Back on July 12th, I went to my third Sixto Sanchez start. There was nothing going on in the sports industry that night other than the ESPYs. There were dozens of scouts and writers on hand to watch Sixto roll through six innings allowing just one run. That night I also provided video, and the next thing I know I’m being asked to appear on podcasts. I’m starting to feel like I’m Sixto’s publicist or the leader of his fan club.
Sunday, was my fourth trip to Lakewood to watch him pitch. There weren’t a lot of scouts and writers compared to the last home start, but some important people were in the ballpark. Director of player development, Joe Jordan, was making his usual rounds and checking in on Sixto, and he had a special guest with him. Owner, John Middleton wanted to take a look at his future prized arm. Sixto turned 19 on Saturday and in his first start after his birthday, he did not disappoint. Sixto would end up throwing six shutout innings allowing just two hits, no walks, a hit batsmen and striking out five. He did all of this on 73 pitches with 54 being strikes. As dominant as he was, the bullpen blew the game allowing four runs in the 8th and 9th innings combined. But in the minors, the results rarely matter. It’s all about player development, so with that in mind, let’s dive into Sixto’s start.
The first thing to address is that his breaking ball is a curveball. Looking through my video today and the previous time, I’ve decided he’s throwing a curve with an 11/5 tilt. His fastball hit 100 a few times on the stadium radar gun, but some scout radar guns were clocking him at 95-99 mph. It still had it’s insane cutting action, which generated a lot of weak contact. His change-up showed it’s good fade at times at 86-90 mph and his curve ranged 78-82 with tremendous break. His curve got away from him at times and acted slurvy, but it was effective still.
Evaluating his game plan, in his first time through the order his main secondary offering was his change-up, throwing it five times compared to one curveball. The final 12 batters he faced would see 11 curveballs to five change-ups. He did something similar his last home start, going with more curveballs early and finishing the game with more change-ups. But in both starts he was mainly throwing fastballs in the first two innings, before throwing more secondary pitches. I like that he switches his main secondary pitch keeping the batters off balanced.
In his last start in Charleston, which was seen on MiLB TV, he was rusty after 11 days off. While he got through five shutout innings, he appeared to be overthrowing and missing his spots. This time around his arm-side run to RH hitters was better and he was keeping the LH hitters honest with a lot of pitches on the outer third of the plate. I still think he puts too many pitches in hittable spots early in the count. This is why I say he has above average control, but average command at this point. He can pound the strike zone, but his next step in progression will be to go up/down and in/out more consistently, making the hitter change his eye level. Right now it’s slightly predictable, but because his pure stuff is really good, he can get away with it against the hitters in low A. The more advanced hitters with more advanced reports on him will smoke extra base hits. Still, in a league where the average age is 22, he’s been extremely impressive all season as a teenager. And considering the seamless transition he has made from SS, I like the odds of him figuring out command over the next few years. Some extra numbers from his start:
- Threw 14/21 1st pitch strikes; 10 on fastballs, three curveball, one change-up; results of seven times behind 1-0: 0/6, HBP, K
- LH: 0/9, 4 K, (3 swinging); RH: 2/11, HBP, K (swinging)
- 69.9% fastballs (51), 13.7% change-ups (10), 16.4% breaking balls (12)
- Three groundouts, four pop-ups, four flyouts; three hard hit balls
- Nine swinging strikes (12.3%); four on fastballs, four on change-ups, one on curveball; four of five strikeouts swinging (one fastball, two change-up, one curve)
- Six at-bats that lasted five pitches or longer, including two ABs that lasted 8+ pitches (something I haven’t seen in person this year); 10 at-bats of two pitches or less
Sixto is currently at 67.1 innings this year, and according to previous statements by Jordan, the plan is to get him close to 110 innings. Last year he threw 54 innings, but as Joe pointed out he threw about 20-30 extra in extended spring training and instructional league. In a six man rotation and going five to six innings a start, he should finish out the season starting one game a week. So pay attention Phillies fans, as he may only get a couple more starts in Lakewood, NJ. Find some time and go see this kid pitch before he starts next year in Clearwater.
Other Minor Thoughts
- Daniel Brito has been a different player each time I’ve watched him this season. There have been games where he was unimpressive and swung at terrible pitches. Then there were games like today where I thought he was more in control and seeing the ball well. He ended up having two ABs that lasted seven pitches resulting in a fly out and a walk. In the other three ABs, each lasting four pitches, he would get called out looking at a tight breaking ball on the outside corner and then hit two balls with a lot of top spin to SS and 2B that ended up being singles (the one to 2B was a tough play off the glove of 2B). I like his quick twitch bat speed and how relaxed his swing looks. Brito also showed a nice little glove flip and good athleticism after Darick Hall let it go off his glove and through his legs. Brito is probably one of the top 15 prospects in the Phillies system right now and if Kingery or Hernandez clearly establish themselves as the future 2B, Brito might be a nice high upside player for another team in a trade.
- Mickey Moniak has been struggling lately, hitting just .205 with 23 K in his last 95 PA, entering yesterday’s game. The problem with Moniak is that he struggles with offspeed pitches down in the zone. Today was one of those days where he looked more in control vs the starter (single, RBI SF, walk). But his two ABs vs relievers ended in him looking fooled on offspeed stuff, including being the final out of a tough loss. Moniak still has a ton of potential and he’s still a good CF. We also have to remember that like Sixto, Moniak is only 19. He hasn’t been spectacular in a system that has a seen a lot of growing talent this season. He’s still top 10 in the system, but he may be a fringe top five at this current juncture.
- I finish off my minor thoughts with my impression of the opposition, particularly Hickory’s starter, Kyle Cody. He actually was a 33rd round pick of the Phillies in 2012 but opted to go Kentucky instead to increase his value. He was picked by the Twins in the 2nd round in 2015, but couldn’t come to an agreement. Being a senior hurt his value and despite better numbers, he would drop to the 6th round where the Rangers scooped him up. Cody is a big dude at 6’7″, 245 lb and he had a strong performance that rivaled Sixto. He only lasted 4.2 innings as eight of the 21 batters he faced had ABs that were at least five pitches or more; he also threw 12/21 1st pitch strikes. While he allowed five hits, two runs and two walks, he would also strike out 11 of the 14 outs he recorded; in fact he struck out 7 of the first 8 he faced. Cody is an interesting project where I think he could be a mid-rotation starter with some extra work. He’s got a bowling ball sinking fastball clocking from 91-95 mph. His slider has some really nice dive and some tail to it and his change-up plays off his fastball well with fade. He seems a bit misplaced in the South Atlantic League and looks more like he should be a level ahead with his body and his stuff. It’s nice to see that another former Phillies draft pick is showing signs of potential in another system.