The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)
Home: Maracay, Venezuela
Selected 2011 stats
CariocaCardinal (9): I have long been a big believer in Eduardo Sanchez. In fact, if it wasn't for his shoulder injury, I probably would have ranked him #4 on my list. But shoulder injuries scare me! He did pitch well in his brief September return but I will now always be worried that he is just one pitch away from a career threatening injury. However, if healthy, I think Sanchez is the Cardinals closer of the future rather than Jason Motte.
Sanchez has been nearly unhittable at both the major and minor league level to date. Looking at the stats as Sanchez has progressed, the only area susceptible to criticism might be that his walk rate has crept upward. Sanchez will most likely need to improve on his 4.8 walks per nine innings pitched allowed in the majors last year as he is unlikely to be able to limit opposing hitters to a .144 batting average in the future. The other thing Sanchez has done well is keep the ball in the park; giving up a home run about every 18 innings in his career.
Many have speculated that Sanchez may be the odd man out of a Cardinal bullpen and (barring injuries) could return to Memphis to open the season. I think Sanchez should and will open the season in the majors and will end up the primary set up man and closer in waiting before the season is over.
Message board community (7): Sanchez was the community's seventh prospect this year after being our third last year. He received his first votes at the seven spot.
There seems to be two main reasons for the drop. One is that the Cardinals system seems stronger at the top of the prospect list this year than last. The other is that Sanchez spent a lot of the season on the DL with a shoulder injury.
OK, there might be a third reason. Sanchez was voted in by the community on September 23, having not pitched in the big leagues since June. Four days later, the last day of the regular season, Sanchez made his one post-DL appearance. The Cards were down 6-5 to Houston and could not afford to lose. In the sixth inning, in came Mr. Sanchez. The results? Strikeout, strikeout, groundout. The Cards rallied for four in the top of the seventh (with a Theriot pinch triple giving them the lead). Sanchez returned to get one out in the bottom of the seventh (another grounder), then left, eventually tallying the win. That performance might have allayed the injury concerns a bit.
Health, and being in the pen, seem to be the only limits on Sanchez. He still has youth on his side, as he will turn 23 in February. He threw only 7.1 innings on the farm last year. In the big leagues, he threw 30 innings, allowing, only 14 hits, and striking out 35. Sanchez was simply dominating. He did walk 16, but those largely came in a bunch in May, when too much might have been expected from him. If you exclude May, his line is was 18.1 innings, 7 hits, 0 home runs, 4 walks, 25 strikeouts.
If he's healthy, Sanchez could well be a very good closer at some point. Next year, he should contribute to a very strong setup team. - Gagliano
Brian Walton (5): After Sanchez spent two consecutive years at number four in my personal rankings, the first year especially more aggressively-ranked than the others, I felt vindicated when the youngster excelled in his MLB debut in 2011.
While some could see parallels with Fernando Salas, Salas is older and with less dominating stuff. Salas spent the entire 2010 season making the trip up and down Interstate 55 to Memphis six times and was again left off the opening day roster in 2011.
In contrast, once Sanchez debuted, he did not return to the minors (except to rehab). Instead, with the barest minimum of MLB experience, he was given a shot at closing, albeit a short one. Part of that is timing, but part of it is unmistakable talent. He did not pitch due to injury from game 67 until game 161 and sat during the post-season run as well.
12 months ago at this time, I said the following about Sanchez. Removing the years, it would play pretty well again right now.
"The main question I see for Sanchez in 2011 is whether or not there is enough time for him to inject himself into the 2012 closer derby with holdovers Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte. I have no doubt Sanchez possesses the talent. The question is time and opportunity. Without a significant and impressive MLB stint in 2011, I don't think Sanchez can secure the job to start 2012."
While Sanchez did have an impressive debut last year, his shoulder injury kept it from being long enough in duration for him to be considered a closer candidate coming into 2012 camp. On the other hand, if Motte stumbles, Sanchez should be ready if called upon.
Just before Christmas, Sanchez suited up for Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League and pitched in three games before the regular season came to a close. He allowed just one run in three innings. His health is his only substantive question mark heading into spring camp and I consider these outings to be a positive signal.
One thing I am sure of: 2012 will mark Sanchez' final appearance on this top 40.
Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.
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