Victor Sanchez #97 – 2013 Top 100
Date of Birth: January 30th, 1995 (Age 18)
Origin: Signed as an International Free Agent in 2011 out of Rio Chico, Venezuela
Conor Dowley: Sanchez drew rave reviews after signing with the Mariners in 2011, with scouts and analysts citing an advanced approach to pitching coupled with very good command as reasons to be excited. Both are things that are unusual to see in a pitcher of his age, especially coming out of international free agency as most pitchers coming from that route are exceptionally raw.
The Mariners bet on that advanced approach and gave Sanchez a slightly aggressive assignment to the Northwest League last year, and it paid off handsomely. He showed well all season, frequently getting the better of players four or five years older and more experienced than he is, which is impressive in and of itself. His changeup shows as a potential plus-pitch, which will help him tremendously as he advances, and both his curve and slider should be at least decent offerings with a chance for more, especially for the curve.
My concern is with Sanchez’s fastball. With his frame looking pretty well filled-out, it’s unlikely that he’ll add much to his low-90′s velocity. While that’s not all that bad a thing, his fastball has almost zero movement, giving him very little room for error when it comes to locating it. If anything holds the young Venezuelan back, it seems likely that’s going to be the issue.
Michael Schwartze: The first thing that really stood out to me when I saw Sanchez, which Conor mentioned above, was his advanced approach, maturity, and impressive command. He is a competitor up there on the mound and has great composure. He was not afraid of attacking batters and his thick, muscular frame added to his mound presence.
Conor hit the nail on the head regarding Sanchez’s fastball in that it lacks movement and that is will be crucial that he commands the pitch welll if he is going to be successful at the next level. The good news is that he commands it well now to both sides of the plate so it should not be a huge concern. Sanchez’s change is on a different level compared to his slider and curve but when those pitches come around, Sanchez could really take off. He has the potential to be a middle of the rotation workhorse and I think he will handle Low-A well this year.
Evan Rentschler: I’m a touch more sanguine about Sanchez’s fastball than Conor and Mike are. While it does flatten out when he leaves up – and I don’t want him pitching there much of the time anyway – when he pitches to the bottom of the strike zone he actually has good tail, running away from left-handed hitters and busting righties inside. And as Mike points out, the pitch is already commanded to both sides of the plate, which may make a 2/3 ceiling viable.
The delivery is very low effort, and he has no real flags. He breaks his hands low before going into a twist that shows his back to the hitter, al la Johnny Cueto. Like Cueto, the extra movement doesn’t seem to affect his command, and the added deception should help his average FB play up. His front side mechanics are what I like most, as he keeps his glove tucked into his chest nicely, stays on line to the plate, and shows very good arm deceleration (Cueto didn’t stop slamming his arm into his thigh and flipping it over his head until he was in the majors for two years).
I understand both the excitement and the reservations regarding Sanchez’ future, even if I’m more in the first camp. The lack of projection and the FB being just a slightly above average offering at highest levels do cap the ceiling, but we’re also talking about a player who pitched extremely well against much older competition when most players his age are in Latin summer leagues and who features a repeatable delivery, great feeling for pitching, and reliable secondaries in his advanced change-up and a slider which flashes sharp, late break.
The body is an issue for some, but they’re either getting hung up on a listed weight or mistaking his stout build for a conditioning issue when he is in fact extremely strong. This strength should ensure that he’s able to sit in the 92/93 range with his FB at maturity, and if he starts using his legs a bit more, he might even tick up.
Sanchez has a special history as an amateur, starring for Venezuela’s national youth teams from a tender age. Like Luis Heredia’s and Roberto Osuna’s Mexican League tenures, this has imparted a maturity and approach to his craft that portends a comforting floor. Extreme youth isn’t always an indicator of future dominance, but between Sanchez’ tools, polish, and the fact that he’ll be pitching in a full-season league at age 18, there is every reason to be optimistic here.
Conor: I wanted to build on something that Evan mentioned about Sanchez’s delivery: the hip turn that shows his back. When I saw Sanchez last year (in the start that he faced Osuna in Everett), the scout I was sitting with went on and on about how much he loved that. He comped it to the deliveries of both Felix Hernandez and Bartolo Colon, saying that both get excellent deception as a result, as the “uncoiling” action that twist gives a pitcher’s delivery makes it harder to pick up the ball. That’s definitely something that can help Sanchez moving forward.
Fantasy Outlook by Conor Dowley:
Given his age and distance from the majors, it’ll probably be at least three years before Sanchez makes the major leagues. Once he’s there, it’s unclear how big a fantasy impact he’ll have; his best swing-and-miss pitch is his change, but his overall repertoire seems like he’ll probably be more of a groundball pitcher in the majors. I’d predict an average strikeout starter who does well in the secondary fantasy stats.