Call it the day of promising prospects taking the next step, as Aaron Sanchez has earned the final spot in a contending Blue Jays’ rotation and Vincent Velazquez, acquired over the winter, will pitch for the Phillies.
Sanchez is a top prospect for the Jays who turned into a reliever last season in a time of need, but will revert back to a promising young starter in 2016, beating out Gavin Floyd thanks to a dominating spring performance. The 6’4″ righty threw 92.1 innings for the Blue Jays last year, posting a 3.22 ERA but walked 44 batters en route to a 1.27 WHIP.
Sanchez made 41 appearances, but started just 11 games so will be making his first full season starter transition this season, as the Blue Jays look to recapture the American League East. Sanchez will turn 24 this July and can be a difference maker if he can take the next step. The fifth starter posted a 1.35 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 20 innings this spring.
For Velazquez, it’s new scenery and a new mission, starting in Philadelphia for the Phillies. The lesser of the two prospects, Velazquez is a month older than Sanchez and threw 55.2 innings last season for the Astros, posting a 4.37 ERA and a near identical 1.27 WHIP.
The righty posted a 3.21 spring ERA with a 1.21 WHIP for the rebuilding Phillies over 14 innings, good enough to earn him a spot as the team’s fifth starter as a former top 100 prospect who is not yet 24-years-old. The former 2nd round pick came over in the Ken Giles trade earlier this winter.
For the Phillies, it’s an opportunity to put a young starter in a low pressure environment to see what kind of promise they have on their current roster as they look to contend in a few years. Velazquez will be able to work out his control issues and improve as a pitcher in an environment conducive to developing players without the pressure to win, at least not this season.
Sanchez, who topped out as the 27th overall prospect in the game to Velazquez’s 75th ranking last season, is in a much different situation. He will be looked on to add depth to a rotation which will need it to be successful in an unforgiving division with sky high expectations. With David Price‘s departure to the division rival Red Sox and Marcus Stroman pitching in his first full season, the Blue Jays have a lot of question marks (adding RA Dickey’s age and Marco Estrada‘s somewhat lucky 2015 campaign). The Jays could have a very solid rotation and don’t necessarily need it with far and away the best offense in the game.
But it could take a deep rotation to survive the division and make another run towards a World Series birth, with a pitcher like Sanchez serving as potentially the key difference maker.