Lansing's Aaron Sanchez, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound right-hander, has turned up the summer heat on Midwest League batters. He has torched left-handed batters in particular, posting a 0.00 ERA and allowing only eight hits in 30 1/3 innings against lefties.
"Aaron has overpowering stuff," Lansing pitching coach Vince Horsman said. "His fastball sits anywhere from 93 to 98 [mph]. He's got a power breaking ball and a power changeup. He gets the ball around the plate. His stuff plays above the level he's at. He obviously has stuff to work on, and that's why he's at the level he's at. But his stuff is probably the best in the league."
Sanchez was selected by Toronto in the first round of the 2010 Draft at No. 34 overall. He has been pitching in tandem as the Blue Jays groom a powerhouse staff from their 2010 Draft that includes Noah Syndergaard (first round), Justin Nicolino (second round) and Anthony DeSclafani (sixth round). Lansing's team ERA of 2.96 tops the Midwest League.
"With Aaron, it's about commanding the baseball," Horsman said. "It's been a work in progress, but it's been getting better and better ... baby steps with Aaron. He had to make a few adjustments to his delivery early in the season when his command was kind of suffering. He took to those changes. He still at times gets out of his rhythm a little bit and gets away from some of his checkpoints, but what he's doing better this year than last year is that instead of losing it for an inning and they score three or four runs, he might lose it for a batter, then come back and make the proper adjustments. Aaron might go Ball 1 to a batter, but then he comes right back with a strike."
Sanchez, who turned 20 on July 1, said he's excited about being part of a special pitching class in the Blue Jays organization. He also understands he has to be patient during the development process.
"I think everybody wants to be in the big leagues as quick as they can, but they have a method to their madness, and we've bought into what they're doing with us, not just me, but Syndergaard, Nicolino, DeSclafani," Sanchez said. "I think, in the end, it's going to pay off at the top.
"We have a lot of flamethrowers, guys who fill up the zone with a lot of strikes," he added. "They work hard, that's the biggest thing. Everybody works hard, and we feed off each other. Hopefully, we can climb the ladder together and make a big impact in Toronto one day."
Sanchez said he understands why he is still in Class A.
"The biggest thing for me is consistency, throwing strikes, filling up the zone and trusting my stuff," Sanchez said. "I've always had a good arm. I've just started to understand how to pitch. Last year, I was in the 90-94 range, and then I jumped up in velocity. I think every time I grab a couple miles an hour, I kind of lose my control a little bit. Until I'm solid where my velocity peaks out, that's when I think I'm really going to take off."
As for the numbers, Sanchez is taking them in stride.
"It's good to see those kind of things, but for me, it's taking it game-by-game, and every day by every day, and every pitch by every pitch," Sanchez said. "I try not to look ahead. It would be nice to be in Toronto as quick as I can, but they have a process for us, and we're staying on track, and I think it's showing."
Blister issues: Cedar Rapids pitcher Eswarlin Jimenez was on the disabled list for two weeks with a blister on his left middle finger. He came back to pitch five shutouts against Burlington, but landed on the disabled list again with another blister.
Torrid start: Stephen Piscotty of Quad Cities, a supplemental first-round selection by the Cardinals in the 2012 Draft, has five doubles in his first six hits. The highlight of Piscotty's first week of pro ball was when he tore up Wisconsin on Tuesday with three doubles.
Snake bitten: Quad Cities pitcher Willy Paulino has two starts against Wisconsin this season and allowed only two hits while striking out 13, but he's lost both of them. Both hits were home runs that put the Timber Rattlers ahead to stay
Hot turf: South Bend catcher Roidany Aguila said he and his teammates can stand in their dugout and look out at the Coveleski Stadium AstroTurf from field level and be able to get a handle on how hot it is without a thermometer. "When we see the waves of heat emanate from the turf, we know it's really hot," Aguila said. "Some days, the heat waves are a few feet off the turf. [Last week], it went all the way to the top of the outfield wall. We were like, 'Wow.'" The temperature in South Bend hit 100 degrees Thursday afternoon, but a thermometer on the artificial turf at Coveleski Stadium read 130 degrees.