Angel Sanchez is someone you may not know a lot about within the Pirates organization. Sanchez was claimed by the Pirates mid-summer last year from the Chicago White Sox. Before being claimed by the Pirates last year, his 2014 season consisted of stops at four different teams between A+ and Double-A, a 6.57 ERA, and a .312 BAA. Before 2014, he was rated as the eighth best prospect in the Dodgers minor league system in 2013, though. After arriving in Altoona last year, he didn’t exactly blow anyone away with a 4.32 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched.
The Pirates showed a lot of faith in claiming Sanchez last year, seeing a pitcher with a lot of potential to get ground ball outs. That faith is paying off for the Pirates organization this season in Altoona for Angel Sanchez.
Sanchez currently boasts a 2.81 ERA in 57.2 innings this year. His WHIP is as low as it has ever been in his professional career. Take a look at his numbers through the years below.
Hits, home runs, and walks are all down compared to recent years for Sanchez to accompany his lower ERA. Within his numbers this year, he has had a roller coaster of a season so far.
Sanchez was named our Pitcher of the Month in April after posting a 0.40 ERA in 22.2 innings, as well as a 12:2 K/BB ratio in the month. In those four games, Sanchez threw 69% of his pitches for strikes and looked dominant at times.
The next four games were not as polite to Sanchez. A 6.30 ERA and .330 BAA in 20 innings brought Sanchez quickly back down to earth. He gave up fourteen earned runs in the four starts, and it quickly was beginning to look as if April was a mirage for Sanchez; however, he has turned it back around as rapidly as it fell apart. In his last two starts, he has only given up three earned runs in 17 innings. He looked dominant again in his start on Friday night in Altoona.
When asking about Sanchez’s inconsistency so far this year, Pitching Coach Justin Meccage, and Sanchez himself, both pointed at a mental part of his game that has given him trouble.
“What we’ve hit on with him is the consistency of staying composed and aggressive,” Meccage said. “No matter the situation, whether it is bad defense or umpires, he must maintain the same consistent mentality.”
“In those four bad starts, he’d give in a little bit, and then it would turn into three or four runs. In the past two starts, I’ve seen him fight through everything. We’re talking a lot about that.”
Sanchez agreed that he would think too much about situations while on the mound, and he let those situations get the best of him during his four game slump. He would then lose control of his timing and tempo on the mound.
“The thing that was changing was my tempo,” Sanchez said. “My timing was way off, and I was fighting my delivery during the rough stretch. I got my tempo back, and I watched videos with [Pitching Coach Justin] Meccage of what I was doing earlier in the year. Through these past two starts, I’ve worked on getting my timing back through my delivery.”
As well as staying consistent mentally, Sanchez has also been working on a new pitch this year. At the end of last season, he began to throw a curve ball for the first time, and he is now beginning to feel much more comfortable using it. On Friday in Altoona, Sanchez was able to locate his curve ball on the corners for strikes as well as put it in the dirt looking for a swing and miss. The development of a curve ball for Sanchez has been a huge part of his strong numbers so far this year.
“Every other pitch has similar speeds,” Meccage said. “The curve ball offsets his other pitches.”
The curve ball now accompanies a 2-seam cutter, 4-seam fastball, and changeup for Sanchez.
Lastly, Sanchez praises the Pirates organization for allowing him to just go out and pitch after joining them last year.
“While jumping around to different organizations, they have different approaches and techniques for how to pitch,” said Sanchez. “I feel more alive here. They let me pitch. They have made me feel comfortable with my delivery so that way I feel more relaxed and have a better chance to focus on making the best pitch.”
“The first thing they said to me here was just ‘go pitch’. If I wanted to use my cutter or slider, they let me use it. They just wanted command of the fastball on the inside and outside of the plate. The organization said to ‘be you and pitch your game’.”
Being 25 years old with a lot of minor league experience, Sanchez would be high on the promotion list to Indianapolis if he were able to maintain consistency. The two most important things for Sanchez would be to stay mentally grounded while on the mound, not allowing situations to get the best of him, and to keep developing his curve ball.