Can Cristopher Sánchez take the next step to be a legitimate MLB starter?
After a strong showing in 2023, Cristopher Sánchez is another pitcher with a legitimate chance at being on the major league roster heading into the 2024 season. Not only does he have a chance to be on the roster, but he has a genuine shot at being an important part of the Opening Day starting rotation.
The 26-year-old just has to prove that he belongs in the major leagues as a full-fledged starter and can hold up to the rigors of a full 162-game schedule.
After one appearance in April, Sánchez got called up for good in mid-June and made 18 starts for the Phillies, throwing 99 1/3 innings. He finished the year with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while striking out 96 batters.
While the lefty started out gangbusters through his eight June and July starts, he faded a little toward the end of the year as the league began to figure him out.
In June and July his posted a stingy 2.30 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP, and held opposing hitters to a .194 average. Despite his impressive outings, he didn't pick up a win, going 0-3. The highlight of that stretch was his July 24 start against the Baltimore Orioles when he struck out eight over seven innings of four-hit, two-run ball.
Through 10 games (nine starts) in August and September, Sánchez went 3-2 and his ERA expanded to 4.15 with a 1.17 WHIP. Opponents started hitting him, and his luck began to run out, as his .314 BABIP led to a .260 opponent average. This came about despite a higher strikeout rate, which bumped to 25.9 percent from 22 percent.
There's no question that the Dominican Republic native has legit stuff, as we examined during the season. He has a special sinker and a nasty changeup, which accounted for 43 percent of his whiffs this season.
And inning limits shouldn't be a problem next season. Sánchez threw 149 frames between Triple-A and the Majors this year.
The biggest question mark for the southpaw is whether he can continue producing such a top-tier walk rate. He finished the year with a 1.45 BB/9 and a four percent walk rate, which ranked in the 98th percentile according to his Statcast metrics on Baseball Savant.
In the minors this past season, he had a real problem issuing too many free passes. He ran a 5.26 BB/9 and a 13.1 percent walk rate over 49 2/3 innings. If Sánchez is going to prove himself to be a legitimate major league starter, he'll have to show that what he did this year for the Phillies was no fluke.
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