August 19, 2012
Jays prospect charting a path
By BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency
Aaron Sanchez, part of the big three, had a good seat at Classic Park on Sunday afternoon.
Seated 17 rows back of home plate it was as if Sanchez, 20, was in back in Grade 1, filling in tiny squares on his clipboard performing the mundane, but necessary, task of charting pitches.
Most games he is in the dugout and once every five days he’s on the mound as part of the Lansing Lugnuts rotation, which includes Justin Nicolino, 20, and Noah Syndergaard, who turns 20 later this month.
They are the future.
And when you follow the Blue Jays, with three members of the rotation on the disabled list since June, with Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind injured, the future is all you have to keep you warm this winter.
“The best pitcher I ever had has been Drew Hutchison,” Lansing pitching coach Vince Horsman of Halifax said Sunday morning. “These guys are better. At times they struggle with their command. I would like to know what Nolan Ryan or Justin Verlander’s command was at age 20.”
The threesome is running as an entry this season.
One scout will tell you Syndergaard is the best, another will say Nicolino and a third will say Sanchez has the best future.
“Right now they’re No. 1, 1A and 1B,” said Lansing manager John Tamargo.
And all three sets of ears have stopped ringing as teams called at the trade deadline trying to pry one of the young arms away before July 31.
Sanchez stopped in mid sentence to scream, “Two! Two!” when he noticed two Lake County Captains hung up between second at third. Catcher Chris Schaeffer fired to second too late, but made the tag on the return throw to the plate erasing the runner from third.
Sanchez’s step father, lefty Mike Shipley was a 10th-round draft of the California Angels in 1976. Shipley is now the head building inspector in Barstow, Calif.
“My father gave me a lot of advice,” said Sanchez. “Probably the biggest thing was don’t beat yourself if bad things happen. If you’re getting beat ... don’t beat yourself twice. Stay composed.
“A day like this would be a good example.”
Lansing starter Blake McFarland saw a ball hit off the first base bag for a double, a ball land a foot inside the left-field line for a double, a ball down the right-field line nestle two feet fair and a ball slither past the glove of diving shortstop Chris Peters.
Lake County scored four times in the first on the way to a 9-2 win over Lansing before 4,309 fans on
“I had one like this in July,” Sanchez said. “I was sailing for the first four innings I gave up one hit, had a couple of strikeouts. In the fifth there was a bad hop ball to the short, the ball hit our guy in the eye. Then, four infield hits, an error, a fly ball, a broken-bat infield hit.
“I turn around and there is a 5 on the scoreboard and I had not allowed a hit out of the infield.”
The right-hander said four Jays scouts, including area scout Blake Crosby, at each one of his high school games pitching for the Barstow High School Aztecs.
Growing up going to both Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels games, Sanchez didn’t follow the Baseball America or Perfect Game draft lists leading into the 2010 draft.
“I tried to not get too caught up in that,” said Sanchez. “Although the coach of my travelling team (San Gabriel Valley Arsenal) used to post stuff. You never know until your name is called.”
Sanchez’s name was called by scouting director Andrew Tinnish 34th overall in North American. He didn’t wait until the Aug. 17 signing deadline, agreeing to terms right away for $775,000, passing on a University of Oregon Ducks scholarship. He made 10 starts for the rookie-class Gulf Coast Blue Jays and class-A Auburn.
Earlier this month Sanchez felt numbness in his fore arm and flew to Tampa to be examined by Jays consulting orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steven Mirabello. He missed two starts before returning to the rotation.
Best compliment he’s ever heard or read about himself?
“Probably from our pitching coach Vince,” said Sanchez. “He’s said I’m a big leaguer in the making, how I have the best stuff he’s ever seen and how the sky is the limit.”