'Electricity' of big-armed Phillies prospect Sixto Sanchez gaining steam at Lakewood

'Electricity' of big-armed Phillies prospect Sixto Sanchez gaining steam at Lakewood

LAKEWOOD, N.J. — The first pitch of Wednesday’s game turned into a groundout. But then with one away in the top of the first, the Sixto Sanchez Show began.

On the big screen in center field at FirstEnergy Park, the pitch speed flashed: 102 mph.

The next one was the same: 102 mph.

There were at least five or six triple-digit pitches thrown in the opening frame by the BlueClaws’ 18-year-old righty, but that’s almost what’s expected from him nowadays. Still a few weeks away from his 19th birthday and just 136 innings into his pro career, Sanchez is turning heads and drawing comparisons that no one could’ve predicted two years ago.

As Lakewood’s pitching coach Brian Sweeney explains, even the casual fan will notice Sanchez’s tempo, his pattern of outs early in the count and certainly his triple-digit speed.

While the speed is obvious, the young ace’s other patterns are, too.

“I wish I knew [where his command comes from.] I’d bottle it and I’d be a millionaire,” BlueClaws manager Marty Malloy said. “Or if I knew that, everyone on our staff would be like that. It’s something he’s worked on. 

“He works every day, he throws his bullpens, he does his side work, he does his touch-and-feel, he does his dry work. But his fastball command is ahead of most people his age.”

Sanchez’s command is, in a word, impressive. In 56 1/3 innings at the Low A level, he has 54 strikeouts to only six walks. Opponents are hitting .199 against him, and Wednesday night, he carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning.

And oh yeah, he needed just 62 pitches — 45 of which were strikes — to go six innings. The game was wrapped up in a crisp 2:05 and Sanchez had his fourth win of the season.

It’s easy to forget that he’s still a ways from the majors, even when his stuff compares with that of just about anyone.

“His delivery is well beyond his years for pitching for such a short time. He really does a good job of using his legs efficiently, which in turn makes him pitch efficiently,” Sweeney said. “It’s something we preach as an organization — attacking the zone, a repeatable delivery that helps you attack the zone, and it starts right from when he was down in the Dominican Republic at our academy.”

The Rome Braves’ hitters tried attacking Sanchez’s fastball early in the count to no avail. It was pop up after pop up with a couple of broken bats in between.

When they tried to be patient with the fireballer, he threw it past them pretty much every time. And if he didn’t, there was a slick changeup and a nasty low-80s spinner waiting in the wings.

Since the Phils plucked Sanchez from San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic just two years ago, this is what he has done time and time again. Only now, though, is he getting the attention worthy of his stuff. Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the 18th overall prospect in its annual midseason rankings released last week.

Still, you wouldn’t know it just by looking at the 6-foot, 185-pound righty. And even if he knows the expectations have risen, you can’t tell it when he’s on the mound.

“I don’t think [the expectations change anything] in his development because he’s a happy-go-lucky guy,” Malloy said. “He’s the same guy every day, too. He’s a great kid, got a smile on his face every day, he knows the day he takes the ball, it’s business.

“Obviously, he’s on pitch limits, pitch counts, and that’s just to protect him for the future. But as far as his arm, it’s electricity. He’s [hitting] triple digits, he’s got a major-league changeup right now, he’s doing some stuff with his breaking ball to get better right now, but he’s got all the gas in the tank.”

On the field, it’s all there for Sanchez. Off it, there is still plenty of room to grow.

For one, he still only speaks Spanish, but is learning English with the help of his teammates and the Phillies’ organization. On top of that, he has plenty of body to fill out.

Lakewood is just the third stop in a series of experiences at the minor-league level, and there is no reason to think Sanchez’s growth is going to slow anytime soon.

“There are things he has to develop,” Sweeney said. “This is his first full season. He’s never played more than 70 games in a season, so he’s going to get the most innings he’s ever had this year. He’s going to take the most bus rides, he’s going to be in different states in the United States eating different food.

“These are all important parts of his development because as he goes up, he’ll be flying somewhere. The more you learn each year, the better you develop as a man and as a pitcher.”

Sanchez could have very easily finished out Wednesday’s start. He probably would have been able to throw a complete game with less than 100 pitches.

But one could legitimately argue his right arm is the most important body part in the entire organization. If you asked any one of the handful of scouts in attendance, they would probably tell you the same.

Remember, the kid is 18 years old. You probably won’t see him on the mound at Citizens Bank Park anytime soon.

So until then, the message from his coaches is short and sweet.

“Toe that rubber every sixth day and be consistent,” Sweeney said.

MLB Notes: Twins-Braves, Royals-Padres make trades

usa-jaime-garcia.jpg
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MLB Notes: Twins-Braves, Royals-Padres make trades

MINNEAPOLIS -- Hoping to bolster their rotation for a playoff run, the Minnesota Twins have acquired veteran left-handed pitcher Jaime García, catcher Anthony Recker and cash considerations from the Atlanta Braves for minor league right-hander Huascar Ynoa.

The 31-year-old García is 66-52 with a 3.65 ERA and 808 strikeouts in 176 appearances, mostly with St. Louis (2008, 2010-16). He missed the 2009 MLB season following Tommy John surgery.

Garcia is 4-7 with a 4.30 ERA, 41 walks and 85 strikeouts in 18 starts for the Braves this year.

While Garcia's numbers don't jump off the page, the Twins were in need of a veteran arm to put into a rotation that has been largely disappointing behind the top two starters, Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios (see full story).

Royals: Cahill, Maurer, Buchter acquired from Padres
DETROIT -- The contending Kansas City Royals have acquired three pitchers from the San Diego Padres, getting starter Trevor Cahill, closer Brandon Maurer and reliever Ryan Buchter.

The Royals sent pitchers Matt Strahm and Travis Wood, minor league infielder Esteury Ruiz and cash to San Diego on Monday. The deal came one week before the nonwaiver trade deadline.

Kansas City began the day tied with Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot and 1 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Cleveland. The Royals had been looking to bolster their rotation and bullpen, and did it with one swap.

Cahill was 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA in 11 starts for the Padres. The 29-year-old right-hander was an All-Star with Oakland in 2010.

Maurer is 20-for-23 on save tries, and 1-4 with a 5.72 ERA. The 27-year-old righty began his big league career with Seattle in 2013 as a starter.

Buchter is 3-3 with one save and a 3.05 ERA in 42 games. The 30-year-old lefty pitched 67 times for the Padres last year.

Dodgers: Kershaw lost to DL with back injury
LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw is headed to the disabled list for the second straight summer because of a back injury.

A year after missing 2 1/2 months with a herniated disk in his lower back, Kershaw was pulled from a start Sunday against Atlanta because of lower back tightness. The Los Angeles Dodgers ace exited after two innings in a 5-4, 10-inning victory.

It leaves baseball's top team without its best pitcher. The Dodgers lead the majors with a 68-31 record and are atop the NL West standings by 10 games.

Kershaw was set to meet with a back specialist Sunday evening for tests, although manager Dave Roberts was already sure that Kershaw would be placed on the 10-day DL (see full story).

Mets: Wheeler put on DL because of arm trouble
NEW YORK -- The New York Mets have put pitcher Zack Wheeler on the 10-day disabled list because of a stress reaction in his right arm.

The Mets didn't provide a timetable for Wheeler's return. He was on the DL last month with biceps tendinitis and has struggled in four starts since his return.

The team recalled righty Tyler Pill from Triple-A Las Vegas before Monday night's game at San Diego.

Wheeler joins Mets starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman on the disabled list. Steven Matz and Seth Lugo recently came off the DL and returned to the rotation.

The 27-year-old Wheeler didn't pitch in the majors the past two years after having Tommy John surgery in 2015. He is 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts.

Tonight's lineup: Nick Williams moves up to 3rd for hot-hitting Phillies

Tonight's lineup: Nick Williams moves up to 3rd for hot-hitting Phillies

The hot-hitting Phillies made some minor tweaks to their lineup for Monday's series opener against the American League-beset Houston Astros at Citizens Bank Park.

Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera and Tommy Joseph all move up in the lineup with Howie Kendrick getting the day off. Williams will hit third, Herrera moves up to fifth and Joseph will hit sixth. Andrew Knapp is catching and batting seventh. Cameron Perkins is playing left field and batting eighth.

Williams is hitting .309 with four home runs, four doubles, two triples and 15 RBIs in 19 games since being called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley on June 30. He had a two-run homer and another RBI in the Phillies' 6-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday afternoon.

After his 1 for 3 day with an RBI on Sunday, Herrera moves up spot. The centerfielder is hitting .331 with a major-league leading 19 doubles since June 3.

Joseph was 0 for 4 on Sunday with two strikeouts. He hit seventh against the Brewers but will hit sixth tonight.

Vince Velasquez (2-5, 5.14)  is on the mound for the Phillies. He'll be opposed by Brad Peacock (8-1, 2.49).

Here is the Phillies' full lineup:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Odubel Herrera, CF
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Andrew Knapp, C
8. Cameron Perkins, LF
9. Vince Velasquez, SP

For more on tonight's game, read Corey Seidman's game notes.