Jays' Sanchez great in small doses

Toronto's top prospect thriving under strict pitch counts

By Jonathan Raymond / Special to MLB.com | April 11, 2013 8:09 PM ET

As was the case last season, top Blue Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez is being given a limited workload this year. Toronto, understandably, isn't trying to be reckless with their prized young arm.

An interesting debate has coursed through baseball circles in recent years, how best to bring a pitcher along while preserving his arm. While some schools of thought prefer letting an arm loose and getting it accustomed to a heavy workload, it's difficult to argue with Sanchez's results to date.

The 20-year-old, making his second start of the year Thursday, tossed five hitless innings for Class A Advanced Dunedin and the Blue Jays went on to beat the Tampa Yankees, 3-2, in 11 innings. Sanchez struck out three and walked two.

"He had an overpowering fastball all five innings, didn't even use his offspeed stuff 'til the fourth," said Dunedin pitching coach Darold Knowles, who noted that Sanchez's velocity sat around 96-98 mph. "I told him you need to start mixing some offspeed stuff in, you have to develop all that other stuff as well. And he went out in the fourth and fifth and threw some changeups, some curveballs. But he was extremely overpowering with his fastball."

After getting drafted in the first round -- 34th overall -- in 2010, Sanchez threw just 25 frames between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Blue Jays and Class A Short-Season Auburn.

In 2011, he worked just 54 1/3 frames between Rookie-level Bluefield and short-season Vancouver. And then last season, he was only amassed 90 1/3 innings with Class A Lansing.

This could be the season in which his arm gets its first true stress test, if he continues making scheduled starts through the entire calendar.

Knowles praised Sanchez for he's patiently gone along with Toronto's program and the maturity in general of the California native.

"He's on a pitch count, but not an innings count. It's 75 pitches right now, however many innings that takes him to," said Knowles. "I would like to see them bulk it up at some point, but the kid's only 20 years old. He's adapting like a 30-year-old. His demeanor is like that of a mid-20s, late-20s guy, and he's got a very good work ethic.

"A tremendous athlete, a very polite gentleman. I want him to marry my daughter," Knowles added.

Through his two starts, Sanchez has a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings. He's struck out seven and walked three. Last season in the Midwest League, he clocked in with a 2.49 ERA, 97 strikeouts and 51 walks in 25 appearances.

On Thursday, Marcus Knecht drove in two runs for Dunedin, including the walk-off single in the 11th. Marco Grifantini (1-0) earned the win after allowing just two hits over three scoreless frames.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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