- 3) Aaron Sanchez – 2010 1st round (Supplemental) 34th Overall – RHP – 7/1/1992 (20) – 6’4″ 190 lbs
Aaron Sanchez is a supplemental 1st round pick for the Blue Jays that was one of Alex Anthopoulos’ first draft picks and an example of his strategy of drafting high-ceiling high school arms that the Jays can develop slowly. Sanchez is poster child for projectability as he was just 6’3″, 170 lbs. when he was drafted in 2010 but has since grown an inch and added 20 lbs to his frame.
He pitched 25 innings in GCL and the NYPL to impressive results including a 2.16 ERA which hid that he was walking more than 6 batters per 9 innings though that was offset by a strikeout rate that was more than 13 per 9. Obviously, the brass were encouraged by his ability to strike people out but concerned that his control problems would hamper his success as he faced stiffer competition.
Though his end results in 2011 were not where he’d have liked them, there was encouragement to be drawn from his peripheral numbers and the talent evaluators continued to believe that his raw stuff would inevitably bring results. However, he was still moved up to Vancouver by season’s end and would join other members of the Canadians’ staff in moving up to full-season ball for 2012.
Talent evaluators disagreed for the most part prior to 2012 about how the Jays’ top pitching prospects should be ranked though more often than not he wound up looking up at both Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard. Out of Goldstein, Law, Rode, Sickels, and Mayo, only Law ranked him ahead of Nicolino and Syndergaard going into the 2012 season.
However, those that predicted he’d break out in Lo-A Lansing in 2012 came out smelling like Nostradamus because Sanchez was nearly unhittable. He’d relinquish just 6.4 H/9 and only 11 extra-base hits in 87 1/3 IP. Unfortunately, the control problems that had plagued him at the lower levels remained as he walked 13.2% of the batters he faced. He was helped out by a career high in ground ball % and a career low in BABIP but that is not to detract from what overall was a very positive season at an important stage in Sanchez’ development.
Despite his slight build, Sanchez already sports a four-seam fastball which reportedly touched as high as 100 mph this past season:
My fastball jumped. At the beginning of the year it was 92 to 95, in the middle it was 94 to 96, lately it has been around 95 to 99. Reportedly I hit 100, but you never know if those readings are accurate. – Aaron Sanchez to JaysProspects.com, September 2012
“Like a typical four-seamer,” writes JD Sussman at Bullpen Banter, “Sanchez’s fastball is straight but it’s explosive and often invokes both swings and misses.” Despite a fastball sitting consistently in the mid-90s, Sanchez still has the potential to add a few more pounds to his frame and could conceivably add a few more ticks to his average fastball which would put him into elite territory.
Sanchez has also shown a plus-curveball that features late break that Baseball America ranked as the best in the system. While he is yet to show that he can throw his breaking ball consistently for strikes, he is still just 20 years old and should still have plenty of time to become more consistent in his delivery.
Though his changeup “lags behind the curve in all facets right now” according to Sussman, the pitch has the potential to be “devastating”. Because curveballs are almost inherently difficult to throw for strikes, Sussman believes that Sanchez will be best served by catching his changeup to the rest of his arsenal as it should be easier to throw for strikes.
In an interview with Jared Macdonald of JaysJournal.com in May 2012, Blue Jays VP of Baseball Operations Tony La Cava was asked about the progress with Aaron Sanchez’ changeup:
Speaking of weapons, Aaron Sanchez. In terms of that changeup, that third pitch, how’s it coming along?
“We think it’s going to be the third plus pitch that he has. Fastball velocity it keeps getting better, and movement, and angle, and command of it just continues to get better and better. His breaking ball is an out pitch, it’s a knockout curveball, and his changeup is, at times, plus also. So that’s three out pitches we think, and he’s just 19.
Sanchez greatly improved his stock in 2012 and showed that talent evaluators were not crazy for having Sanchez in their Top 10s despite what had thus far been lacklustre results for the young right-hander from Barstow. In his post-2012 rankings, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com bumped Sanchez up from 8th to 3rd and in the process leapfrogged him past Nicolino, Norris and Syndergaard. It’s not surprising considering the dominance Sanchez displayed and the growth of all three of his pitches, but does show the confidence that Mayo has in Sanchez’ raw stuff and his ability in the future to harness it.
Sanchez should start 2013 with the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League and if the Jays feel he is ready, might push him as high as New Hampshire by season’s end. The front office has signalled that it is more comfortable aggressively promoting its pitching prospects once they’ve entered their 20s and so it is unlikely that Sanchez will be held back unless it is determined he needs serious work before making the jump to the next level. That work could very well be the control problems that have plagued him throughout his minor league career, but hopefully the extra year of growth and development will help in reducing his walk rate in 2013.
Look for him to be knocking on the door in Toronto by 2014 when he will be just 22. His exact arrival will likely be determined by the other options available as John Stilson, Deck McGuire, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison all figure to compete for spots in the rotation and are further along. If Sanchez is still suffering control problems in a few years, the Jays may opt to use one of the aforementioned names and let him continue to develop in the minors. However, if those names falter, it could facilitate Sanchez’ first taste of the big leagues.