The Phillies added a very intriguing pitching prospect to their system in November.
And what is it that makes Cristopher Sanchez so intriguing?
Well, first of all, there's the size. He stands 6-6.
He's also left-handed.
That combination will catch any scout's eye. And when that frame and that arm produces a fastball that lights up a radar gun with numbers in the high 90s, well, scouts will keep coming back for more.
"Our scouts identified this guy early last season and stayed on him and really pounded the table for us to acquire him," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said.
Sanchez, who turned 23 in December, signed for $65,000 with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. This fall, the Rays faced a decision on him: place him on the 40-man roster or surely lose him to another club in the Rule 5 draft. The Rays loved Sanchez' upside and did not want to lose him. But when they took stock of their deep farm system - it's widely considered among the very best in baseball - they had players who ranked ahead of Sanchez that required protection. The Rays added five prospects to their 40-man roster in November and Sanchez did not make the cut.
However, instead of simply leaving Sanchez exposed to the Rule 5 draft, where he would surely have been snatched up, the Rays made him available for a trade. The Phillies swooped in and made a deal that sent infielder Curtis Mead, a 19-year-old prospect in the low minors who did not require protection, to the Rays for Sanchez. The Phils immediately placed Sanchez on their 40-man roster and he will be in spring training with the big club next month before likely heading off to Double A Reading, where he will work as a starter. By the end of the 2020 season, the Phillies will know a lot more about the quality of prospect they have, but the ingredients are good and, at the moment, Sanchez looks like a guy who could develop into a mid-rotation starter or power-armed reliever.
"Power stuff from the left side," Klentak said. "We're excited about him."
Sanchez, who hails from La Romana in the Dominican Republic, is in Philadelphia this week for the Phillies' annual prospect education seminar. He's eager to get going with his new organization.
"I was aware of the situation with Tampa Bay," he said through Diego Ettedgui, the Phillies' Spanish-language translator. "I was told by many people that if I wasn't protected in Tampa, I'd be somewhere. I thought I was going to be on the 40 in Tampa so I was surprised that Tampa traded me. But when I landed in Philadelphia and they put me on the 40, I was really excited because I know there are a lot of opportunities here."
There certainly are. The Phillies are thin on starting pitching prospects. And even if they were deep, you can never have enough pitching.
Sanchez was 6-3 and 165 pounds when he signed as a teen with Tampa Bay.
Now, he's three inches taller and 195 pounds, still flaco, as he says, using the Spanish word for skinny, but stronger than he's ever been in pro career, thanks to work in the weight room and the natural process of maturing physically.
The added strength has shown in Sanchez' fastball.
"Eighty-two to 84," he responded when asked about his fastball velocity when he first debuted in pro ball in 2014.
Last season, he was pitching for the Rays' Bowling Green affiliate in a Midwest League game at Lansing. He threw a fastball. It felt really smooth and powerful coming out of his hand. He glanced over his shoulder toward the scoreboard.
One-hundred miles per hour.
"It was an incredible feeling," Sanchez said. "It wasn't like one day I was throwing 83 and the next day 100. It was progressive. It was really cool to see that progression."
Sanchez was promoted to the Florida State League in early July. Later that month, he pitched three innings of relief against the Phillies' Clearwater club. He allowed a hit, no runs, a walk and struck out five. Between the Florida State and Midwest Leagues last season, he pitched 74⅓ innings, gave up just 65 hits, only three of which were homers, and 16 earned runs for an ERA of 1.94. He struck out 73 and walked 24.
According to Klentak, Phillies scouts saw Sanchez up to 98 mph last season and the organization's research and development crew also like what it saw in the data. Sanchez' slider and changeup are also workable pitches that are getting better.
"His stuff and his performance really spiked last year," Klentak said. "He's a good-looking power pitcher with the ability to miss bats and keep the ball on the ground."
Clearly, this is an arm worth taking a flier on.
Sanchez uses a side-saddle delivery that will remind you of Boston Red Sox lefty David Price. Sanchez says there's a little Aroldis Chapman in there, too.
Chapman, of course, is another tall lefty with a power arm. Sanchez is a big fan of the New York Yankees closer, a six-time All-Star.
Sanchez smiled at the possibility of maybe running into Chapman when the Phillies are playing the Yankees during spring training.
"I'd ask him what he has done to be so successful in the big leagues," Sanchez said.
Many factors go into being a successful big-league pitcher, but it all starts with the arm. Sanchez has a good one and it will be fun to watch him crank it up in spring training.
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Meet Cristopher Sanchez, the new Phillies prospect with the 100-mph arm originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia