’s noticeable both in how he defends his position as well as on the mound. His delivery is balanced and smooth, with quick and loose arm action coming from the 3/4 slot. His mechanics can get inconsistent at times, leading to serious issues with command and control. As he matures and strengthens his lower half, his pitching base should improve, and some of those issues could quickly dissipate.

2011 Statistics and Analysis

14 games (9 starts), 54.1 IP, 53 H, 32 ER, 4 HR, 26 BB, 56 K
3-3, 5.30 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 9.28 K/9, 2.15 K/BB, 1.60 GO/AO

The overall numbers aren’t very good –- some of the worst from anyone in the top 30 –- but for prospects, particularly in the low minors, statistics aren’t everything. Almost all of his problems can be traced back to his presently below average control. His 4.31 BB/9 was awful, there’s no argument there. Despite that, some of his other rates were very impressive, which speaks to how good his stuff really is. Sanchez struck out over a batter per inning, allowed only 0.66 HR/9, and had an excellent groundball rate –- all while having trouble locating his pitches. If he can improve his command to at least average and have the ability to place his pitches roughly where he wants to, his arsenal (particularly his sinking fastball) will become absolutely devastating, and the numbers will follow shortly thereafter.

Expected 2012 Assignment: Single-A Lansing

Future Outlook

Sanchez took a bit of a step back in 2011, as there’s little doubt that Toronto hoped to see him pitch well enough to finish the season with the Lugnuts. As it stands, he finished the year with Vancouver, and wasn’t particularly impressive there. Regardless, with two years of short season ball to his name, Sanchez is all but guaranteed a full season assignment in 2012, with Single-A Lansing as the destination. There, he should join a rotation that will include Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino, two of Toronto’s best pitching prospects. Lansing will be a team to watch in 2012, and I’m sure the Blue Jays front office would love nothing more than to see the three advance through the minor leagues together, learning to win together. Sanchez has the least polish, however, and could be the last to the majors with a mid-to-late 2014 debut.

Perfect World Projection: Top of the rotation starter, possible All Star appearances and strikeout titles in his prime.

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