Toronto Blue Jays: How Should they Handle Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris?


Toronto Blue Jays: How Should they Handle Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris?

Coming into Spring Training, a lot has been said around the league about Toronto Blue Jays duo Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez. The Blue Jays are lucky enough to not have just one, but two of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball (Norris #17/Sanchez #44).

Both have been tabbed to become potential mainstays in the future rotation and have the ability to pitch in the bullpen at an extremely effective rate already. On the field, the two are competing for perhaps that last starting spot, with the “loser” likely finding a place in the bullpen. However, off the field they couldn’t appear to have more different lifestyles.

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First we have the man in the van. A lot has been mentioned about the way Norris spends his off-seasons and how he makes trip down to Florida for Spring Training in his van.  I really see nothing wrong with this and to be honest this seems like a guy who has many of his priorities in line. He knows what makes him happy — he enjoys wandering the land less traveled, while meeting some interesting folks along the way.

He seems very much in control of his emotions and knows exactly what he wants to do when he gets to the ballpark.The 21 year old’s offseason recipe of getting back to nature and enjoying the natural things in life such as the sun coming over the mountains each morning appears to actually help point him in the right direction, and not the opposite as many have speculated.

Considering he led all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts per game, I think it is safe to say his routine is doing him just fine. Don’t be surprised to see other similar stories next off-season should Norris have a good season in the big leagues. Also, check out this nasty strikeout below – it’s nice to have a pitch like this to put some fear in lefties, along with a 95 MPH fastball.

On the other hand we have baby-faced Aaron Sanchez. The 22-year-old from Barstow, California is entering this season after having a great stint relieving for the Blue Jays last year. In 2014 for the Jays, Sanchez posted a 1.09 ERA in 24 appearances (33 IP) including 27 K to 9 BB. It’s great to see this 3-to-1 strikeout to walks ratio, although given his stuff on the mound, it would be good to see the K’s get to one per inning.

Sep 3, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) celebrates with catcher Dioner Navarro (30) after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 7-4 at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Interestingly enough, that was Sanchez’s best statistical numbers in professional baseball. In addition to being such a top prospect he actually hasn’t averaged a K/inning since 2012 in Single-A with Lansing. With his motion, velocity and sinking action on his fastball, he is already a dominant bullpen force on a team looking to win immediately. I have heard many say he would be better off starting in AAA???

This is extremely confusing. What good does Sanchez serve getting his time and innings there, if he’s only going to be a starter for the Jays in a year or two when their window might have closed a bit? This team is built on winning now and you have to have your best arms playing on the roster. That’s why this team had traded and built up the way it has.

Mar 3, 2015; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) walks off the mound after the third inning during a spring training baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On a side note, the Jays have picked up Marco Estrada. Yes, he did give up the most home runs in baseball, but he seemed to really figure it out as a late-game reliever in Milwaukee.  Estrada is a great pick-up due to his ability to spot start, at least when needed, while also being able to relieve at a good clip. It’s interesting to note that Estrada has averaged 20 starts over the last three years and has a combined ERA of 4.

In Estrada’s time in the Big Leagues he has a 3.95 ERA, while averaging .940 k/inning. Estrada has a career 3.95 ERA in the Bigs with a .940 k/inning. Sanchez’s entire minor league (and Brief Major League stint) has an ERA 3.12 with .980 k/inning (he dominated rookie ball and single-A) while never throwing more than 109 innings in a season, which he did in 2013 in High-A and the Arizona Fall League. Yet people want him to be an opening day starter already? That seems a bit dicey to want this young guy to throw 150 plus innings in his rookie season.

On top of this I have one point to add and it is the fact that Roy Halladay (17th Overall, 95’ Draft) pitched a lot of out the bullpen when he came up for the Jays. He was a young hard-throwing pitcher with lots to work on still. He did very well his in first year in the pen in limited appearances and in his second year (1999) he had 18 starts and 36 appearances for 149.1 IP. He had a 3.92 ERA, went 8-7 and then had to rehab himself back to full health and never threw that many innings again until 2002, when he broke out at 25.

I personally don’t want to see Sanchez have to rehab himself to health after this season and if our best pitcher in franchise history can pitch out of the pen for a couple of years, then Sanchez can. Do you want 150 IP with a .500 record, or 50-60 appearances with 40 saves?  I’ll take the latter and let Norris and Estrada go at it.

It seems that Norris is the favourite to take over the fifth spot in the rotation. The Jays don’t have a real lefty starter. (Sorry Mark Buerhle. You may be effective, but you don’t strike fear in the hearts of left-handed batters.)

Norris, on the other hand, has thrown 90 innings in 2013 and 124 total last year. He has built the arm strength up and seems ready for longevity. He has a career 4 ERA compared to Sanchez’s 3.5, but has 306 Ks in 257 IP. If Sanchez can be effective with multiple pitches and he can stay healthy, the sky is the limit. As long as he’s up early enough to get out of the van, have a good stretch, make some eggs and head to the ballpark, he should be just fine.

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