Phillies 2024 Season Preview: LHP Cristopher Sánchez

The left-hander, who exceeded expectations in 2023, is projected to spend time in both the rotation and the bullpen in 2024, but the No. 5 starter spot is his for now.
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The next player in our Philadelphia Phillies 2024 Season Preview Series is pitcher Cristopher Sánchez.

Previous season previews: José AlvaradoAndrew BellattiAlec BohmConnor BrogdonNick CastellanosRodolfo CastroKody ClemensJake CaveDylan CoveySeranthony DomínguezDarick HallKolby AllardBryce HarperJeff HoffmanOrion KerkeringRafael MarchánBrandon MarshYunior MartéMichael Mercado, Max Castillo, Nick Nelson, Aaron Nola, Luis Ortiz, Cristian Pache, J.T. Realmuto, Johan Rojas, Michael Rucker, Whit Merrifield

We'll look back at Sánchez's 2023 performance and then examine where he might end up this season using the popular Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, which can be found on FanGraphs.

Cristopher Sánchez 2023 stats and 2024 projections

2023 Stats: 19 G, 18 GS, 99 1/3 IP, 3-5 record, 3.44 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, 96 SO, 16 BB, 1.8 fWAR

2024 Steamer: 34 G, 21 GS, 130 IP, 8-8 record, 4.04 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 1.35 WHIP, 111 SO, 46 BB, 1.8 fWAR

2024 ZiPS DC: 34 G, 21 GS, 130 IP, 5-6 record, 4.36 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, 114 SO, 38 BB, 1.6 fWAR

Cristopher Sánchez 2024 season preview

To start 2023, the Phillies struggled to find a reliable fifth starter. Enter Sánchez.

After one spot-start in April, the left-hander was called back up in June — and he made the most of the opportunity. In 17 starts from June 17 through the end of the regular season, he proved to be one of the most consistent arms in the rotation, posting a 3.35 ERA.

Entering spring training this year, he was the clear No. 5 option in the team's rotation.

However, all offseason and spring, speculation has been swirling that the team might try to reel in Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery. It would be hard to fault the organization for pursuing the reigning National League Cy Young winner in Snell or a World Series champion in Montgomery.

While either addition would boost the starting rotation in 2024, though, Sánchez has done more than enough to prove he deserves a spot, and he's off to a good start in spring training.

Sánchez's ability to control pitches will be front and center

One of the knocks on Sánchez used to be his inability to control his pitches. In his debut season of MLB action, in 2021, he gave up 5.0 walks per nine innings, after giving up 5.9 in Lehigh Valley that same season. After getting that down to 3.8 in 15 MLB games in 2022, it once again ballooned to 5.3 in Triple-A last season.

Once he hit the big leagues in 2023, though, he flipped the switch, posting 1.4 walks per nine innings. Overall, the 27-year-old put up a stellar 24.2 strikeout percentage against a minuscule 4.0 percent walk rate.

And while it's still a very small sample size, Sánchez has picked up in spring training right where he left off last season. In Tuesday's start, he only needed 19 pitches to get through two shutout innings. Of those pitches, 13 were strikes. He cruised through with one strikeout, no walks and only one hit given up.

In addition to that, on X, formerly known as Twitter, Alex Carr noted his velocity was up as well:

In 2024, his walk rate is projected to come back down to Earth — a bit.

Steamer has him slated for 3.20 walks per nine, an 8.3 percent walk percentage. ZiPS DC has him at 2.66 and 7.0 percent, respectively. For comparison's sake, those projections are better than the ones for the two starters ahead of him on the depth chart — Ranger Suárez
and Taijuan Walker.

Sánchez is projected to bounce between roles in 2024

After only making one relief appearance for the Phillies last year — during a throw-away game at the end of the regular season — we might see more of that heading into this year.

Both Steamer and ZiPS DC projections have Sánchez slated to split time between starting and relieving, with both predicting he gets 21 starts and 13 opportunities out of the pen.

With a new cutter added to his pitch mix, though, pitching coach Caleb Cotham and the coaching staff are expecting Sánchez to be able to go deeper into games.

Talking to Matt Gelb of The Athletic, Cotham said: "The cutter's been pretty good. And it's tough for guys with his slot to throw true cutters. It's something to maybe create some indecision in the zone. Maybe he can throw one changeup less to a righty. So they see it maybe three times and it's gone. He can save a changeup."

As Baseball Savant shows, he worked three cutters into his outing Tuesday, adding to his existing mix of a sinker, changeup and slider. Added to that, his changeup saw a jump in velocity, from 81.8 mph last season to 85.7 mph.

Sometimes predictions are made to be broken.

As it stands now, there's no reason to expect Sánchez not to be a full-time starter for the Phillies in 2024 after emerging as one of their most consistent pitchers last year.

On a team with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, his 1.05 WHIP led all starters last year. And while that number is projected to normalize a bit in 2024 (1.27 for ZiPS DC and 1.35 for Steamer), he's still projected to be the third-best starter in the rotation.

There's no doubt he'll be on the roster once the team breaks from spring training camp. The question has always been — what role will he play?

The fifth rotation slot is Sánchez's to lose. Barring a collapse during the rest of spring training or a big, last-minute signing in free agency, expect to see the left-hander take the mound every five days for the Phillies.