Derrick Goold has a nice roundup of the Cardinals minor leaguers involved in winter baseball leagues. One of those players, Eduardo Sanchez, has been of particular interest to me of late. How has Sanchez performed recently and what would be a reasonable set of expectations for 2011.
Goold has the winter league numbers from Sanchez’s stint in the Venezuelan Winter League:
EDUARDO SANCHEZ, RHP, Aragua (VWL): In 14 games with the Tigres, Sanchez, one of the top reliever prospects in the system, went 0-1, 10.13 ERA in 14 games. He had command problems, walking 12 and striking out eight in 10 2/3 innings.
In 2010, Sanchez split time between Springfield and Memphis. For a 21 year old at those levels, it’s hard to call his results anything but successful.
Sanchez featured the kind of strikeout rates you want to see from a pitcher who (1) projects as a dominant reliever and (2) has average groundball rates. With 26 innings at Springfield and 27 at Memphis, it’s not unreasonable for him to start the season at AAA again as the team’s closer. He’s had some recent command issues — as Goold notes — both in the VWL and at Memphis. Maintaining his mechanics and keeping the walk rate down will be the primary goals if he does start the year at AAA.
You don’t need to look far for an example of the type of year you’d want for Sanchez. In 2010, teammate Fernando Salas split time between Memphis and St. Louis.
Salas shows a split between St. Louis and Memphis success that is obvious. There’s likely little to read there other than major league hitters are better and some rookie jitters. Salas’s numbers aren’t meant to be proof of his dominance as a major league reliever but more of his usefulness during his first time in the bigs. That’s what, hopefully, Sanchez can display as well. Expectations for him to step into the closer’s role or any high leverage role are unrealistic. It’s a better task for him to simply hold par and show that he can compete with the talent at this level. Salas proved that in 2010; with a touch of luck, Sanchez can further solidify the youth (read: cheap) movement in the Cardinals right handed relief corps.