Clearwater, FL – On August 11, 2017, Sixto Sanchez, Baseball America’s 47th ranked prospect, made his home debut for the Clearwater Threshers and his second start in the Florida State League. Facing a lineup from Lakeland comprised of hitters 3-4 years older than him, Sanchez was nothing short of impressive. His fastball sat around 97-99, hitting 100 mph on the stadium radar gun 4 times. His opponent on the mound, Spencer Turnbull, was equally impressive. While lacking the name recognition and prospect status of Sixto, Turnbull dominated the Clearwater lineup, firing 8 innings, walking none, and striking out 5, while earning his 7th win of the season.
It’s All About the Control
Both Sanchez and Turnbull feature plus command of their pitches. Sanchez has walked 10 on the season to Turnbull’s 27 and both were on point Friday night. Clearwater handed Sixto a 1-run lead going into the top of 5th. At this point, through 4 shutout IP, he had thrown only 39 pitches, 29 for strikes. In fact, I remarked to Josh Norris of Baseball America that we may finish this game in an hour and a half at this rate.
After being staked to a 1-0 lead, heading into the 5th inning, Sanchez retired Josh Lester on 1 pitch before walking Cam Gibson. It was only his 10th walk of the season. As he circled the mound in frustration, the veteran Lakeland hitters were primed to pounce on the newly turned 19 year old phenom. Will Allen promptly roped a single to LF and on a 3-0 pitch, Ignacio Valdez plated Allen and Gibson with a smash past 3B Zach Green for a double. Sixto would allow Valdez to score on an infield single to Jose Azocar before getting out of the jam.
On the otherhand, Turnbull who scattered 8 hits, appeared more poised and in control when allowing runners to reach base. He induced 2 double plays and despite the 8 hits, only 2 were for extra bases. He finished the game with 97 pitches – 66 strikes.
Who is Spencer Turnbull
Turnbull was the Tigers’ 2014 2nd round draft pick out of Alabama. Shoulder issues derailed his 2016 campaign and he has spent time on the DL in 2017. Since coming back though, he has been efficient, regaining a lot of the form that made him a 2nd round pick.
His fastball sat at 94-96, touching 97 a few times, with good sink. He induced 9 groundball outs to 4 fly ball outs. Fangraphs grades his FB as a 60/60 and his slider as a 55/60. The slider was his best pitch of the night, showing great tilt. It was equally effective against righties or lefties. At times, it looked like a frisbee. Turnbull, ranked 27th in the organization by MLB.com, also features an average change up and a below average curve. Both pitches sat in the low 80’s and even if he can’t control those pitches for strikes, they add a nice wrinkle to his 96 mph FB and 88 mph slider. I asked a scout in front of me how he would grade Turnbull’s slider after he made a few lefties look silly to which the scout responded, “I don’t know but it’s damn good.”
The Legend of Sixto Sanchez
Who is this guy? Wait, he is only a teenager!?!….How much did he sign for? – Austin Sodders
Sodders isn’t the only guy to wonder where Sixto came from. According to Jim Peyton of PhuturePhillies.com, Sanchez was discovered when a Phillies scout traveled to the Dominican Republic to scout a catcher. Sanchez was asked to throw to the catcher and was so impressive he was then signed to $35,000.
Sixto features 4 above average pitches, all which he can throw for strikes, but relies on his 96-99 mph fastball. He has excellent command and is a strike throwing machine.
Having only turned 19 on July 29, Sixto is still learning to pitch. The promotion to the Florida State League will be a good test for him as the hitters are more experienced at working counts and hitting the fastball. Sixto throws so many strikes with his fastball that advanced hitters may be able to ambush him, especially after they have seen him a few times. He also lost composure after walking Cam Gibson on a 3-2 count. His frustration appeared to be directed at his lack of execution in putting away Gibson. The Lakeland hitters used that frustration to plate 3 runs and take the game. As he matures, he will learn to better focus through adversity and become more adept at limiting damage. I love the aggressive move to have him face older hitters, and the fact that he has not experienced the same dominance right off the bat in the FSL will only make him better going into 2018.