Jays From the Couch brings you the Toronto Blue Jays 2016 Highlights & Lowlights for breakout starting pitcher, Aaron Sanchez.
We could spend the entire day putting together a highlight listing for Aaron Sanchez‘s 2016 season. What is there to be said that hasn’t been already? The 24-year-old was simply amazing right out of the gate. He had set his mind to being a starting pitcher as soon the 2015 season ended at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, and got to work shortly after. The once previous lanky kid added 25 lbs of muscle to his frame during his workouts with fellow staff member, Marcus Stroman, while at Duke University. His dedication was rewarded when he was named the fifth starter coming out of Spring Training, beating out veteran pitcher, Gavin Floyd.
Despite being on a somewhat “floating” innings limit throughout the season the hard-throwing right-hander still managed to make 30 starts. His 192.0 IP were obviously a career high, smashing his previous high as a professional of 133.1 IP with ease. Come the All-Star break the discussion of his innings/workload/effort/health being monitored was every where around baseball. However, the talk did not distract Sanchez from his duties on the mound. He took the ball when he was given the opportunity and did so with so much gusto he lead the American League with a 3.00 ERA, and 0.7 HR/9 ratio. The latter made more impressive by the fact 14 of his 30 starts came within the friendly confines of the American League East division.
Perhaps a more impressive feat was his ability to give his ball club a chance to win on a nightly basis. Sanchez locked up 23 quality starts (6+IP, 3 ER or less) out of his 30 starts this season, for a 77% quality start percentage. This total put him second behind two Cy Young contenders Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello, who tied at 79% on the season. Lofty company indeed.
Personally, I love the video highlights below from this June game in Detroit. It may have been his 12th start of the season but, to me, it was his coming out party. Sanchez simply manhandled the Detroit lineup through 8 innings. The game didn’t finish the way we all wanted, but getting the quote “Oh my God, unbelievable, wow, very impressed, very impressed” from Miguel Cabrera after the game says enough.
With Sanchez experiencing so many ups this season, it’s hard to pinpoint too many lows worthy of discussion. If one was looking to nitpick, a quick look at his BB/9 ratio, and the lack of use of his third pitch would be a place to start.
His 3.0 BB/9 may draw some concern from those outside looking in, and it is easy to understand why. However, those familiar with the situation understand that just two seasons ago he sported a 5.1 BB/9 ratio in the minors, so it is hard to pick apart such improvement. Though, if one were to do so, it would be in hopes that the California native could keep improving this aspect of his game. With a GB/FO ratio of 1.24 he is bound to run into some bad luck with ground balls from time-to-time. Which would make keeping as many extra runners off the base paths extremely beneficial to his growth as a front of the rotation pitcher.
For those of you who have paid close enough attention, you will recall that Sanchez does, on occasion, feature a three pitch arsenal. His overpowering fastball, filthy curve ball, and an evolving change-up were all featured at some point during the season. It did seem, whether by design or lack of trust, the change-up was all but abandoned during some starts throughout the season. A quick look at Fangraphs shows he varied its usage from a high of 17.5% to a low of 1% from game to game, with it averaging out at 9.2% on the season.
With his first two pitches being as good as they are, it’s understandable that he would forgo the change-up in favour of pitches he trusts. But, this could be a pitch that takes him from being very good to great going forward, and should probably be built into his arsenal on a more regular basis.
There is still some speculation whether or not the front office is ready to take the reigns completely off Sanchez for the upcoming season; however, it would be hard to justify any reason for not doing so. If the 24-year-old is as committed to building his body up to battle the rigors of 30+ starts as he was last winter, there is no reason, barring injury, why he shouldn’t break through the 200 IP ceiling in 2017. With his competitive nature being what it is, it seems safe to assume Sanchez will come to Spring Training with his eyes set on taking the ball every time his name is called, and dominating once again. This time he will do so, presumably, as the number one starter for the Toronto Blue Jays. A spot he no doubt looks to maintain for many years to come.
*Featured Image Credit: Terry Foote (flickr) UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Wade is a long time baseball fan who has been involved with the game for over 30 years. Including as a former college player, amateur pitching coach, and blogger.