What To Expect: Blue Jays RHP Aaron Sanchez

Baseball America periodically takes a closer look at a prospect who is either just arriving to the majors or is on the cusp of doing so, providing a look at what can be expected from them in real life and also for fantasy purposes.

Aaron Sanchez

Aaron Sanchez (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Last season, despite all the talent on the roster, was terrible for the Blue Jays.

This year, they’re in the thick of the American League East race. Jose Bautista leads the league in on-base percentage, and Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes are providing production. Edwin Encarnacion had 26 homers (which is still just three off of the major league lead) before he got hurt. Mark Buehrle has quietly—and quickly—put up a 2.86 ERA.

Now, as the stretch run approaches, it’s time for tweaks and upgrades. The Blue Jays believe prized righthander Aaron Sanchez is one of those upgrades, particularly when it comes to the team’s 4.50 ERA out of the bullpen, which ranks fourth from the bottom in the American League.

Scouting Report

A first-rounder in 2010 out of Barstow (Calif.) HS, Sanchez is as talented an arm as Toronto has in its stable. Armed with a high-octane fastball, a plus curveball and a solid changeup, he has the arsenal, at least, to be a weapon at the front of a rotation.

What he doesn’t have is control. His delivery is easy and he’s repeated well in the past, but he’s always had high walk numbers. He issued more than five free passes per nine with Double-A New Hampshire this year before a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo, where he cut that rate by one.

He recently shifted to the bullpen, where he’ll work now that he’s been called up to Toronto to join Marcus Stroman, the Blue Jays’ other top arm.

What to Expect

Not much, initially. He’s not going to close for the Blue Jays; that job’s already being handled by Casey Janssen, who missed the first five weeks of the season but has 14 saves and doesn’t look to be moving out of that role any time soon.

Sanchez will almost certainly be eased in with low-leverage situations, and if he does well he could find himself getting regular work as Toronto chases first place in the wide-open division.

If your league counts holds, he could pick up a few of those. His real value though, might be in K/9. Sanchez has the grounball tendencies to potentially limit home runs despite pitching in a home run-friendly ballpark. He gets plus to plus-plus life on his fastball and had one of the top groundball rates at each of his last few stops. He pitches to put hitters away if he commands them, and of course his fastball could tick up a few notches in a relief role. Basically, if you’re picking up Sanchez for this year, you’re looking for lightning in a bottle for your bullpen in the mold of early season Dellin Betances and Ken Giles. Beware, though, his walk rate could come back to bite you.

If you’re picking him up in a keeper league, you’re banking on his stuff and corresponding long-term value as a rotation piece or a closer if he figures out his command.