It’s scary just how quickly a seemingly minor injury can derail a season. In 2016, Aaron Sanchez emerged as one of the game’s best young pitchers. A year later, he was limited to eight starts due to blister problems on his pitching hand. Sanchez was becoming a must-own in dynasty leagues after his first full season as a starter. Now, there’s some debate as to how we’ll view the young hurler.
Saying that Sanchez “broke out” in 2016 may be an understatement. In 30 starts, he was 15-2 with a league-leading 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 2.56 K/BB, and 161 strikeouts. He earned his first All-Star selection, put together an absolute gem in the 2016 ALCS, and finished seventh in the AL Cy Young voting. His stock was through the roof in both dynasty and redraft leagues, as he looked to be on his way to the top of the starting pitcher rankings.
Then, a couple of starts into his 2017 season, Sanchez developed a blister on his right middle finger. That pesky blister ended up limiting him to just five more starts, completely derailing his season. He totaled 36 innings and an unsightly 4.25 ERA and 1.72 WHIP with almost as many walks as strikeouts (20:24).
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Not only entering 2018 but looking beyond, how do we view Aaron Sanchez? Is he the young rising star we saw in 2016, or the injury-prone mess from last season? His work ethic and rehab should act as a good indicator of where Sanchez is going. Sanchez has stayed positive since his season ended, which just goes to show his drive and desire to succeed. He’s spent the winter healing and working his way back to full health and has been throwing pain-free since January. Of course, his finger will be something to watch closely in spring training.
If he can put his 2017 season in the rearview mirror and stay on the field moving forward, we can expect great things from Sanchez. Going back to his 2016 season, we can see that he checked off all the boxes that make up a well-rounded starting pitcher. He limited home runs, leading the league with a 0.7 HR9. Check. He struck out more than two and a half batters per walk. Check. Finally, he was able to pitch deep into the season and maintain effectiveness, logging 192 innings. Check.
Sanchez was essentially an ace at just 24 years old, something not very many pitchers can say. Additionally, he was even able to scrape together some very solid starts last season despite the injury. In his first start of the season, pre-blister, Sanchez threw an impressive seven innings of one-run ball against the Rays. On July 14 after returning from his first DL stint, Sanchez threw six shutout innings against the Tigers.
There’s no doubt that Aaron Sanchez has the tools and abilities to succeed. For him, it’ll be a matter of putting the injuries behind him, learning from 2017, and picking up where he left off in 2016. Entering his age-26 season, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Sanchez. We may have seen the worst, but 2016 looked to be just the beginning of a very impressive career. Buy Aaron Sanchez low while you still can because a healthy season from him should do wonders to any fantasy team.
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