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John Gibbons indicates Aaron Sanchez is locked into rotation spot
It was universally expected that Aaron Sanchez would slide into the Blue Jays rotation after Marcus Stroman’s season-ending ACL tear last week. In case anyone still had doubts about the right-hander’s role come the start of the season, manager John Gibbons on Thursday all but officially confirmed that Sanchez will end up in the rotation. The Jays skipper told members of the media, including Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star, that the 22-year-old is "pretty much locked into where he is now.”

The Barstow, California native proceeded to pitch into the sixth inning, striking out three and issuing one free pass while generating eight grounders versus a single fly. Getting opposing hitters to beat the ball into ground was the key to Sanchez’s success out of the pen in the second half last year, as he heavily relied on a two-seam fastball that averaged 97 mph and resulted in a groundball percentage just a shade under 66 percent.

With Sanchez transitioning back to the starting rotation this season, a few ticks will surely come off his fastball and he’ll need to work in his secondary offerings more frequently to survive second and third trips through the lineup. Between his four-seamer and sinker, Sanchez went to the fastball approximately nine of out every 10 pitches out of the ’pen last year. The fastball should sit in the mid-90s out of the rotation and the two-seamer still gets unfair arm-side movement, but his success going forward will hinge on how well he’s able to able to work off his fastball.

He has a power curveball that can put even the best hitters away when it’s on, but even Gibbons admitted to Kennedy that the offering can be “hit or miss.” Coupled with a presently fringy changeup, that leaves Sanchez without a secondary pitch that he can consistently throw for a strike. Gibbons and Sanchez are hoping that the new slider he’s been experimenting with this spring can serve that purpose.

Sanchez told Joshua Howsam of Blue Jays Plus that he started working the slider in during a side session last week and then debuted the offering just two days later during his outing against the Orioles last Friday. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the pitch lacked consistency during the outing but Sanchez seemed to get a better feel for it as the start went on and was willing to throw it to both lefties and righties and in different counts. In its current state the pitch resembles more of a cutter but Sanchez told Howsam that once he gets a better feel for the pitch he intends for it to feature more depth than horizontal movement.

Unfortunately, there was no footage from Sanchez’s start Thursday against the Red Sox, but Kennedy writes that the young fireballer continued to work on his newest toy during the outing. It’ll be interesting to see whether the pitch can progress into a regular element of his repertoire when games start to matter. At the very least it’s another reason to tune in the next time he takes the hill.

Red Sox internally discussing Mookie Betts extension
An oblique injury that has kept Cuban center fielder Rusney Castillo out of game action so far, along with an impressive spring by Mookie Betts, has given the latter a firm lead in the battle for both the Red Sox starting field job and the lineup’s leadoff spot. Continuing to build on a strong debut last year, Betts has impressed Red Sox officials this spring to the point that the front office has had internal discussion about the possibility of exploring an extension in the “semi-near future,” writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.

The Red Sox beat reporter writes that the team hasn’t actually approached Betts about a possible extension this spring, given that he was entering camp competing for a major-league job. Betts has just 52 games of experience at the big-league level and Chris Archer’s six-year, $20 million extension last April stands as the most guaranteed money a player with less than one year of service time has ever received.

Christian Yelich of the Marlins was in a similar situation as Betts entering last season and just cashed in for a $49.5 million payday after a 3-WARP campaign in his first full season. Given the striking statistical similarities between Betts and Yelich’s paths thus far in their careers, it might be wise for Betts to wait and see how his first full season pans out. PECOTA and just about every projection system is enamored with Betts and expects a strong first full season, provided that he can find enough playing time.

Carving out 500-600 plate appearances isn’t a given for Betts considering Boston’s crowded outfield, but Castillo’s early injury should give him the first chance to run away with the job. If he’s able to do that and live up to the hype, then a year from now we might be adding his name to the list of the most wealthy extensions for position players with between one and two years of service time:

Player

Date

Years

Amount

Option

Service Time

Andrelton Simmons

2/20/14

7

$58 M

0

1.125

Christian Yelich

3/18/15

7

$49.57 M

1

1.069

Ryan Braun

5/15/08

8

$45 M

0

1.008

Anthony Rizzo

5/13/13

7

$41 M

2

1.040

Jedd Gyorko

4/14/14

5

$35 M

1

1.016

Paul Goldschmidt

3/29/13

5

$32 M

1

1.059

Starling Marte

3/26/14

6

$31 M

2

1.070

Troy Tulowitzki

1/23/08

6

$31 M

1

1.033

(Data from the invaluable MLBTR Extension Tracker)

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3/20
Shouldn't the date for Yelich be 3/18/15?
cmosch
3/20
It definitely should be! That's been fixed. Thanks.
ErikBFlom
3/20
Funny how those contracts bunch up recently. I would think that a team that has historically strong farm production (high floors) could do the best with it. That way, you never zero out, so no contract kills you. The breakouts pay for the not-quites. St Louis seems to be a paradigm team for this.