Aaron Sanchez

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Aaron Jacob Sanchez

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Biographical Information[edit]

Aaron Sanchez was the second pick for the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2010 Amateur Draft, after Deck McGuire. It was the 34th overall selection, compensation for the loss of Marco Scútaro to free agency. Sanchez was deemed a project due to control issues and hopes his fastball would improve as he added weight to his height.

Sanchez's bag of tricks includes a fastball that can hit 93 mph with a natural sink to it, a curveball and the occasional change-up. He was an AFLAC All-American and was ranked 59th overall by Baseball America in the pre-Draft rankings.

After 16 innings as a pro with the GCL Blue Jays, he was 0-1 with a 1.69 ERA but a 4.50 RA. He had fanned 24 in 16 innings but walked twelve.

Sanchez was considered the Jays' top prospect when he was called up to the big club on July 22, 2014. Although he had worked as a starter in the minors, plans were to use him as a reliever for a time, as the Jays were struggling to find effective middle relievers while there was also a wish to limit his innings total. He made his debut against the Boston Red Sox the next day, tossing a perfect 7th inning with a one-run lead and was so impressive in setting down the heart of the Red Sox's batting order that manager John Gibbons left him in to pitch the 8th, during which he added three more consecutive outs for an outstanding big league debut. The Jays held on for a 6-4 win. he pitched 24 times for the Jays, all in relief, with a record of 2-2, 3 saves and an outstanding 1.09 ERA. In 33 innings, he gave up only 14 hits and 5 runs, while striking out 27.

In spite of his success as a reliever in his rookie season, the Blue Jays were still looking at Sanchez as a starter over the long term, and while his future usage was still up in the air when spring training started in 2015, an injury to projected starter Marcus Stroman made it clear that he was needed in the starting rotation. He lost his first two starts before registering his first win of the year on April 22nd, although it was not necessarily pretty as he walked 7 men in 5 1/3 innings but still escaped with a 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. He found the going as a starter a bit tougher than as a reliever, but on May 8th, he recorded the 3,000th win on Blue Jays history in defeating the Red Sox, 7-0, pitching a career-high 7 innings. It was his third win in four starts, indicating that he was beginning to feel comfortable in his new role. However, he went back to the bullpen after making 11 starts, and he pitched well in the role the rest of the way. Of his 41 games, 11 were starts, and he put up a 7-6 record with a 3.22 ERA in 92 1/3 innings. He was mainly used as a set-up man for young closer Roberto Osuna, getting credit for 10 holds as the Jays surged to a division title with an excellent second half. He pitched 9 times in the postseason without allowing an earned run in 7 1/3 innings and was credited with a win in Game 5 of the Division Series against the Texas Rangers.

He was again a full-time starter in 2016 and this time found success. He went 2-1, with a 2.59 ERA in 5 April starts. That one loss turned out to be his last one in a while, as he then reeled off a string of 12 undefeated starts until the end of June. He went 7-0 during that period, then won again on July 4th as he defeated the Kansas City Royals, 6-2, to improve to 9-1, with a 2.94 ERA. Aaron made a strong bid to be named to his first All-Star team. However, he was not one of the original selections for the squad, with his teammate Marco Estrada getting the nod instead, but a few days later he was named as a replacement for injured closer Craig Kimbrel. He picked up his 10th straight win on July 25th when he defeated the San Diego Padres, 4-2, in the Padres first-ever visit to Toronto. He was the first Jays' pitcher to win 10 straight games since Roy Halladay in 2003. However, as Sanchez's innings began to pile up, the Jays put out the word that they were looking to shift him to the bullpen for the final stretch as a strategy to limit his workload while not completely shutting him down à la the 2012 Washington Nationals and Stephen Strasburg. After hesitating for a while, what they decided to do was to send Sanchez to the minor leagues on August 21st, in order to have him work only lightly away from the pressure of a pennant race and come back after spending the mandatory ten days away from the bigs. It was definitely not a demotion, as he was 12-2 with a 2.99 ERA - 5th best in the American League - at the time. The move, to which Sanchez had agreed, was going to cost him a significant amount of salary, something he would presumably recoup at some future point. He came back in time to be the man when the Blue Jays played their final game of the season, on the road against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on October 2nd. Everything was on the line, as the Blue Jays could end up hosting the Wild Card Game, playing it on the road, or out of the postseason altogether. Sanchez was up to the task, pitching a no-hitter until two were out in the 7th, when Hanley Ramirez tagged him for a solo homer that sailed just above the left field foul pole. The Blue Jays came back in the top of the 8th, though, with Troy Tulowitzki driving in Edwin Encarnacion with a two-out single, and they won 2-1. That win gave Sanchez 15 for the season, against only two losses, and he also clinched the AL ERA title with an even 3.00.

After only two starts in 2017, Sanchez was placed on the disabled list on April 16th with a blister problem. This was to be the story of his season, as he continually came on and off the list, not being able to cure the frustrating problem completely. He made only 8 starts, the last on July 19th, and was 1-3 with a mediocre 4.25 ERA, with his lone victory coming in his penultimate appearance on July 14th, a 7-2 win over the Detroit Tigers in which he pitched 6 innings. He racked up just 36 innings in all. His absence was a major reason the Jays dropped to fourth place in the AL East, barely ahead of the last-place Orioles. In 2018, however, he quickly gave indications that the previous year's woes were behind him as in his third start, on April 10th, he kept the Baltimore Orioles hitless for 7 innings before allowing a leadoff double to Tim Beckham in the 8th. He ended up giving up 1 run on 3 hits in 8 innings of work and was a 2-1 winner. However, he went for another extended stay on the disabled list following a June 21st start in which he was lifted after just one inning. It was his first time pitching in front of friends and family in southern California, as he was facing the Los Angeles Angels on the road. Before the start, he injured his right index finger as it got caught in a falling suitcase. Not wanting to miss his start, he pitched anyway, but the finger started swelling and he was on the shelf for a couple of months as a result. He finished the year at 4-6 with a 4.89 ERA in 20 starts.

In 2019, he was healthy again, but that was one of the few positive things that could be said. He actually started off strong, going 3-1 with a 2.32 ERA in March/April. However, he then lost his first 3 starts in May and could not buy a win anymore. On May 27th, he started a string of starts all resulting in a loss that reached 10 straight on July 17th when he was charged with a 5-4 loss against the Boston Red Sox. He was the first pitcher to lose 10 straight starts since Kevin Slowey who had done so over a number of seasons between 2011 and 2013. His record stood at 3-14 with an horrendous 6.26 ERA. At that point, he was a threat to be the first 20-game loser in the majors since Mike Maroth in 2003. His losing streak ended on July 23rd, when the Blue Jays managed to tie the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the 9th with a solo homer by Justin Smoak off Brad Hand of the Cleveland Indians, leaving him with a no-decision. He was thus at 3-14 with a 6.07 ERA when on July 31st he was traded to the Houston Astros along with Joe Biagini and minor leaguer Cal Stevenson in return for OF Derek Fisher. The trade was a surprise because, in effect, the Blue Jays were trading him when his value was at its lowest and they had a desperate need for experienced starting pitchers, having just traded Marcus Stroman a few days earlier. He was expected to be used as a reliever with the Astros, who had one of the strongest starting rotations in the majors, but his first appearance on August 3rd was as a starter, and he reeled off 6 hitless innings against the Seattle Mariners. Three relievers - Will Harris, Biagini and Chris Devenski then combined to hold the Mariners hitless over the final three innings as well, resulting in the 9th no-hitter in Astros history, a 9-0 win. In his next start on August 10th, he was the beneficiary of the most runs ever scored in a game by the Astros as they demolished the Orioles, 23-2; he gave up 1 run in 5 innings to pick up the win. Unfortunately, this solid start to his Astros' career proved short-lived as on September 5th, the team announced that he needed to undergo surgery on his throwing shoulder and would miss the remainder of the season. His last appearance had come on August 20th, and he ended the season with a combined record of 5-14 with an atrocious 5.89 ERA in 27 games. When time came to offer Sanchez a new contract on December 1st, the Astros declined, making him a free agent. He did not play anywhere in 2020.

2021 was looking quite bleak for Aaron, but he managed to receive a one-year deal worth 4 million dollars with the San Francisco Giants on February 21st. He started off the season on a high note, with a 3.18 ERA in his first 6 starts. However, due to his injury history and the lack of command in some of his starts, he could never go deep in ballgames. Aaron managed to pitch through the struggles and still give the Giants quality innings, but on May 8th, the dreaded injury bug struck Aaron again. It was announced that he would go on the injured list due to right bicep tightness.

His stepfather Mike Shipley has been a junior college coach.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL All-Star (2016)
  • AL Earned Run Average Leader (2016)
  • AL Winning Percentage Leader (2016)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2016)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Gregor Chisholm: "Blue Jays option All-Star Sanchez to Minor Leagues: Toronto makes move since right-hander was going to have start skipped", mlb.com, August 21, 2016. [1]
  • Jon Paul Morosi: "Hard-working Sanchez eyes return to '16 form", mlb.com, March 13, 2018. [2]

Related Sites[edit]