The above tweet by Chris King was the first I had heard about Sixto Sanchez. While I watched the GCL box scores roll in start by start, I couldn’t help but to keep my expectations down until he got close enough to Philadelphia for me to go scout him myself. When he jumped to Lakewood this season as an 18 year old, I kept track of when he pitched and ended up buying tickets to the home opener. I ended up sitting down the third base line and got to see his open side, but it was tough to see how nasty the stuff was. He ended up receiving a tough luck loss that night. A couple of weeks later at the end of April, I had watched a duel between him and White Sox prospect Alec Hansen. Hansen had the better game marginally, but Sanchez ended up getting the win and showing greater stuff.
Then there was last night. With the MLB on it’s All-Star break, it was a perfect time to go to Lakewood and watch the wunderkind that was Sixto. A lot of scouts and writers from all corners of the nation (or at least the Northeast) were almost in shock. All the fans who were there were chanting “SIX-TO SAN-CHEZ” over and over as the game wore on. What was witnessed last night was nothing short of spectacular. For me, this was the best start I have seen from him this year. So let’s break it down.
Sixto’s 1st inning would get the first two hitters out on three pitches before issuing a 4-pitch walk and a five pitch fielder’s choice to end the inning. He was mainly establishing his fastball as 11 of his first 12 pitches were in the 95-100 mph and five were pounded in the zone. He only threw one slider. He would then have a quick seven pitch 2nd inning, which he ended with a bang by getting Kurt Hoekstra looking at 101 mph down the chute. He ended up changing it up a bit to start the 3rd throwing two sliders on a three pitch strikeout, but went back to fastball domination to end the frame which included another 101 mph strikeout. That was an eight pitch inning. He followed that up with a nine pitch inning, but this time only five were fastballs. At this point radar guns still had him 97-99 mph. In the 5th, after a groundout and strikeout on a slider away, he would allow his first base hit of the night on a 1-1 fastball middle up into CF. At that point I didn’t know he was throwing a no-hitter because he was just so tantalizing to watch that I kind of forgot. The 6th inning you got a sense he was wearing down as it was only the second time he pitched into the sixth this season, and just the fifth time in 24 career starts. After a groundout, his pitches started to elevate a bit more in the strike zone. This led to a sharp single to LF and then one to RF, which would also be booted by Jesus Alastre to put runners on 2B and 3B. A run and a pair of groundouts to 2B later, and Sixto’s night would be complete. His final line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R (ER), 4/1 K/BB on 63 pitches (46 strikes). Here’s some more numbers I compiled from the game and the compilation video:
- Threw 19/22 first pitch strikes; 13 on fastballs, five on change-up, one on slider; three that were balls led to walk, groundout, and strikeout.
- Eight groundouts, four fly-outs; four hard hit balls
- 65% fastballs (41), 17.5% change-ups (11), 17.5% slider (11)
- LH hitters: 2/11, BB, RBI, R, 2 K (one swinging); RH hitters: 1/10, 2 K (both swinging)
- Six swinging strikes, 9.5% (2 fastballs, 2 slider, 2 change-up); 3 of 4 strikeouts swing and miss (two sliders, one fastball)
- Two at-bats that were five pitches or longer; 10 at-bats that were less than three pitches
Sixto reminds me of Yordano Ventura at times with the way he delivers the baseball, except Sixto has a little more tilt back. But as Matt Gelb found out last night, some scouts are going beyond that in their praise of Sixto Sanchez. He’s able to generate a lot of weak contact with how nasty his stuff is. Through the first 15 batters, he allowed one hard hit ball that reached the RF track; the last seven, 3-4 I would have considered hard hit. The fact that Sanchez has can control his fastball (94-101) and pound the strike zone with it is remarkable in itself at 18 years old. His slider (81-85) looked good yesterday, with maybe a backed-up one here or there. But that pitch shows tremendous potential for lots of swings and misses, with really good spin and two plane break on an 11-5 and sometimes 10-4 tilt. It’s odd to say, but it felt like he manipulated the tilt during his outing, not really loss of control. His change-up (87-89) shows good deception and separation from his fastball, and he generates a lot of weak contact from that pitch. From a delivery standpoint, he throws with a 3/4 arm action and gets good rotation from his hips to create the torque to help generate some of that velocity. His front foot lands in the same spot frequently and the follow through is pretty sound. Sixto isn’t without his flaws. He does tend to fall off the mound a bit too far at times, even if he’s able to usually get the pitch where he wants it. While he can pound the strike zone with great control, learning how to command his change-up and slider will be the next steps for him as some of those pitches were either left hanging in the zone or out of it. Still at this point those two pitches are of close to average command. Over time, with where his fastball is now, he should have command of a three plus-pitch arsenal to the point where all signs point to his ceiling being a frontline starter.
Sixto is gaining a lot of steam to being a top 20 prospect in baseball by year’s end. But at this point, he’s locked up the top spot in the Phillies system and 2nd place isn’t even close. And if you’ve followed him like I have, the race for the Phillies 2018 top spot ended by the time we got to May. As for a projection date, the Phillies should continue to be conservative when it comes to his arm. He should end up around 90-110 innings by season’s end depending on if or when they shut him down. Next year it could be 120-140 innings. In 2019, if he continues this fast track progression, I’d expect 160-180 innings. A mid-season call-up in 2019 is the earliest I could see him getting up to the big club in Philadelphia when he will be or at the fringe of being 21 years old. In the meantime, I would encourage all Phillies fans to find out when Sixto starts at home and make the 90 minute drive to Lakewood, NJ. If you want to see hope in an otherwise painful season for the Phillies, Sixto will bring you hope.
And if all of this keeps up and he does make it, may I suggest his warm-up music be that which was played for another great Sanchez:
One Other Minor Thought
- Yesterday was the first time I got to see Arquimedes Gamboa play. He suffered a hamstring injury right before the Lakewood home opener, so I never got to see him in any of the four games I attended in April. An international signing in 2014, the same year as Sixto, Gamboa’s big calling card is his plus athleticism and exceptional instincts for the game. Gamboa’s has a good chance to stick at shortstop based on a couple of easy plays last night, where he had good body control, soft hands, and showed easy plus arm strength. He’s prone to make mistake at 19 years old, as he’s made 26 errors in 75 games over the last two seasons. But even so, his athleticism and instincts should allow him to be a versatile infielder. His bat got me intrigued. His first three at-bats were against LHP Tucker Davidson, so he ended up hitting from the right side of the plate. After grounding out to 2B on a hit and run in the his first trip to the plate, he’d come out swinging on the first pitch down the middle in each of his next two at-bats vs. Davidson. He’d hit soft line drive single up the middle in the 3rd and come around to score on Henri Lartigue’s HR, and showed his speed by beating out a single to SS in the 5th. In the 7th, he switched to the LH box and worked a 7 pitch at-bat before reaching out and rolling a single into RF. He finished 3/4 scoring twice. He seems a bit more comfortable from the left side, showing a clean bat path to the ball than when he’s right-handed where he gets more of an uppercut and hacks at the pitch. Power won’t be a part of his game (maybe 8-12 HR), but he does have some room to grow in his wiry frame. He didn’t chase many pitches out of the zone and stayed within himself. If the yearly improvements at the plate continue (9.7% BB, 12.9% K in 2017; 6.1% BB, 19% K in 2016), I see an average hitter with a good glove and versatile profile to have a floor of a super utility role and the ceiling of an average shortstop.
Thanks again for following me along last night and for reading. And remember: