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40 in 40: Ricardo Sanchez

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The 21-year-old provides much-needed left-handed pitching depth to the organization

Had LHP Ricardo Sanchez been dealt to the Mariners 10 days prior to when he was—Seattle acquired him for cash on November 28, two days after he was designated for assignment by Atlanta—he would have briefly held the title of being the organization’s top left-handed pitching prospect. That’s more a testament to the complete lack of intriguing southpaws down on the farm than it is an indicator of Sanchez’ abilities (or else why would he have been DFA’d, right?). Instead, those honors went to Justus Sheffield, along with the title as the top overall prospect in the Mariners’ organization.

Sanchez, who currently slots in between Eric Filia and Rob Whalen (?) as the team’s #23 prospect on MLB.com’s list, lays claim to the distinction as the youngest player on the 40-man roster at 21 years and (nearly) 10 months. Despite his status on the roster, he’s unlikely to see the major leagues in 2019 as he made just 13 starts at the Double-A level in 2018 and didn’t make much of a case to open this year at the next level. The Venezuelan hurler has missed significant time due to injury in each of the last two seasons, including nearly three months in 2018. In fact, injuries have been a factor for much of Sanchez’ career as he’s failed to hit the 120 inning threshold in any of his five professional seasons.

Injuries aside, there’s little doubt regarding the stout left-hander’s talent, as he possesses a heater with good movement that can reach the mid-90’s as well as a plus curve and at times above-average change-up. Per MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline, “he has a very clean arm action, but has struggled to repeat his mechanics and has thus had command and control problems.” While his strikeout rate dropped 5% in 2018 from 2017, he also managed to reduce his walk rate to a career best 3.8 BB/9.

Sanchez will likely open the 2019 season with Arkansas, where he’ll be given the chance to repeat the Double-A level and hopefully maintain health over the course of a full season while cleaning up some mechanical flaws with his delivery. While some hope was inspired by his strong finish to the season—he posted 8.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, a 1.29 ERA and 2.75 FIP over his last four starts spanning 21.0 innings—Sanchez backslid slightly over an 11-start stint in the Venezuelan Winter League, although it’s worth noting he was seven years younger than the league-average player.

Unlike the Braves, who made the playoffs in 2018 and figure to be right in the thick of things again in 2019, the Mariners have plenty of room on their 40-man roster to stash a player who, despite being a bit of a project, figures to have intriguing upside. He joins an organization in Seattle with a current primary focus on developing young talent in hopes of being ready in the next 2-3 years and can afford to be patient in working with him.