I would first like to apologize for my absence on BBB, as I've been very busy. I've recently been accepted to Marquette Law school, and I look forward to being an active participant in their sports law program, and share some information on this site! Also, with the college baseball season well underway, I've had little to no time to take part in game-day chats, and general BBB festivities, much to my chagrin.
Alas, I came here to talk about the evolution of Aaron Sanchez as a pitcher, at least given the performance thus far in Advanced-A Dunedin. I've always been very enamored by Sanchez's ability to suppress contact, and get strikeouts. Keeping the ball on the infield is essential to limiting big innings, and Sanchez has proven that he is capable of inducing weak-to-no contact consistently.
JD Sussman recently wrote about Sanchez in mid-February, detailing Sanchez strengths as a pitcher. He addressed Sanchez fastball, which displays strong, yet inconsistent movement in the mid-90's. Regarding his secondary offerings, Sussman writes that:
While control has hindered Sanchez, he has an elite ceiling due to featuring three of the minor leagues’ best pitches. In addition to his fastball, Sanchez has a devastating change-up that runs away from left-handed hitters. His change-up came into the season as his third offering but now rivals his 12-6 curveball as his best pitch. The curve is also a true out-pitch that features tight rotation and no visible hump. Like all curveballs, it can be inconsistent, but it’s already a plus-offering.
Despite these strengths, his control has been lackluster to begin his professional career, as we know too well. His BB/9 have been 6.17 and 5.08 in his last two postings at Low-A and Single-A the past 24 months. These are worrisome rates, and cause for concern.
So far in 2013, Aaron Sanchez seems to be learning how to feel and command his pitches inside the strike zone. In fact, through 5 starts, his BB/9 sits at a shiny, new 2.81. Russell Carleton (also known as "Pizza Cutter" online) however, has noted on Fangraphs and on-line baseball blogs all round that it requires approximately 550 batters faced for BB/PA rates to stabilize for a pitcher. So far Aaron has only faced 103 batters, which is an important detail to note when considering my conclusions. I fully understand SSS might be at play here, but I also think the trend is significant enough to make note of.
Sanchez looks to be making positive steps towards becoming a pitcher, and learning to command his plus-plus offerings. It's also significant that he's beginning to work longer innings, working through lineups multiple times, and learning how to make adjustments in-game to hitters. His opponents batting average was .204 last season (with an opponents BABIP of .279), and it sits at .170 so far in 2013, giving way to the notion he's continuing to make progressions in suppressing contact, all the while making massive cuts into his walk rates.
I always hear conversations of Bundy/Walker/Bradley/Cole/Taillon/Gausman/Wheeler as the upper echelon of right-handed pitching prospects, with Aaron Sanchez consistently on the periphery. His stuff has always seemed to belong among this group, and with his recent improvements with his command and control, I'd love to see more scouting syndicates give Sanchez due credit.
Anyways, thank you for listening, and I hope to be more participatory on BBB in the coming months. Go Jays!