Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez facing crossroads in 2019

The Blue Jays Aaron Sanchez struggled with blisters again in 2018. What does the future hold for the talented right-hander?

 

 

 

 

Look, I don’t want to be that guy who starts the conversation about Aaron Sanchez and the bullpen. I for one thought Sanchez was always going to end up a starter.

 

In case you don’t know or you’ve forgotten, Aaron Sanchez burst onto the Blue Jays scene in 2014 as a 21-yr-old. Because of his age, Sanchez’ arm was being protected by an innings limit. Sanchez finished 2014 with 133.1IP that year. The following year Sanchez spent some time on the DL, not blister related yet, making just 11 starts and spending most of the year in the bullpen (30 appearances).

 

Then in 2016, Sanchez finally got his chance to start every 5th day but then 2017 was wasted because of blisters. The 2018 season was better, in the sense that Sanchez managed to make 20 starts and pitch 105 innings versus the 36.0 innings the blisters limited him to in 2017. However, Sanchez still struggled with some hotspots (aka blisters) and suitcases (see here).

 

This is where the ‘crossroad’ thingy comes into play. The way I see it, Sanchez’ career can follow three paths: 1) Al Leiter 2) Brett Cecil 3) Ricky Romero.

Al Leiter

Leiter was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays from the New York Yankees for Jesse Barfield on April 30th, 1989. Leiter dealt with an assortment of injuries, limiting him to 15.2IP between ’89 and ’92. What I remember most about Leiter was the blister problems…..there’s the connection. Leiter was part of the ’93 World Series winning Blue Jays. He left Toronto for Florida and won another WS ring in ’97.

 

This path has Sanchez remaining in the rotation, battling blister problems but eventually becoming a very good starter. While the Blue Jays will possibly get a couple quality seasons, Sanchez will enjoy most of his success wearing another team’s jersey…..likely the Yankees.

 

Brett Cecil

Like Aaron Sanchez, Brett Cecil rose through the Blue Jays farm system as a starting pitching prospect. Cecil spent his first three seasons in the rotation between 2009 and 2011 before transitioning to the bullpen in 2012. As a full-time member of the Blue Jays bullpen, Cecil went from a pitcher with an ERA between 4.22 to 5.72 striking out between 6 and 7 batters per 9 innings to a reliever with an average ERA below 3.00 and striking out more than 10 batters per 9 innings.

 

It’s possible that throwing fewer pitches per outing will decrease the occurrence of hotspots. We’ve seen Sanchez have success coming out of the bullpen (2-2, 1.09 ERA in 24 games in 2014). If the 26-yr-old struggles with blisters or other issues which bring into questions about his durability, a move to the bullpen might be required.

 

Ricky Romero

While Romero’s injury issues were knee related, hear me out. Romero’s career got off to a promising start showing improvement each year between 2009 (13-9, 4.30 ERA) and 2011 (15-11, 2.92 ERA). Knee issues resulted in 2012 resulted in extreme control issues (105 BB) and the beginning of the end for the 27-yr-old.

 

Unlike Leiter, who managed to have a promising career after his injury and blister issues. Romero was unable to do the same. It is possible Sanchez will remain in the rotation and continues to struggle with blister issues through his career. We have already seen Sanchez become a less effective starting pitcher as he plays with different grips and pitch tendencies to avoid creating hotspots. This has resulted in back-to-back 5.0 BB/9IP seasons and plus 4.00 ERA. Eventually, teams won’t view Sanchez as a dependable starter, durability or effective, which will prohibit Sanchez’ earning potential and ability to sign anything but minor league deals.

 

In Closing

I think Sanchez is more valuable to the Blue Jays as a starter. At 26-yr-olds, Sanchez still has time. Leiter turned his career around in his year 27 season; however, Cecil turned into an invaluable reliever in his age 26 season.

 

I would give Sanchez the 2019 season to show he is healthy and able to perform better than his 4-6, 4.89 ERA 2018 record. If Sanchez fails to do either by the mid-season classic, it is time for Sanchez to take Cecil path.

 

What path should Toronto encourage Sanchez to take in 2019? How much of a leash does Sanchez have?

 

 

 

 

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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.

Ryan Mueller

Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn't cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I'm more right.