After making 14 starts in AA New Hampshire, the Toronto Blue Jays decided to promote top pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez up to AAA Buffalo. Although Sanchez posted very average numbers at New Hampshire – where his control was at the forefront of his issues – the Blue Jays developmental plan of Aaron Sanchez continued on its fast track like pace.
Making his first AAA start Saturday, Sanchez struggled in his debut. Only lasting four innings, while surrendering four earned runs on six hits and four walks. Aside from the loss, Sanchez consistently struggled to throw strikes, throwing only 47 strikes on 86 pithces. Even though Sanchez struggles were visibly evident in the 4th and 5th innings, his performance really wasn’t that much different from what he was doing in AA New Hampshire.
On a broad scale, Sanchez has thrown 1,086 pitches this year in AA. Of those 1,086 pitches, 621 of them were for strikes, good for 57.1%. A similar ratio to Saturday’s outing. On top of his inconsistent command, Sanchez issued 40 free passes in his 66 innings pitched, boasting a 5.5 walks per 9 innings rate. Again, his walk rate on Saturday was right on par with the rest of his season in AA. Really then, when you analyze Sanchez’s Saturday debut, it was nothing out of the norm of what he has been doing all year at AA New Hampshire.
When you look beyond AA New Hampshire, you will see that Sanchez’s struggles to throw strikes have been a common theme throughout his minor league career, evident by his 4.9 walks per 9 innings rate for his minor league career. But those same control issues have at times helped him strike batters out, as Sanchez has consistently posted a strikeout per 9 innings rate above 7 at all levels, even though has rarely throws over 90 pitches a game. The only real concern about Sanchez’s debut on Saturday was the fact that Toledo stole 4 bases on him. That is clearly a part of his game that must evolve before he reaches the next level.
But really, all Sanchez showed Saturday was what a young, inexperienced pitcher would typically show in his first start at a higher level. He showed that he has much to learn – especially in terms of holding runners on and attacking batters with his full repertoire of pitches.
If anything, we learned that maybe our expectations of the 21-year old right hander are a little high based on his rapid progression. After all, Sanchez was a lanky 6’4″, 180 pound kid entering the Blue Jays system only four years ago. Since then, Sanchez has not only soared through the Blue Jays farm system jumping from rookie ball to AAA, he has also added weight to his body and matured – standing at a filled out 6’4″, 200 pounds now.
It might be safe to say that we sometimes forget Aaron Sanchez is only 21-years old and his game is far from fully developed yet. But hey, when you see Sanchez throw a 96-mph sinking fastball that runs in on batters, who can blame fans for getting excited about the potential upside he shows?
Be patient Jays fans; at 21-years old, Aaron Sanchez best days are still to come.
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