As regular readers will surely be able to tell, this post began as a Daily Duce. There was just so much Aaron Sanchez stuff to go around, though, that I figured it would be a waste to combine what was really two posts, and devote a little more attention to the club’s top prospect, who pitched again last night in the Arizona Fall League (with some additional nuggets– like some Jays-related tidbits from last week’s KLawchat– thrown in for good measure). Apologies to those who really wanted to read about Gold Glove nominations, Fielding Bible awards, and an extended agreement with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats…

Aaron Sanchez had another good night in the AFL last night, though he did create a bit of a jam for himself in the fourth inning, which included trouble with high-end prospects Addison Russell and Jorge Soler, who singled and walked respectively. But there’s not a whole lot to dislike in the box score, apart from the three walks in 4.1 innings: just the one hit, no runs, and four strikeouts. Marcus Stroman gave up just a single hit in his one inning of work, as well.

“We’re out here with the best of the best and that’s where I want to be. You have to be on your game or something can go south real quick. It’s fun good to be out here with good competition and that’s where I want to be,” explained Sanchez, according to an MiLB.com recap of the outing, which took his AFL numbers to a sparkling 1.35 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP with ten strikeouts, and an ugly eight walks, in 13.1 innings.

A tweet from Eno Sarris of FanGraphs sends us towards the latest AFL Trackman, which shows us AFL leaders by various intriguing metrics, and includes the fact that Sanchez’s average fastball velocity is highest among starters in the league (though he hasn’t quite topped out the way some of the other prospects have), and that his slider rotation bodes very well for his ability to miss bats with it at the big league level.

Partly based on that kind of outstanding stuff, Sanchez– as well as Marcus Stroman– will be taking part in the AFL’s Fall Stars Game, which takes place on Saturday and will be streamed live on MLB.com.

The reports aren’t all entirely good, however, so don’t go forgetting about all the consternation of last week quite yet…

For example, Jeff Moore of Baseball Prospectus recaps yesterday’s AFL action, and sees the warts on Sanchez more sharply than some of my comments above do. “Sanchez has dynamic stuff, but outings like these have become all too common,” he explains. “He stayed out of trouble on Monday because he doesn’t give up hard contact and misses enough bats, but he was unable to finish the fifth inning. He will be able to get away with poor control more so than most pitchers because his fastball sits in the mid-90s and touches 97 and because he pairs it with a plus breaking ball, but his ceiling will be limited if he doesn’t get it everything under control.”

And Keith Law certainly isn’t backing down from the criticisms he leveled last week about the mechanical flaws he now sees in Sanchez’s delivery, tackling criticism of his new tack head on in his latest chat with readers, which happened back on Thursday at ESPN.com.

Steve (Toronto)
What would you respond to critics who think your souring on Aaron Sanchez after being so high on him for so long is related to the rest of the industry’s opinion on Syndergaard?
I don’t think much of “critics” who question my integrity rather than responding to my specific comments on players. I compared what I saw from Sanchez in Fall League to video from when I saw him in 2012, and it confirmed my initial impression – he’s shortened his stride and is finishing too upright. The Sanchez I’d seen in the past missed bats with his fastball; the one I saw in AZ threw 28 fastballs and didn’t get a single swing and miss on it. Lengthen his stride, get him finishing over his front side, and let’s see if that gets him back to where he was.

I wondered when I passed along Law’s criticism of Sanchez if this is a place where people would go, and so I’m glad he addressed it, because I certainly wasn’t going to bring it up myself, exactly for the reason he states in his opening sentence.

Ugh on the fastball not missing bats, though. Hey, and ugh on these things from the chat, too!

Brint (Wichita)
What do you think the chances are of Kyle Drabek returning and becoming a quality Major League starter?
Very slim. Double TJ guys who’ve returned as starters … I know Chris Capuano did, but have there been any others?

JC (Winnipeg)
Did you see anything from Rowdy Tellez in the AFL to upgrade your current position of “not even a guy” on him?
I did not, because he wasn’t in the AFL.

John (Ontario)
Wondering where might be a potential spot for DJ Davis on your prospects list for next year
Not on the top 100, if that’s the question.

Steve (Easton PA)
Thoughts on JP Crawford? The Phillies had to have been thrilled with the little they saw of him last summer.
I’m all in. Big fan. Jays should have taken him at 10 over Bickford on pure talent.

See what I mean? Ugh. (All the more reason to think about moving Drabek, though, huh?)

Hey, but at least it’s not just us!

Chris (Cape Cod)
Keith, what to make of the mediocre seasons for all the Yanks top prospects?
It’s an issue, for sure. Not sure where the blame lies, if it’s a matter of blame at all, but that is a lot of talent that isn’t performing up to expectations, from makeup/effort questions to injuries to just flat-out lack of results.

In fact, it’s actually not all that bad for the Jays. At least, according to Baseball America– which is the high note on which I’ll end this post. This week they’ve ranked the farm systems throughout the Majors, and perhaps surprisingly, the Jays are tied with the Mets for eleventh place on their list.

That places them behind only the Red Sox– who top the list– among the club’s AL East rivals.

BA’s Matt Eddy explains that “with the exception of the top three prospects listed here, Toronto deals in volume—not star power—at the short-season levels with one representative from the Gulf Coast League, two from the Northwest League and seven from the Appalachian League.”

The three top prospects are Stroman, Sanchez, and– another possible surprise– Kevin Pillar, while the “representatives” they refer to are Jays guys who appeared on their league-by-league prospect lists, including Davis, Franklin Barreto, Chase DeJong, and others. So… yeah, they’re all pretty far away, and have a lot of hurdles to clear before being legitimate big leaguers, but– as the club has kinda exactly planned– when some of the pieces of their big league core start hitting free agency or needing to ride off into the sunset in two and three years, you still have to feel pretty alright about the reinforcements they could potentially have ready to take their place.

Y’know, hopefully.


Image via MiLB Prospective.

Comments (46)

  1. when does the rosterbation heat up?

  2. Having an 11th ranked system after last offseason is remarkable.

  3. how does a scout or prospector evaluate a delivery? it sounds like klaw is prescribing a one-size-fits-all delivery, but i feel like that would be an oversimplification.

    are there “types” of pitchers, or archetypes of delivery? i’m obviously no biomechanics of pitching expert, but it does seem like those that have the most success rarely have deliveries that are what might be called prototypical. lincecum, for example, was supposed to have his arm fall off, and has still (touch wood) never been to see dr. andrews.

    with that said, isn’t it possible that sanchez is tired after a long year and the shortened stride and posture are the results of the grind of the season? i dunno.

    i think a few things are possible: jays staff changed sanchez’ delivery based on what they were seeing (over years, and having seen ALL his work), or as i said, he’s tired from the season and shortening up as a result. either way, i am curious as to what grounds law uses to make his pronouncements. i suppose, opinion is fine – but i’m just not sure what his experience as a pitching coach, or biomechanist (????) is. none of that is to say he’s wrong, just that i am genuinely curious as to how a question about the change in his opinion is somehow a question about “integrity”?

    • I played baseball into College, and I acknowledge my experience in no way makes me an expert on any of these topics, but the general reason pitchers use a long stride is so they can split the workload between their arms and their legs. When you dont stride far enough, you put more stress on your arm for less result. So he isn’t throwing as well as he could, while increasing his chance of injury

    • … and if he had a GREAT delivery you would celebrate that .. K LAW always touches on delivery, throwing motion mechanics in his evaluation I believe as a means to evaluate things like .. chances of injury – extra strain on arm, repeatability / control limitations, etc.

      he is the AFL because he hasn’t pitched a lot and a 21 year old (or so) should not be tired pitching 4 innings in October after a low inning count .. nor should he be showing different delivery because of fatigue .. the good thing is he seems to be fixable and perhaps a modification away from being a truce ACE type prospect .. his walk rates are worrisome .. its hard to learn to throw strikes in MLB!

      • thanks for the replies.

        i can barely perceive the change in delivery that people are looking to – i wonder what it would have been like to try to break down a delivery in the days before high-speed cameras. wow.

        so is the consensus that what people like klaw are picking up on is a mechanical change that has been coached/imposed on sanchez, or that he has simply taken to throwing this way on his own?

        and if not related to innings – could the delivery be something he’s been doing related to an injury?

  4. industry thinking on Crawford at the time of the draft had him in the mid 1st round…10 wouldn’t have been a reach but it certainly would have been the high end of his projection.

    im totally cool with having #9,11 next year…I think they need to revisit this hs pitchers only thing though.

  5. Helloooooo Kevin Pillar!

  6. Also… “Rougned Odor”

  7. Andrew, think those BA rankings weren’t necessarily farm system rankings but order of who had the most guys in the league top 20s, they were 11th cause they had 7 in the appy league

    • Well, it’s based on those rankings, but it’s not quite as simple as that– they state the methodology in the post. Though, yes, it’s not like they’ve sat down and ranked systems in the way other sites do, they call it a “rough estimate of system strength.

  8. Hutch pitched Oct 25th and gave up a HR in the 1st inning after that he went:

    P Hutchison* – 4.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO, 59-41

    *assuming that’s “D” Hutchison.

    Additionally, both Stroman and Sanchez are AFL all stars…not bad at all.
    It sure seems to me that Stroman is headed for the BP if he’s only pitching 1 inning at a time at this point. Sorry to hear that about Drabek. Given that he’s had 2 TJ’s and only been back since Aug though, it won’t hurt to see how he does in the spring.

    • Him pitching out of the bullpen is a way to control his innings, actually. He threw 111 innings in New Hampshire, and that’s after serving his suspension. Sanchez only got in 86.1, for example.

      I don’t think they’ve given up on him as a starter at all. There are a bunch of guys in the same boat, who’ve been starting but are pitching in relief in fall league. Tyler Matzek and Mike Montgomery spring to mind, but I’m sure there are others.

      • Hey if that’s the case I can’t wait. I know the Jays want to see him inthe rotation. But there have been a lot of opinions since he was drafted

  9. he’s in the pen bc he had a high enough inning count during the season .. that’s been widely published

  10. homer bailey anyone?
    would like him in TO

  11. “He stayed out of trouble on Monday because he doesn’t give up hard contact and misses enough bats, but he was unable to finish the fifth inning. He will be able to get away with poor control more so than most pitchers because his fastball sits in the mid-90s and touches 97 and because he pairs it with a plus breaking ball, but his ceiling will be limited if he doesn’t get it everything under control.”

    You could have said that about Randy Johnson in 1991. And in 1992.

  12. R.A. Dickey won a Gold Glove! Beautiful follow up to winning the CY Young #storyofthebluejayslife

  13. Watching footage of Sanchez reminds me of a young Jack McDowell.

    I’ve read Law for years and I respect his opinion on many things but for his big question mark to be the length of Sanchez’s stride seems like nitpicking. The Jays have what, 50-60 scouts, loads of coaches and teams of front office/advisors.
    That one of these MLB employed professionals would not have noticed a detrimental flaw in the TOP ranked prospect in the system seems beyond far fetched. And hey, even if these scores of Jays employees happened to have missed it I’m sure one or two of them follow Keith Law or would have gotten wind of his concerns and investigated.

    I like Law but the number of prospects he has been wrong on is damn near the same as he has been right on. A great present example is Paul Goldschmidt, Law said he would be a Russel Branyan platoon guy at best. He was in the conversations for MVP this year.

    • Just like all the scouts recommended dj davis over wacha, a guy ranked 6th in the draft by SI?

      • ugh.

      • Can I play too?

        Just like all the scouts recommended Lucas Giolito over wacha, a guy ranked 6th in the draft by SI?
        Just like all the scouts recommended David Dahl over wacha, a guy ranked 6th in the draft by SI?
        Just like all the scouts recommended Corey Seager over wacha, a guy ranked 6th in the draft by SI?

        I could go on and on because there were 13 teams who drafted from 6th to where Wacha was taken at 19th. You’re also talking about a highly-touted Jays prospect who just turned 19. I know it’s a difficult concept, but you should try having a little patience.

        • Or the 24 teams before trout…

          • Going back in time a bit, but what about the 401 players picked ahead of Albert Pujols? Or the 1,389 picked ahead of Mike Piazza.

            Drafting isn’t an exact science. If it were, there wouldn’t be 40 rounds each year.

        • No see apparently you don’t know what the diff between ranked 6th and ranked 27th means do you?

          • And apparently you don’t know that “ranking” does not equal guaranteed measurement of all future contributions.

    • Was wondering about the same Smasher.

    • Why would you assume that zero scouts agree with Law? Even if many did, they’re not necessarily being listened to, nor is it necessarily their assignment to be looking at their own players in that way.

      • I actually have read other reports saying the same thing as Law.So the critique is justified IMHO.
        It’s more about if Law and others see it,then one would assume, with all of the Jays resources, that they don’t put as much weight to it and it’s a non concern.
        So should it be a red flag or just something that is unique to his delivery that the Jays are aware of?
        Serious problem or minor problem or not a problem at all?
        Don’t want to over react.

  14. I don’t know a lot about throwing mechaniecs and such but what I do know is that walks are bad and Aaron Sanchez walks a ton of guys. They need to get that under control before upping him a level again. It’s great that he has such plus stuff but it won’t mean anything if he can’t throw it for strikes.

    • This is true.
      Hope he can figure it out.

    • yup – the key for sanchez is that he needs innings… its hard to make great jumps forward when you are pitching under 100 innings every year.

      he has thrown 17ip in his draft year (2010), 54.1ip in 2011, 90.1 in 2012 and 86.1 this year prior to the AFL.

    • Good thing Randy Johnson was always a strike thrower or your opinion might look bad haha

  15. Off topic but MLBTR says that Daniel Murphy is likely to be moved this winter. Assuming that the cost wouldn’t be insane I’d be very interested. Above average offensive performance for the past 3 years. No major injuries in the past few years. Plays 2B but can also play 1B and LF. Bats left… Arb eligible but not a free Agent until 2016.

    Me like.

  16. Just the same, we’re looking at a pretty small sample size. How many times has Klaw seen Sanchez pitch in person this year ? Twice, at the most. And he admitted that when he saw Sanchez pitch in the AFL, he had been off for a month. Sometimes I think you have to sit back and give a prospect time to develop, rather than obsessing about every outing and using them to project.

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