by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
After a breakout 2016 campaign, when Aaron Sanchez won 15 games to go along with a 3.00 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, there were high hopes heading into 2017. Unfortunately injuries struck, limiting him to 36.0 innings for Toronto last season. Even worse, those innings were ugly:
24 Strikeouts (6.00 K/9)
20 Walks (5.00 BB/9)
47.5% Groundball Rate
It wasn’t one specific injury that sidelined him, as he missed time early with a cracked fingernail, blister issues mid-year and a strained ligament in his finger that ended his season. Obviously the consistent starts and stops are going to have an impact on his performance, and maybe that’s why his control and groundball rate took significant steps backwards. That would make us think that a rebound is likely, but is it really? Let’s take a look:
There were always questions as to whether or not Sanchez could replicate the 2.95 BB/9 he posted in ’16, especially considering a 4.9 BB/9 over his minor league career (5.2 at Triple-A). You don’t show that type of improved control by accident, though keep in mind that he did show a regression as the year went on:
- First Half ’16 – 2.81
- Second Half ’16 – 3.18
That second half mark is still a vast improvement, but he also simply wasn’t getting swings and misses outside the strike zone (25.7% in ’16, 25.4% for his MLB career). Maybe he’s taken a step forward from his minor league days, but a 4.25 BB/9 in September of ’16 and the struggles last season give a definite cause for concern.
Even in his 2016 “breakout”, there was a question as to whether or not he could maintain his already pedestrian 7.55 K/9. We already mentioned the lackluster O-Swing%, and he also simply didn’t get many swinging strikes in general (8.2% SwStr%). He didn’t show a wipeout pitch (15.64% Whiff% on his curveball was his best mark). That’s simply not going to get it done, and even maintaining that mark isn’t a guarantee (last season he had a 9.80% Whiff% on the pitch, albeit in a small sample size).
Couple those concerns with a 7.2 K/9 at Triple-A, and it’s easy to realize that he’s never going to be a source of strikeouts.
This is going to be his strength, as he utilizes his sinker to get opponents to drive the ball into the ground (56.1% rate over his Major League career). Even pitching in the difficult AL East that should allow him to avoid home run issues (don’t read into last year’s 1.50 HR/9), and that’s going to help. Is it enough of a positive to cause us to overlook the other issues though?
160.0 IP, 10 W, 4.22 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 121 K (6.81 K/9), 67 BB (3.77 BB/9)
Obviously the groundball rate is tremendous, but it’s simply not enough to offset the lack of strikeouts and questions about his control. There’s likely going to be some name appeal, but at the end of the day the risk far outweighs the reward. Considering the likely price, target someone with significantly more upside and don’t bother taking the risk on Sanchez.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections: