2015 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Anibal Sanchez
Anibal Sanchez is a very effective hurler on the bump. The problem is that he never seems to be able to consistently take the ball every five days.
Anibal Sanchez is a big time strikeout arm. He’s also just a year removed from the leading the Junior Circuit in ERA, so he’s more than just a guy who misses bats. Alas, Sanchez cannot be fully trusted in the fantasy game due to an extensive injury history. If you moderate your expectations with him you would likely be fine. However, if you see the world as a happy place and believe that Sanchez should be drafted as a pitcher who will strike out a batter per inning over 190 frames, then it’s probably a good thing that you stumbled on to this piece.
2001: Signed by the Red Sox as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela.
2003: Had Tommy John surgery.
2004: As a 20 year old at Low-A ball he went 4-4 with a 1.77 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 76.1 innings of work. Struck out a massive 101 batters leading to an 11.9 K/9 mark.
2005: Pitched 136 innings over 25 starts at High-A and Double-A ball. Won nine games against six loses with a 2.85 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, not to mention a 10.5 K/9 mark. Was involved in a huge deal as he was dealt to the Marlins along with Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota.
2006: Ranked as the 40th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. Made 15 starts at Double-A with a 3-6 record, 3.15 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 92 strikeouts over 85.2 innings.
2007: Had labrum surgery on this throwing shoulder.
2008: Pitched seven games at High-A, Double-A, Rookie Ball and in the Venezuelan Winter League. Worked 34.1 innings going 2-0 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.
2009: Pitched at High-A, Double A and Rookie ball. Threw 26.1 innings over six starts with a 1.71 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. Missed three weeks with a shoulder strain. Missed over 100 days with the issue.
2013: Worked one game at High-A.
TOTALS: 20-16, 2.75 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9/9 K/9, 3.44 K/BB over 360.1 innings.
2006: As a 22 year old made 17 starts for the Marlins going 10-3 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Only struck out 5.7 batters per nine.
2007: Made just six starts with a 4.80 ERA and 2.07 WHIP over 30 innings.
2008: In 10 outings went 2-5 with a 5.57 ERA, 1.57 WHIP and 1.85 K/BB ratio.
2009: Made 16 starting winning four games, losing eight, posting a 3.87 ERA and 1.51 WHIP over 86 innings.
2010: Won 13 games with a 3.55 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 157 strikeouts over 195 innings.
2011: Made 32 starts for a second straight year going 8-9 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and his first 200-K effort (202 in 196.1 innings).
2012: Trade by the Marlins with Omar Infante to the Tigers for Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn. Went 9-13 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 3.48 K/BB ratio over 195.2 innings. After the season he signed a five year deal, with a sixth year option, with the Tigers.
2013: Led the AL with a 2.57 ERA and allowed only nine homers over 182 innings. Won 14 games with a 1.15 WHIP and 202 strikeouts. Finished fourth in the AL Cy Young vote. Missed three weeks with a shoulder strain.
2014: Appeared in 22 games making 21 starts. Went 8-5 with a 3.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 102 strikeouts over 126 innings. Missed three weeks with a finger laceration and six more weeks with a pectoral strain.
When isn’t this guy’s shoulder barking? It seems like every year there’s been something wrong with his wing. At least his elbow has been mostly fine, though as you have seen above, he also had Tommy John surgery in 2003. So let’s take a look at the skills that he brings.
In the five years since he became a full-time starter, Sanchez has thrown at least 180-innings four times. Three times he’s thrown at least 195 innings. He’s never recorded 200-innings in a season. Moreover, he threw just 126 innings last season and has averaged just 154 innings the past two seasons. You have to throw 162 innings to qualify for the ERA title by the way. There’s no way around it. Sanchez is an injury risk. Always has been, always will be. He throws 195 innings you’re pleased. What happens if he throws 154 or 126 though, would you feel good about that? Given that so many hurlers are injured each year you need to be very careful if you are going to heavily invest in an arm that is seemingly incapable of making 30+ healthy starts year after year. According to Howard Bender’s Mock Draft Army ADP, Sanchez is going off the board at pick 160. I look right below him and see Chris Archer at 164 overall and think that the folks have got this one wrong.
For his career Sanchez has punched out an average of 7.93 batters per nine innings. If we look at 2010 to the present that number jumps to 8.35 per nine. Among hurlers who have thrown at least 850 innings since 2010 his 8.35 per nine mark is 15th best in baseball. Some concern needs to be voiced though. In 2013 he struck out 9.99 batters per nine, a career best mark. However, in 2012 (7.68) and 2014 (7.29) he was two and a half batters off that pace making it fair to wonder if he has another truly huge strikeout season left in his oft injured 31 year old arm.
Sanchez threw his fastball 47.3 percent last season, a third straight season with the mark in the 47 percent range.
He threw his fastball at 92.1 mph in 2014. That’s a half mile per hour better than his career number.
He threw his slider 23.3 percent of the time at 86.6 mph in 2014. For his career he’s throws the slider 22.5 percent of the time. The velocity was the hardest of his career.
He threw his changeup 21 percent of the time versus 17 percent for his career. The mark was well down from the career high 24.1 percent mark he posted in 2013.
Using all those pitches he posted a solid 9.3 swinging strike rate. That was three full points off his 2013 mark, a four year low, and below his 10.0 percent career mark. Batters also made more contact off Sanchez than at any time since 2009. According to Pitchf/x data Sanchez allowed batters to produce contact on 80.1 percent of their swings in 2014. His career mark is 77.6 percent and in two of the previous seasons batters didn’t reach that career mark.
The strikeouts might come back up a bit, but don’t go expecting him to hit a strikeout per inning.
Sanchez does a good job limiting walks. Last season was a fourth straight campaign with a BB/9 rate under 2.95. In fact, the 2.14 mark he posted was a career best. Is that repeatable? History says guarded skepticism is warranted. Still, he will be very solid in this category if he continues to do what he’s always done. In fact, in each of the past three years his K/BB ratio has been at least 3.40. He is one of only nine men that have pulled that feat off: David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale.
In each of the last four seasons the WHIP of Sanchez has gone down.
1.51, 1.28, 1.27, 1.15 and 1.10
Not walking anyone helps a lot.
Sanchez has a career ERA of 3.53. Though he has been under that mark each of the past two seasons he’s also failed to hit it in six of eight seasons and only once in that times has his ERA been under 3.43. Just once (2.57 in 2013). Can’t expect him to challenge for the ERA crown again.
For his career Sanchez owns a solid 1.26 GB/FB ratio, a number he has bested each of the last three seasons. Good news. Not great, but good.
Sanchez has a 19.6 career line drive rate. That mark was 19.5 percent last year. However, note that each of the previous two seasons the mark was over 21 percent.
Let’s talk fly balls. For his career his fly ball percentage is 36 (the league average is about 34-35). Last season his mark was 34.9 percent. So tell me, even with a league average fly ball mark, how do you explain the fact that he allowed just four homers in 126 innings? A 0.29 HR/9 mark is less than half his career rate of 0.70. Yeah, it’s the old HR/F ratio. For his career the mark is 7.5. Last season he was at 3.1 percent. No chance on earth he repeats that mark. It’s also pretty dubious that he will be able to match the 5.8 percent mark he posted in 2013. The guy has allowed 13 homers the past two seasons. He allowed 20 in 2011 and 20 more in 2012.
In terms of the splits, there’s not much variation.
vs lefties: .245/.319/.360 with a HR every 66.4 plate appearances
vs. righties: .244/.308/.388 with a HR every 45.0 plate appearances
PLAYING TIME CONSIDERATIONS
Every five games the Tigers will call out Sanchez’s name. He will slot in behind David Price and Justin Verlander it would seem with the likely 4/5 options being Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon. The Tigers desperately need a 190+ inning season out of Sanchez.
Sanchez, when healthy, is an arm you want to own. However, the laundry list of health woes make it difficult to suggest investing in him fully. He’s always been a nice strikeout arm, and he rarely beats himself with the free pass leading to impressive WHIP marks given that he pitches in the AL. Still, he’s simply not allowed as many homers as he should have the past few seasons given his overall skills, and for that reason he shouldn’t be expected to substantially outpace his career ERA in 2015.
10 team lg: An option as your 5th starter or 4th if you wait on pitching. Others might be higher on him, and they would likely be right if Sanchez were able to throw 190+ innings. Just be careful you aren’t investing too heavily in him, though with the abundance of waiver-wire talent available on the hill you can be a bit riskier with calling out his name on draft day because there are always arms to turn to.
12 team lg: A fourth starting pitcher option. No problem with that. Just make sure you add an extra arm, or take your 5th a bit earlier to cover Sanchez for when the inevitable injury occurs.
15 team lg: Strikeouts and no walks. A good start. Understand though that if you take Sanchez you should avoid guys like Carlos Carrasco or Matt Harvey… strong arms with uncertain health and/or workload questions. You can take a chance on an arm with some questions, but if you take multiple chances in a format like this you’re kinda going all or nothing.
AL-only: For sheer talent alone it’s hard to make an argument that Sanchez isn’t one of the top-20 options on the bump in this format. His health is never more important than it is here. It’s much harder to find and extra 60-100 innings if he goes down to injury in this format cause the waiver-wire is so bare.