Fantasy Baseball: Why You Should Buy Toronto's Aaron Sanchez
The Aaron Sanchez starting experiment is going decidedly better now than it did last season.
On Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays' 23-year-old right-hander dominated the Tampa Bay Rays, pitching seven innings and giving up five hits and one earned run with no walks and eight strikeouts. He was nasty.
That followed a magnificent spring training in which he won a spot in the rotation by posting a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings, allowing just 3 walks against 19 strikeouts and holding opponents to a .211 batting average.
One thing Sanchez does is miss bats with his fastball, averaging 95.6 miles per hour on his heater in Tuesday night's game. Last year, he averaged 94.9 miles per hour on his four-seamer. But more importantly, he did not give out free passes.
Coming into the spring, it was known Toronto was going to allow him to compete for a spot in the rotation, but most assumed he'd end up in the bullpen. Much of that is thanks to last year's audition as a member of the rotation that didn't go too well.
As a starter, his ERA wasn't too bad, but his walk rate and WHIP were both totally unacceptable. He was far better as a relief pitcher, and that's where most people had him pegged entering 2016.
Sanchez reportedly added roughly 20 pounds to his frame over the winter as part of a new workout plan aimed at improving his stamina, giving him more consistency with his delivery, and making his release point more consistent -- hence his improved control so far this year. He featured a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, a curveball that bent a lot of knees, and a changeup as well, three pitches that, if they remain consistent, are ace-level.
Last night, his curveball was far more active than it had been last year. According to PITCHf/x data, the horizontal movement of his curveball against the Rays dropped 9.0 inches from the top of its trajectory to its end-point, on average. Last year, his curveball moved 7.7 inches downward. It also became a valuable pitch against left-handed batters, moving horizontally across the zone into lefties 11.6 inches last night. Last year, it moved 7.1 inches horizontally into lefties.
More movement, both up-and-down and side-to-side, can make all the difference in the world. And as referenced above, adding an extra mile an hour to the fastball also helps.
Of course, this was just one start coming off an impressive spring. There are still 159 more games to go.
But if you're looking for a starter to add to your roster, Sanchez should probably be the first one on which to make a claim.