Under the Microscope: Sixto Sanchez, by John Yarusinsky

Here’s another article from John Yarusinsky.  John sent it to me soon after he watched Sixto Sanchez pitch against the Rome Braves on July 12th.  I was hesitant to publish it.  I didn’t want to fan the flames of “Sixto-mania”.  But, it’s and introspective look at a remarkable young pitcher who turns nineteen next week (July 29th).  Enjoy.

Under the Microscope: Sixto Sanchez, by John Yarusinsky

Purpose of this piece
Greetings, folks! Recently, I saw Sixto Sanchez pitch against the Rome Braves at First Energy Park in Lakewood, NJ. I’ve heard a lot about the flame-throwing right hander, but to witness him pitch in person was something to behold. Afterwards; however, I began to think about what Sanchez will become. Is he really that good, or is this just another case of Low-A hitters getting mowed down? Will Sanchez become an elite starting pitcher in a few years, or is he a one-hit wonder that will flame out like many before him? Given the small sample size of starts that I have to work with and the fact he’s only 18 years of age, I will attempt to answer these questions. First, I will introduce you to the fortuitous nature in which Sanchez was uncovered. Secondly, I will provide a scouting report along with 20-80 grades thrown in. Thirdly, I will list his statistics since turning pro and for 2017 only, I will dive into sabermetrics. Lastly, I’ll bring it home. Let’s get started!

Introduction
If someone handed you $35,000, what would you do with it? Pay of some student loans? Make a down payment towards a house? Buy random crap that you don’t need? Give it to charity? Buy a souped-up car? You get my drift. In 2015, the Phillies front office had $35,000 to throw around. Guess what they purchased? A 16 year old Dominican-born player named Sixto Sanchez. When Phillies scouts were dispatched to scout Cuban catching prospect Lednier Ricardo in 2014, they stumbled upon Sanchez, a premature shortstop; turned pitcher. When Sanchez threw a bullpen session to Ricardo, the rest is history. Mike Odno, Phillies Director of Pro Scouting, immediately called Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phillies General Manager at the time. The conversation was sweet and to the point “We’re not going to sign the catcher, but we might have found a pitcher”, said Odno. On February 20, 2015, Sanchez officially became Phillies property.

Scouting Report
Sanchez has an electric arm that comes around once every 10-15 years. He has what scouts call “Easy gas.” He offers a fastball that averages between 95-99 MPH and can hit triple digits multiple times during a start. Sanchez has advanced command and control of his fastball. It’s one thing to throw fast, but Sanchez paints his heater on the corners with exceptional accuracy. He flashes a curve ball, but it resembles a slider or slurve moreso and will most likely morph into the latter as he grows older. Sanchez can breaking balls in multiple counts, adding to his deception as it sits between 85-87 MPH. He throws a changeup and it’s still developing, like most pitchers his age. The most impressive parts about Sanchez is his easy and repeatable delivery, as well as his ability to control the game. In 136.0 career innings, across 3 seasons, Sanchez has only allowed 20 free passes, showing that he’s not your average hurler. Put simply, Sanchez gets hitters out at an alarmingly good rate. He has averaged almost a K per inning every year since turning pro and when you factor in his 49 percent ground ball rate and microscopic 0.80 WHIP in the last 2 seasons, this is a recipe for success. If that weren’t impressive enough, in those 136.0 frames, he’s allowed only 1 home run!

Let’s compare his tools on a 20-80 scale and see what the industry is saying about him:

Baseball America:    Fastball 70,   Curve 55,   Change 55,   Control 50,   Overall 55
Fangraphs:                   Fastball 60,   Curve 50,   Change 50,   Control 60,   Overall 55
Mlbpipeline:                Fastball 65,   Curve 55,   Change 50,   Control 55,   Overall 55

For now, Sanchez is an above average starter with tons of room for growth.

Standard Statistics

Year    Team         W    L    ERA    G      GS      IP        ER    BB      SO    AVG    WHIP    GO/AO
15        DSLPHI      1    2    4.56    11       2      25.2    13       6       18    .291    1.48         1.70
16        GCLPHI      5    0    0.50    11    11      54.0       3       8       44    .181    0.76         1.68
17*      LKWD         4    3    2.88    11    11      56.1    18       6       54    .199    0.83         1.48
CAR     N/A           10    5    2.25    33    24    136.0    34    20    116    .213    0.93         1.60
*As of July 15, 2017

A few things jump out here:

  1. Sanchez is striking out more hitters now than his 2016 season,indicating his stuff is only getting better.
  2. Opponents are not making good contact due to his career (CAR) .213 batting average against.
  3. His career ground out to air out ratio (GO/AO) of 1.60 means that players do not get much loft on Sanchez when they do make contact.
  4. As alluded to before, Sanchez walks next to no one, which implies above average command and control of his arsenal.

Sabermetrics (2017 only)

FIP      BABIP      LOB%      COMPERA
2.33    .260           63.0               132

First off, Sanchez has an excellent Fielders Independent Pitching (FIP) result. Put simply,
if we assume the average balls put in play and eliminated the defense behind him, Sanchez
would have pitched to a 2.33 ERA instead of his current 2.88 ERA. FIP only factors in what the pitcher controls: walks, hits, strikeouts and hit by pitches. Anything 2.90 or below is considered excellent.

Secondly, his Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) of .260 is also considered
excellent. Assuming the average ball put into play off of Sanchez (single, double and triple) opponents are making better contact against him, than his current mark of .199. Why is this the case? BABIP only assumes the former three outcomes (singles, doubles and triples) which means other outcomes like home runs and other anomalies (bloop hits due to poor defense) are excluded. This metric attempts to piggyback off of FIP in order to gauge the effectiveness of a given pitcher. Also, maybe a more prolonged sample size is needed. One thing is for certain, Sanchez gets people out at an elite rate.

Thirdly, I was surprised to see that Sanchez had this poor of a Left On Base Percentage
(LOB%). The best pitchers will register results of 71.0 or better. LOB% is not your average left on base stat that you would see in a box score. Instead, this metric attempts to gauge pitcher effectiveness by measuring walks, hits and runs allowed. So, then. Why is his result of 63.0 considered poor when the previous two metrics are excellent? It could mean that Sanchez strands a ton of runners, indicating his effectiveness will diminish as he moves up the ladder. A second possibility is we might need a larger sample size. Like BABIP, LOB% is better when a pitcher throws over the course of a full season. Regardless, I’m not concerned as you’ll see in the final sabermetric that I’ve created called COMPERA.

Lastly, his Comparative Earned Run Average Plus (COMPERA) trends toward excellent.
This is a metric that I’ve come up with! This metric attempts to determine how a pitcher’s ERA fares, relative to the league average when considering average run production at any ballpark he pitches while controlling for park effects (the explanation of why some ballparks allow more runs than others).

For example: Yankees farm hand Dietrich Enns had an ERA of 1.93 in Trenton during the 2016 season. The average team ERA in the Eastern League was 3.96. There were approximately 0.94 runs per average in all of the Eastern League ballparks in 2016 which suggests the league actually favors pitchers (anything above 1 favors offense). This run production takes into account the ballpark dimensions for any park in the Eastern League. Now, multiply 0.94 by 100 which is the average ERA+ for pitchers.

The formula is such: COMPERA= (lgERA/ERA) x lgRUN x100

So, let’s plug in the numbers. (3.96/1.93)= 2.0518 then multiply this result to 0.94 = 1.9287.
Finally multiply this by 100 which is the average ERA+ for pitchers. The result should be 192.87. Round this number off to the nearest digit. Enns’ COMPERA is 193. It means Enns’ ERA+ was 93 percent better than the entire league. That’s beyond ridiculous.

To compare: Enns’ ERA+ in 2016 was 211 by himself which means his ERA was 111 percent
than the league average when pitching for the Thunder.

The result of 132 for Sanchez, means that his ERA+ is 32 percent better than any pitcher
in the South Atlantic League. That’s quite impressive for an 18 year old kid with only 3-4
years of pitching under his belt. This result assumes that no matter which ball park he
pitches in, Sanchez has some of the best pure stuff around.

So, Johnny. What in the Hell Does All of This Mean?

Given all of the factors and numbers analyzed, Sanchez is trending towards an elite; front of the rotation starter. His delivery reminds me of St. Louis Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez or departed Royals ace Yordano Ventura. There are very few pitchers that I’ve witnessed where the fastball explodes out of their hand. Sanchez is one of those guys. The worse case scenario for Sanchez is that he becomes a long man or a wipe out closer in the major leagues. At this juncture, Sanchez is nowhere near his ceiling. Sanchez did spend time on the disabled list with a strained neck this season; however, but barring any catastrophic injuries, Sixto could be the best Phillies pitching prospect since Cole Hamels. We’re looking at an All-Star caliber pitcher down the road if all comes to fruition. Not bad for $35,000, eh?

14 thoughts on “Under the Microscope: Sixto Sanchez, by John Yarusinsky

  1. I like the Carlos Martinez comp .
    As for the LOB%……I would factor out the DSL stats as he was a converted shortstop to first time pitcher….. at age 16.
    With those metrics factored out his LOB% is a hefty 76.

  2. John….your COMPERA is a good measuring tool
    And a sound formula as its basis.
    However, the .94 R metric per park could be skewed based on the MiLB Park Factor ratings for the EL in 2016.
    By the Park Factor data I show it to be 1.024
    https://www.milb.com/milb/news/toolshed-stats-double-a-ballpark-factors/c-209338440/t-185364810
    ……….EL-2016
    Team R
    Portland 1.173
    NHamp 1.156
    Altoona 1.127
    Bowie 1.097
    Reading 1.072
    Harrisrg 1.056
    Bingham 0.973
    ———————-
    Akron 0.945
    Erie 0.920
    Richmon 0.877
    Trenton 0.871

  3. One other thing — in no way, shape, or form is the “The worse case scenario for Sanchez is that he becomes a long man or a wipe out closer in the major leagues.”

    We’re talking about a prospect in Low A. Surely the worst case scenario is that he never pitches an inning in the majors (e.g, gets injured).

    1. I think that it’s obvious that the worst case is that he flames out but what fun is that opinion? And how lazy of a thing is that to say? Jim and Jon keep up the solid work.

  4. This is an amazing and analytical article. I temper my hope that Sixto, Kilome, and Brady Singer will dominate. We have hitters, need the pitchers to step up

  5. What are we looking at for the rest of the season, likely another 10+/- starts and close to 100 total innings? That’s my guess. And then a start in Clearwater next year is my hope.

    1. They may let him go just a little further than 100….maybe to 115…..Kilome went to 115 at a similar career progression. But he already had some stiff neck issues earlier, so I am sure they will go very cautiously with him.

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