Frank Ammirante | July 3rd, 2019
Blockbuster Trades in 2012
Back in 2012, the Toronto Blue Jays had a trio of prized pitching prospects: Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, and Aaron Sanchez. Alex Anthopoulos, the general manager at the time, wanted to make a splash in the 2012 offseason, so he dealt Nicolino to the Marlins in a blockbuster deal involving a whopping 12 players, including Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Yunel Escobar, and Anthony DeSclafani. Anthopoulos went on to trade Syndergaard along with catcher Travis D’Arnaud to the New York Mets for R.A. Dickey. Nicolino has been unable to stay in the majors and Syndergaard has become a top-flight starter who has struggled with injuries. The important aspect to consider with these two trades is that the Jays thought of Aaron Sanchez as the jewel of their farm system. They chose to use Syndergaard and Nicolino as trade currency and kept Sanchez as the future ace of their rotation. It’s clear that they viewed him as the best of the bunch.
Starting in the Bullpen
Sanchez began his career as a reliever in 2014, posting a 1.09 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 22.3 K%, and 7.4 BB%. He impressed the team with his 97 MPH fastball and knock-out curve. In 2015, he continued to work out of the bullpen, serving as the main setup reliever to closer Roberto Osuna. He put together a solid season, with a 3.22 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, but unspectacular 16.1 K% and 11.6 BB%. Sanchez had the look of a pitcher whose stuff did not match the results, as he should have been striking out more hitters with the impressive arsenal at his disposal. After the 2015 season, the Blue Jays became thinner in their starting rotation, especially with David Price leaving for Boston, so Sanchez began his transition.
Resuming as a Starter
Sanchez was a starter throughout his minor league career, so Jays’ fans were constantly clamoring for this move since he was more valuable working in the rotation. In his first season, the transition worked out perfectly, as Sanchez posted a career year in 2016, leading the American League in ERA with a 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 20.4 K%, and 8.0 BB% in 192 innings. While he still had a middling K-rate, he did a great job inducing grounders, with a 54.4% groundball rate. Sanchez looked like the future ace of the team.
Battered with Blisters
In 2017, there were high hopes for Sanchez, but his season was derailed by nagging blister issues. He was only able to pitch 36 innings in 8 starts, finishing with a lackluster 4.25 ERA and 1.72 WHIP. Unsurprisingly, the team fell off considerably, finishing 76-86 after making it to the previous two American League Championship Series. While this shortened season tempered expectations for Sanchez, he was still viewed as the future ace of the team. After all, he was still only 25 years old.
Sanchez stayed healthy in 2018, but turned in another disappointing season, posting a 4.89 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 18.1 K%, and 12.2 BB%. His K-rate continued its annual decline and he struggled with control. His velocity declined from 95.5 MPH to 94.3 MPH, which made his fastball much less effective. While Sanchez continued to struggle, the rebuilding Jays still had hopes that he would recoup his value in 2019 so that they could trade him for a haul of promising prospects.
This year, Aaron Sanchez is in the midst of the worst season of his career. He has a 6.31 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 17.6 K%, and 12.7 BB%. Let’s take a deeper look at what has changed for Sanchez from his career year in 2016 to now:
Here we can see how the 1.3 MPH decrease in his four-seamer and 1.4 MPH decline in his sinker has been disastrous for Sanchez, as hitters are pounding these pitches right now. Back in 2016, these two pitches were effective because of their higher velocity. Sanchez is also having trouble locating his fastball, as evidenced by the increase from 9.9 BB% in 2016 to 25.4 BB% this year. The one promising sign we can take from this data is that his curveball and changeup are still effective pitches. It’s clear that Sanchez needs to increase the usage of these pitches, especially the curveball.
The Blue Jays need to make a move here because clearly, it’s not working out right now. I think that the best bet would be to send him down to the minors and have him work out these struggles, where he could focus on using his curveball more often. He’s still only 27 years old so they can’t sell him off at an extremely low value. The other option would be to move him back to the bullpen, but I think this would be foolish because his best value is as a starting pitcher. This is especially important for a rebuilding team like the Jays, who want to get as much value as possible in a trade. Simply put, Sanchez needs an extended stay in the minors so that he could re-invent himself as a pitcher.
Check Out The Other Deep Dives: Lucas Giolito | Rafael Devers | Corey Seager | Eduardo Rodriguez | Amed Rosario | Alex Verdugo | Joey Gallo | Mike Soroka | Christian Yelich| Justin Smoak| Martin Perez|Marwin Gonzalez|Derek Dietrich|Bryce Harper|Kirby Yates|Nomar Mazara|Zack Wheeler | Tommy La Stella|Starlin Castro
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images