Sanchez Gives Braves Offseason Even Bigger Prospect Haul

It came as a bit of a surprise to see that the Angels sent teenage lefty Ricardo Sanchez to Atlanta in exchange for Kyle Kubitza (whom Kiley will write up shortly) and Nate Hyatt. Not that Sanchez is so talented that he should be deemed untouchable, it’s simply rare to see someone so young (Sanchez doesn’t turn 18 until April) be moved. While Sanchez lacks the upside of your typical on-the-radar teenager, he’s a fine prospect nonetheless and one whose polish could have him moving quickly. In combination with the other deals this offseason where the Braves have added prospects, their farm is quickly moving into the top half of baseball and maybe into the top 10. Let’s get more acquainted with both Sanchez and Hyatt.

Ricardo Sanchez, LHP, Atlanta Braves

At 5-foot-11, 170 lbs, Sanchez lacks the sort of physical projection that often accompanies the young Latin American prospect. The frame isn’t there to add a significant amount of mass and the theoretical velocity that comes with it. What that will likely leave Sanchez with is a fastball similar to what he’s showing now, one in the 88-91 range that touches 93 mph and shows a good amount of arm side movement. Sanchez’s velocity varied greatly over the course of 2014. Scouts who saw him in extended spring ball saw him touch 95 mph on occasion, while in late summer Instructional League he struggled to maintain even average velocity.

That sort of volatility might raise some red flags for those who are weary of ambiguity. It’s possible Sanchez’s juice was diluted by what — for someone his age — was a long season, and he’ll build stamina and arm strength as he continues to mature. It’s also possible that Sanchez’s frame simply can’t maintain above-average velocity over the course of an entire season. It’s something we won’t truly be able to get a feel for until this summer, when we can see where Sanchez’s fastball is sitting compared to how it looked on the Florida backfields in March.

Despite the lack of an explosive fastball, Sanchez was able to mow through Rookie Ball hitters thanks to advanced secondary stuff and pitchability. There’s feel for a sweeping 11-5 curveball that will bend in between 69 and 74 mph. It’s better when he throws it at the higher end of that spectrum and it flashes 55 on the scale. Sanchez will also show a change-up in the low 80s with considerable movement. It, too, had above-average projection early in the summer when Sanchez was showing better arm acceleration. It’s reasonable to project it to average with room for more if the arm speed bounces back.

The command and control also look promising. Sanchez’s delivery is generally clean, though he does cut it off a tad and throw across his body. He’ll also display some shoulder crunch as he tires later in outings. But, the arm action is clean, there’s torque in the hips, and the hand can naturally manipulate the ball without varying arm speed or slot when Sanchez is throwing his off-speed pitches. He works inside and out precociously and has more plane and sink on his fastball than one would expect from a pitcher under six feet tall.

It’s a solid package that projects to a number-four starter for me. Of course, the list of potential pitfalls for Sanchez is rather extensive. He’s a small, teenage pitcher without much physical projection who has already shown some velo inconsistency. That’s nearly a half dozen developmental land mines to avoid and a maybe a half decade over which Sanchez will have to avoid them before he gets to the big leagues.

Longenhagen’s Grades: Fastball: 45/50, Curveball: 40/55, Changeup: 40/50, Command: 35/50, FV: 50, Risk: High

Nate Hyatt, RHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Part of Anaheim’s return for Sanchez was righty relief prospect Nate Hyatt. A 13th rounder in 2012 out of Appalachian State, Hyatt is a big velo guy who has touched 99, sitting a tad below that with considerable arm side run. For Arizona Fall League viewers, Hyatt was not that explosive, sitting 91-94 mph with his fastball and two below-average secondary pitches — a slider and splitter. Hyatt slows his arm when he throws his split, something Major League hitters will pick up on and exploit. The slider is short on movement.

He’s a bit deceptive thanks to a violent, Billy Wagner-like arm action, though the short, vertical orientation of the arm takes away some of the natural platoon advantage pitchers with lower arm angles enjoy. Another downside of that mechanical coin is that it leads to well below-average control. He’s got a middle relief ceiling but the control will have to improve a bit and if both/either his velocity sticks at its reported peak or one of his secondary pitches comes along it certainly wouldn’t hurt. I suspect the slider is more likely to pop going forward. He pitched in High A-ball as a 23-year-old last year, so the clock is ticking.

Longenhagen’s Grades: Fastball: 60/65, Slider: 40/45, Splitter: 35/40, Command: 30/40, FV: 40

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Shoulder crunch?