Everett AquaSox pitcher Victor Sanchez – at just 17 years of age the youngest player in the Northwest League by almost a full year – made his second professional start and his home pitching debut last night in Everett, and SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall was on hand – along with a few members of the Mariners front office – to watch the action.
Quick note, the AquaSox have amended their roster and the player attributes a bit. Sanchez – originally listed as 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds – now checks in at an even six feet and 255 pounds. That looks a lot more accurate.
To say the sturdily-built right-hander was anything less than sensational in his first pro start just wouldn't be fair, as he threw six innings of two-hit baseball in Pasco in the season opener against the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Colorado Rockies' affiliate, on June 15th, allowing one run while walking two, hitting two batters and striking out four. He coerced seven ground ball outs, allowed just two hard hit balls all night according to his pitching coach Rich Dorman and, "there weren't a lot of good swings against his fastball all night" he added. In the process he left quite an impression on a number of spectators, including the entire Everett staff. And he impressed the Mariners' brass enough -- and is an intriguing enough prospect -- that Director of Minor League Operations Chris Gwynn was in the house for start number two.
When I asked Gwynn what made him special, what set Sanchez apart from other talented young Latin arms, he answered, "He's really advanced, really polished and really confident."
"He has a real good idea on how to pitch to all areas of the zone and how to use his stuff to set batter's up," added Dorman. Coming from Gwynn and Dorman, both former big leaguers themselves, those are encouraging words. Especially poignant when you consider some of the pitchers Dorman watched last season when he served as the pitching coach for the Midwest League Clinton Lumber Kings, who had high ranking Mariners' prospects in right-handers Taijuan Walker and Carter Capps and left-hander James Paxton on their roster.
In the game last night, Sanchez allowed a bunt single to the leadoff hitter Chris Garia in the first, but got out of the inning unscathed. He walked the leadoff hitter in the second and he came around to score before Sanchez ended the frame with his first strikeout. He then got a swinging strikeout to start the third and threw a nice breaking ball to end the 3rd with a strikeout looking. Two more strikeouts in the fourth when he was throwing his hardest, hitting 93 a couple of times on the stadium gun (which was probably a little light) and locking up hitters inside. He escaped with minimal damage in the 5th and held a 5-1 cushion when he headed back out for the 6th inning. But he allowed a few hard hit balls and wasn't as sharp with his command when there was a coaching visit to the mound. A three-run home run by lefty swinging first baseman Barrett Serrato followed to tie the game at five. Sanchez still had trouble to work out of as the next batter reached, but a diving stab of a line drive turned into a double play by Patrick Kivlehan finally ended the inning and Sanchez's night. He threw 89 pitches in his six innings of work, allowing nine hits, but really did a fairly decent job of pitching around trouble and limiting the damage until Serrato's HR. The first batter of the inning reached in four of Sanchez's six innings.
When I asked if it was just primarily fastball command that hurt Sanchez, Dorman told me, "Yes, especially later in the game. But even so, he was basically one pitch from being out with 6 innings, 2 runs, 1 walk and 5 strikeouts."
Not bad for a kid in his second pro start.
A complete scouting breakdown of Sanchez's stuff from his pitching coach Rich Dorman is available to subscribers here.