In this guest post from Kyle Matte, we’re treated to some actual Pitch F/X data on Aaron Sanchez, whose arsenal of pitches, it turns out, looks as sparkly among the raw numbers as it does in our fantasies. Follow Kyle on Twitter at @KyleMatte.
The Blue Jays minor league system has been an area of much debate this winter – not so much to laud its merits, but as a calculation of ammunition should the organization be unable to improve the major league rotation with money and money alone. That’s the ideal outcome, of course; to sign a player like Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, and augment the present without hindering the future. Plans B, C, and D are being formulated on Twitter, blogs, and in the various comments sections, however, with fans putting together packages of minor league prospects that they believe could entice a team such as the Rays or Indians to part with a pitcher like David Price or Justin Masterson. I’ve succumb to this line of thinking more than once, and given the near-ready status of Marcus Stroman, it has instead been right hander Aaron Sanchez at the front of my hypothetical.
That ends now. We’ve all read the glowing reports on Sanchez’ right arm, such as Jason Parks’ Baseball Prospectus Top 10 Blue Jays Prospect List, in which he ranked second with the statement “7 FB; 6+ potential CB; 6 potential CH” next to his name and picture. That sounds really awesome, and if you’ve seen the video of Sanchez from the Arizona Fall League, it looks really awesome, too. What those numbers necessarily mean can be difficult to grasp, particularly for those of us without a scout school education, as there are different variables and characteristics that go into each of those grades. Thankfully for us, three of Sanchez’ AFL appearances came in parks with the PitchFX system in place, and BrooksBaseball.net has published the data for a closer inspection.
Note: a small sample size alert is in full effect, as only 146 pitches (67 fastballs, 23 sinkers, 28 curveballs, and 28 changeups) were recorded.
In order to gain a better idea of what Sanchez’ 7 fastball, 6+ potential curveball, and 6 potential changeup look like – and in another sense, just how good they might be if he could ever learn to consistently harness and locate them, I utilized Sanchez’ PitchFX data, applied a 5% error to the horizontal and vertical movement measurements, and compared the values to customized pitching leaderboards from the 2013 season on FanGraphs. Which major league right hander does Sanchez’ fastball have the most in common with? Who else throws a curveball with a similar shape at this velocity? What about his changeup? I was able to find answers for all of these questions, and the outcomes were staggering.