Aaron Jacob Sanchez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 190 lb.
- High School Barstow High School
- Debut July 23, 2014
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 h 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, 2.59 in 5 April start and 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, 2.94 and make a strong bid to be named to his first All-Star team. He was not one of the original selections for the squad, 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.
- AL All-Star (2016)
- AL Earned Run Average Leader (2016)
- AL Winning Percentage Leader (2016)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2016)
- 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.