Aaron Sanchez has been one of my favourite pitchers to watch this season. He’s a guy who coming up as a prospect was described with the phrase “This guy can’t throw a ball straight” over and over again. And it’s true. After struggling to throw strikes consistently as a starter in 2015, the Jays gave him another chance this season and he has looked like an ace thus far. Some relevant statistics: 2.88 FIP, 10% improvement in K-BB%, 60% groundball rate, 2.88 curveball pitch value (good for 5th in MLB)
He still looks like he’s 19 and forgot to eat his last twelve meals (which people are always telling me. we’re not so different you and I, Aaron) so it’s almost shocking to see filthy Jose Fernandez level movement on his 97 MPH sinking heater. He’s also armed with a curve that has taken a devastating turn for the better and a change that he dials up to 90 MPH. Here are some of the best pitches he’s thrown this year, according to me.
Bogaerts waves his stick pathetically at the curve
The improved curveball, and the ability to spot it just outside for marginal calls, has been one of the greatest differences between 2015 and 2016 Aaron Sanchez. In this gem against Boston, Sanchez struck out six Red Sox all on the curve. You have to sit fastball with Sanchez’ speed, so squaring up this hook is no easy feat.
Here’s a good illustration of the greater and more consistent drop Sanchez is getting on his curveball this year (from Brooks Baseball).
Teixeira swings through the hook
Beautiful placement, great speed, and sharp break. Russell Martin has to drop his glove to the dirt to corral this one, but the pitch tracker has it just below the strikezone. This is a perfect 12-6 hook that seems to drop straight down once it crosses the dish.
Matt Duffy watches a fastball like a guided missile
The most impressive part about this fastball is the crazy late arm-side run he gets on it as a righty throwing to a righty. It looks like it’s going to be well outside and then comes screaming back in to comfortably catch the outside edge. No chance for Matt Duffy.
Evan Longoria gets spun around
Aaron Sanchez doesn’t have a slider, but the sharp break on this quick curve sure looks sliderish. It breaks simultaneously sideways and down, and Longoria is dropped to his knees trying to get his bat on it.
Blake Swihart can’t catch up
This is essentially the exact same fastball that he threw to Matt Duffy, but to a lefty. And it’s just as effective. You really need confidence in your command to throw a pitch like this, and it’s great to see Sanchez trust in his mechanics enough to give us this glorious GIF.
Ronald Torreyes is later than late
As you can probably tell by now, Aaron Sanchez has great arm-side break on his fastball. This one crosses the entire plate and more before slipping just outside of Torreyes’ bat for a punchout. Easy gas.
Didi Gregorious is completely fooled
This is possibly my favourite pitch of the season so far. Doesn’t need any words, just a slow motion replay.
I didn’t include any GIFs of the changeup because at this point it’s not a strikeout pitch for Sanchez. He uses it effectively to keep hitters off balance, but it’ll be interesting to see him develop that third pitch (or fourth, if you differentiate between the fastball and sinker) over the coming years. He is only 23 years old, after all.