Searching for bullpen support down the stretch, the Toronto Blue Jays have turned to the top of their farm system. The team has promoted right-hander Aaron Sanchez to the big leagues, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.com reports, where he will immediately work as a reliever.
Sanchez, 22, came into the season as Toronto’s top prospect, according to Baseball America, and the 32nd best in all of baseball. This season, though, has not been so kind to Sanchez. The former first round pick has been unable to find his command and has struggled as a result. In 100.1 innings between Double and Triple-A, he has a 3.95 ERA with a 5.1 BB/9 and a 7.5 SO/9.
The relatively low strikeout rate (Sanchez has struck out over a batter per inning in every other minor league season) is also a reflection of his lack of control. He is simply not throwing the quality strikes needed to miss bats at minors’ highest levels.
Concerned by his inability to find the zone, Baseball America dropped Sanchez off their midseason rankings of the game’s top 50 prospects.
Toronto is hoping, though, that like many erratic flamethrowers before him, Sanchez can thrive in a bullpen role. He has the stuff to succeed; it’s what made him such a highly touted prospect in the first place.
According to scouting reports compiled by ESPN.com’s Keith Law and MLB.com’s Bernie Pleskoff, Sanchez works off of a plus fastball that sits from 92-96 MPH but can also touch 99 on the gun. His primary offspead pitch is a sharp, two-plane 77-78 MPH curveball that is also plus, and he also mixes in an above average 87 MPH change-up. All these pitches, particularly the curveball, have allowed him to induce a plethora of strikeouts and ground balls over the course of his professional career.
Those strikeouts and ground-balls would be a huge boon for the Blue Jays bullpen, which has been one of the worst in baseball this season. They have the fourth worst bullpen ERA (4.51) in baseball, beating out only second division clubs like Houston, Colorado and Texas. They also have the fifth highest batting average against (.258), the fourth worst OPS allowed (.762), and the second worst K/BB ratio (1.99).
In preparation for this move, Toronto put Sanchez in the Triple-A Bison’s bullpen last week. He made two appearances, tossing a scoreless frame in one, and giving up two runs (one earned) in an inning of work in the other.