Of all the young players on the Toronto Blue Jays roster (aside from Marcus Stroman), perhaps nobody has experienced quite the journey that Aaron Sanchez has.
Over the past two seasons in the Blue Jays organization, Sanchez has been a starter, converted to a reliever mid-season, only to begin the next season in the starting rotation, only to be moved back into the bullpen upon his return from injury last year.
Once again, Aaron Sanchez’ official role with the Blue Jays in 2016 has yet to be determined. While his role as starter or reliever isn’t decided as of yet, the potential upside of Sanchez’ impact arm is undeniable.
It sounds as though a few outside the Blue Jays organization (and reportedly even one major figurehead within the front office) thinks the Blue Jays’ success could hinge on contributions from Aaron Sanchez.
During the holiday break, Peter Gammons spoke to MLB Hot Stove about a number of teams; namely the Toronto Blue Jays and the future of one of their most promising young pitchers: Aaron Sanchez.
“There’s a huge question for them – what do they do with Aaron Sanchez? I think you’re going to see them ending up starting Sanchez at least 25 times and try to develop him for the future. He might be a really key guy.
In some ways, and I know (Ross) Atkins believes this, there’s a chance Aaron Sanchez becomes one of the most important players on the Blue Jays this year.”
With a bevy of starting pitchers for the Jays to choose from, the consensus seems to be that Aaron Sanchez will remain in the bullpen as the setup man to Roberto Osuna.
However, I’m sure the Blue Jays would ideally love to have Sanchez develop into a starter who can contribute 150 innings or more out of the rotation rather than just 50 or 60 out of the bullpen.
And notice how Peter Gammons also name-dropped Ross Atkins in that video? Just my guess here, but if Sanchez is so highly thought of by Atkins, then he must be adamant about giving Sanchez a fair shot at making the rotation in Spring Training.
As great as Aaron Sanchez has been in his two brief stints as a reliever, it’s almost too tempting to see if he can stretch those results out as a starting pitcher. He was definitely beginning to make great strides just prior to his injury in early June.
His very last start on June 5th against the Houston Astros was masterful; he pitched into the ninth inning, holding Houston to only three hits through the first eight innings.
Sanchez was clearly running on fumes when he was pulled in the ninth inning, but at the time I remember thinking that could’ve been the beginning of Aaron Sanchez’ transformation into the next Marcus Stroman.
The injury to Aaron Sanchez put those dreams to a halt, but if the opening presents itself this season, there’s a chance that vision of Sanchez as a dominant young starting pitcher could be renewed once again.
The clear need for the Blue Jays right now is obviously to keep Aaron Sanchez as a reliever. With the lack of reliable high leverage relievers in the back end of the bullpen, the Jays need as many arms back there as they can get.
But a lot can still change between now and Opening Day. Spring Training has yet to get underway, and an injury here or a bad outing or two there … and Aaron Sanchez could find his role reversed yet again.
Image via Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP