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Not a Rookie: Jonathan Sanchez

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Sanchez has drawn attention due to his no-hitter earlier this month. Let's see how he developed as a prospect.

Jonathan Sanchez was drafted by the Giants in the 27th round in 2004, out of Ohio Dominican University. From Puerto Rico, Sanchez was excellent in college, pitching for a strong NAIA program, and he could easily have gone much higher in the draft. He posted a 4.84 ERA with a 34/19 K/BB in 22 innings in the Northwest League after signing, but while his command needed improvement, scouts were impressed with his 90-94 MPH fastball and promising, if erratic, curveball. I gave him a Grade C, noting the strong strikeout rate but the need for better command.

Sanchez spent 2005 with Augusta in the Sally League, going 5-7, 4.08 but with a 166/39 K/BB in 126 innings, with 122 hits allowed. His K/IP and K/BB marks were outstanding, and scouts reported improvement with his curveball and changeup. I gave him a Grade B- in the 2006 book, writing that Sanchez was "one of the better-kept secrets in the minor leagues" and that he had a chance to emerge as a top prospect.

2006 began with Sanchez at Double-A Connecticut, where he posted a 1.15 ERA with a 46/9 K/BB in 31 innings, being used as a starter and reliever. Promoted to Triple-A Fresno, he posted a 3.80 ERA with a 26/13 K/BB in 24 innings, with just 13 hits allowed. He ended up pitching 40 innings in the majors, mostly in relief, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 33/23 K/BB. He made some adjustments to his mechanics that boosted his velocity into the 92-94 range more consistently, and his breaking ball and changeup continued to come along. I gave him a Grade B in the 2007 book. The main question going forward was role: would he start or relieve? I wrote that the could end up being a very impressive power reliever, and that his stuff was good enough that he wouldn't have to be just a LOOGY.

Sanchez spent most of 2007 in the Giants bullpen, posting a 5.88 ERA but with a 62/28 K/BB in 52 innings. He moved to the rotation fulltime in 2008, going 9-12 but with a 5.01 ERA and a 157/75  K/BB in 158 innings. This year he's 3-8, 4.69 with a 79/46 K/BB in 79 innings, including the no-hitter. He continues to post very impressive K/IP ratios, reflecting his stuff, but still struggles with his command at times.

Pitch F/X has his fastball averaging 91.3 MPH this year, peaking as high as 96 MPH. His curveball, slider, and changeup give him a complete arsenal, and again it's just a matter of developing more consistent command. From a prospect perspective, Sanchez always stood out for his excellent K/IP ratios in the minor leagues. He was rushed to some extent and didn't get much Triple-A experience, and that has probably slowed down his development a bit. On the other hand, he spent 2006 and 2007 mostly in a relief role for the Giants with just an occasional spot start, the old Earl Weaver method of easing a young pitcher into a major league job.

Going forward, PECOTA entering 2009 brought up some intriguing comps: Erik Bedard, Pete Richert, Ken Kravec, Casey Fossum, Rich Wortham, Mike Kilkenny, Mark Langston, Cliff Lee, Bob Ojeda, and Tom Underwood being the top ten comps. Most of those make sense, lefties with live arms but control problems. Can Sanchez take the route of Cliff Lee or Mark Langston, or will he fizzle out?

The other thing I find interesting is his background, a guy from Puerto Rico who went to an NAIA school. Ohio Dominican is a solid program and shouldn't have been underscouted. The fact that you can find an arm like this in the 27th round shows the uncertainty of the entire draft process.