Public Sector Scouting: Aaron Sanchez

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Over the course of the 2014 season, we at BlueJaysPlus plan on giving you live, in-person scouting reports from what I like to call “Public Sector Scouts”. In recent years, there has been an explosion in talented and eager scouts contributing to a wide variety of websites. While there is some (barely any) value to scouting via box scores, those stats just don’t tell you the while story.

After talking to CJ Wittmann on the podcast this week about Aaron Sanchez’ season debut, I was lucky enough to grab Phillies blogger Eric Longenhagen (of the great Crashburn Alley site) on his way to Reading, Pennsylvania in order to see a truly elite pitching matchup between Sanchez and the Phillies top prospect, Jesse Biddle. He was kind enough to offer to pay closer attention to Sanchez than he normally would and share his valuable scouting notes with us.

There may be a good deal of scouting jargon in this report. If there are any terms that you aren’t familiar with (or have any other questions for that matter), please feel free to inquire in the comment section, and i’ll attempt to clarify anything I can.

April 9th
Aaron Sanchez vs. Reading Phillies
5 IP, 5 H, 2 R(all earned). 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HR — 84 Pitches

Fastball

- Sanchez sat 95-97 with run early on
-Legit plus plus pitch and he commanded it well through the first 2 innings

There isn’t much to add here. Sanchez has an amazing fastball, one of the best in the entire minor leagues.

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Curveball

-Seldom used the curveball early on
-In the 79 to 81 MPH range
-Good 11-5 depth
-Some were tighter and flashed plus potential (where it will likely eventually settle)

Back in December, in Baseball Prospectus’ Blue Jays top 10 list, lead prospect writer Jason Parks stated that his curve “flashes plus potential but can lack snap and get slurvy”. While there are some issues remaining, seeing the curve described as having 11-5 depth indicates that the slurvy break could be a thing of the past.

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Change Up

-Sat 88-92 MPH with varying depth and run depending on speed
-Slower ones featured more trap door movement
-Faster ones moved more horizontally
-Sells it well with consistent arm speed
-Not sure if it’s a bat missing pitch, but certainly can be used to contain RH bats and induce soft contact

This is a very positive development. The two different variations on the pitch could be very interesting going forward, and definitely something to keep an eye on, if it’s intentional. But, if the two styles come from a lack of consistency, that shows he still has some work to do on this pitch.

That he was able to pitch off of just his fastball and change up in the early going (which he;s done in both his 2014 starts) is both incredibly positive, but also likely an indication that they are looking for him to work on his change more than his breaking pitch.

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Command

-Early on he was painting. Spotting fastball at the knees on the armside corner
-As things wore on, he was still finding the zone, but not in the unhittable spots that he found   early on
-Eventually he was missing the zone entirely as he tired
-Overall showed average command and control

After a game where Sanchez showed much improved command (using just 67 pitches to get through 5 full innings), it’s back to same old Sanchez in game 2. It is not that Sanchez always has terrible command, it’s that it comes and goes.

The positive to take from this middling report is that just like CJ Wittmann weekend, we aren’t seeing any mentions of passivity of nibbling. WHile a lack of a consistent delivery(see below) could prevent him from ever having much more than average command, at least the flaws aren’t coming from upstairs like they once were.

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Mechanics

-Very interesting delivery
-Arm accelerates so well, and shows early natural life
-Yet the rest of the body shows considerable effort
-Stride isn’t explosive, but it’s not so short that he’s wasting his lower half
-By shortening his stride is should allow him to stay more balanced throughout his delivery (which could alleviate some command concerns)
-There is some violence and effort in the upper body too
-The dreaded “inverted W” is there, but doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it does require mentioning
– Delivery can become rushed as he comes home
-Does not suggest changing the mechanics of one of the better arms I’ve seen over the past 5 years (don’t mess with a good thing)
-Can’t project more than average command unless things are smoothed out in the delivery

I found the comment about “not messing with a good thing” interesting. The Jays changed Sanchez’ delivery last season to what most view as less favorable mechanics. The shorten stride killed his tremendous momentum towards home plate. This was obviously done to create more balance and control in his delivery, and hopefully cut down on the command issues. Some would argue that we should be happy because it has all worked out, and his command is finally starting to improve because of the mechanics shift. It could also just be a maturing developing arm. I think some people fail to see the effect of the shorten stride. The scouting notes mention the violence of his upper body and well as the injury red flags of the arm. These are directly correlated to the shortened stride and slower momentum. Breaking the kinetic chain and creating multiple timing patterns for pitchers is never a good idea. It’s hard to imagine any change coming as long as he repeats his delivery and continues to show positive signs with his command.(Written by:Chris Sherwin)

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Overall Thoughts

-I think he’s an outstanding prospect, but don’t see him missing as many bats as his pitch grades would leave you to believe
-Will get his fair share of strikeouts
– Vs. lefties spotting fastballs on their hip
– Get swings and misses against players with bad coverage
– Curveball will be a weapon on the type of hitters who can’t ID a breaking ball to save his life (see Galvis, Freddy)
-Isn’t Verlander who can get swings and misses on any of his offering he chooses to use
-Think Sanchez has #2 or #3 starter upside, but maybe not with the statistical profile we stereotypically associate with that kind of arm

Mr. Longenhagen was so helpful that he even was even kind of enough to grab video rom Sanchez’ start…

I think in a strange way, I might have been more impressed with this start from Aaron than I was from his dominant season debut last week. In the debut, he was clearly in a start where everything clicked, while yesterday, he had some struggles, and managed to battle through both those struggles and the bitterly cold Pennsylvania night and  still post a solid line (which the scouting backs up).

While the erratic nature of Sanchez’ development has been frustrating at times (and likely will be going forward), its worth mentioning that he is still just 21 years olf, making him just the 2nd youngest player in the Eastern League, behind uber-prospect Francisco Lindor, and seeing the type of improvement we seem to have from such a young player certainly bodes well for the future.

About Ewan Ross

Ewan Ross, a TV and Blue Jays addict, currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. He joined the original BlueJaysPlus team in 2012, and he is a co-host of the BJP Podcast alongside Chris Sherwin

5 comments

  1. His changeup was effective but still firm (called it a FB couple of times on MiLB.TV broadcast). It worked against Double-A hitters because they have to gear up even more for the velocity but I think he’ll need to work on throwing the slightly “slower ones with trap door movement” more consistently. If he does that, look out.

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