Anibal Sanchez was the last person expected to help lead a team’s rotation to the playoffs in 2018, but that is exactly what he did. After posting consecutive seasons below 1 fWAR the veteran came back in a big way with a season worth 2.4 fWAR this year.
Signed for a measly million dollar contract near the end of spring training, many (including myself) expected Sanchez to stick around for only the beginning of the season before cratering and being released. Instead, he had a relatively good Spring Training run and made the Opening Day roster. He followed that up by allowing just eight runs over seven games, including four scoreless outings in the opening stretch of the season. Although most people continued to write his hot start off to luck and chance, his peripheral stats began to tell a more serious story as he struck out 32 in his first 37 and a third innings.
Sanchez continued his good work over the entire season with literally no lulls to the tune of a 2.83 ERA and was arguably Atlanta’s second-best starter going into the playoffs. (Seriously, he never had three consecutive starts with a Game Score under 50, and his worst stretch was back-to-back mediocre starts in July.)
Needless to say that this offseason, Sanchez should be accepting a higher contract offer than the minimum.
Bottom line, what did he do in 2018? Revived his career by abandoning his slider and sinker in favor of his cutter. He was a mentor to a young Braves staff while also anchoring a playoff rotation over 25 starts.
Will he be on the roster in 2019? This is an interesting question because Sanchez has voiced his desire to return to the Braves next season, but his price is likely to be something somewhat silly since this could be one of his last chances to cash out. It would not be a bad idea to pay Sanchez because what he did last season was very much real, but something more than $6 million per year isn’t the most comforting scenario.
What is he going to do next year? That is indeed the million dollar question. If Sanchez is able to repeat his work from last season then great, but it is hard to place bets on him being able to sustain that kind of success. My prediction is that he regresses slightly to an ERA in the mid 3’s, but is still a 2 fWAR pitcher.
Highlight of 2018: Sanchez only allowed three runs against the Nationals over four games and 18 innings pitched. Only eight of his 25 starts saw him allow more than two runs. The list is endless because 2018 was just one giant highlight in the career of Anibal Sanchez.
One of his most impressive outings on the year saw him hurl seven scoreless against the Padres, with only four baserunners (all hits, zero walks) to go with six strikeouts.
Lowlight of 2018: His worst outing by far was in late May against the Mets as he allowed four runs in four innings pitched. Outside of that one start there weren’t really any clunkers for Sanchez, though he did have another start where he was touched for four runs in five innings by the Marlins.