Versatile Sanchez could break out in '16

Set to begin season in rotation, young righty has potential to be front-line starter

Versatile Sanchez could break out in '16

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays know they're going to have one of the best lineups in baseball, but the success of this team likely will come down to the pitching staff, and there's no bigger key than Aaron Sanchez.

Toronto has officially announced that Sanchez will begin the year in the rotation. There's no doubt he has a strong chance of being an impact pitcher and could go a long way in dictating how this season goes.

Sanchez is set to enter his third season, and there's no better time than now to take his development to the next level. He will enter the year with the upside of becoming a potential front-line starter.

"He's a key, a lot is revolving around him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.

Results in Spring Training can be deceiving, but it's still impossible to ignore how dominant Sanchez has been during camp. The 23-year-old currently has allowed just three runs and 15 hits over 20 innings. Perhaps even more impressive, Sanchez has limited the opposition to three walks compared to 19 strikeouts.

Sanchez fans Castro

The biggest knock on Sanchez when he began last year in the rotation was his lack of command. He walked seven batters during a start against the Orioles on April 22, but in ensuing outings that number dropped for five consecutive starts from six all the way down to two.

The improved command has carried over into the spring while Sanchez has tried to further develop his curveball and changeup. Those pitches might not be needed out of the bullpen, but they will be essential to a potential starting career, which is the role Sanchez has been vocal about preferring.

"I'm going to go out there and do my thing," Sanchez said. "I can't control that decision. They've watched, they've seen what I'm doing, Gavin [Floyd] is pitching well too. It's a decision that they're going to have to make."

Even though Sanchez is beginning the year in the rotation, there's a chance he might not stay there all year. Sanchez has never thrown more than 133 1/3 innings in a season, and a high workload could become a concern later in the year. Toronto could opt to later move him into the bullpen.

"There's probably a max innings on him," Gibbons said.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.