It's safe to say that the best way to develop pitching is to give prospects mound time. More innings and reps lead to improvement, the argument goes. While that's often the case, sometimes just talking about the craft, about game plans and pitches, can be a huge help as well.
That's largely what Sixto Sanchez, currently No. 47 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list and the No. 2 prospect on the Phillies' Top 30, is doing during instructional league play in Philadelphia. The right-hander, who turned 19 at the end of July, has leapt up prospect lists and is rapidly becoming known as one of the best pitching prospects in the game.
After a season that saw Sanchez dominate the South Atlantic League in his first try at full-season ball and earn a promotion up to the Florida State League, the Phillies don't feel he needs to throw all that much this fall. In fact, he may not get a single inning in a game during instructs.
"This is more about wrapping up his season," Phillies farm director Joe Jordan said. "This is about him totally understanding what we want him to do with the breaking ball, being in this environment, talking the game, that's what he's here for."
Sanchez has a feel to spin the ball, but wasn't always consistent with it. So he'll spend time at instructs talking about grip, differentiating between a breaking ball that he gets over for strike one and one that can finish off hitters. He'll also work on things like holding runners, i.e., the nuances of pitching.
His time at instructs is also about managing expectations. There is a lot of buzz around Sanchez these days and perhaps because he has such an intriguing combination of stuff and command at such a young age, some might feel he's on a fast track. The Phillies are merely pumping the breaks just a touch.
"We don't want the perception to be that he's overly close to pitching in the big leagues, because he's not," Jordan said. "He's still somewhat new to pitching, he's inexperienced. Being in this environment, talking about getting hitters out, that's what he's here for, growing as a pitcher more than just throwing.
"The things we want him to accomplish don't involve a lot of game action. But this is an exciting young guy."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.