Before every season is the time for optimism. Everyone is undefeated, every veteran is going to stay healthy, and every rookie is poised to contribute. This year, especially, young pitchers seemed poised to burst onto the scene, handed spots in their rotations in one of the lowest scoring eras in modern baseball history.
Indeed, this has been the year of the young pitcher, with players like like Carlos Martinez, Archie Bradley, and Eddie Butler all succeeding wildly in their first full seasons in the rotation. Alas, not every young pitcher got the memo.
Two young starters struggling
The Toronto Blue Jays had wanted to use Aaron Sanchez out of the bullpen in 2015, just as they did in 2014, but an injury to another bright young talent, Marcus Stroman, put him in the rotation. The results simply have not been there as Sanchez has put up a 4.62 ERA across five starts. Worse, he has not gotten out of the 6th inning in any of his games.
His control has been awful. Despite striking out an impressive 21 batters in 25 innings, he's offset that with 20 walks, the most in the American League. Thanks to all those walks, his ERA may be reasonable, but his FIP is an unacceptable 5.90. Essentially, while his defense has been continually bailing him out, his underlying stats reveal a kid clearly not ready to perform at the Major League level.
On the other side of the continent, Mariners uber-prospect Taijuan Walker also has struggled. Walker missed much of last year with shoulder trouble, but still started five games and had an ERA of 2.61 in 38 innings. His control was constantly an issue, however, as he walked more than four batters per nine innings. Thankfully, he limited his homers and struck out a ton of batters. Indeed, he looked poised to be a big weapon for the Mariners in 2015.
But after five starts, his ERA is 8.74. There's no sugar coating how awful that has been.
What should the Blue Jays and Mariners do about it?
So what should their clubs do with these two young supposed-to-be-phenoms? Sanchez should head back to Triple-A or the bullpen, while Walker gets another few chances to get things right.
Why the difference? First, Sanchez has not pitched well in any of his appearances. Even the game where he gave up just two runs in 5.1 innings, he walked seven batters. The next start, he struck out seven and walked only two in 5.2, but allowed four runs. And then he walked six again in his latest turn.
Also, Sanchez only has 22 starts in the high minors under his belt, as he flew through New Hampshire and Buffalo last year and ended the campaign in the majors. A return to Triple-A may actually do him some good. Meanwhile, the Jays have a viable alternative (like, say, Todd Redmond) who can step in if he can stretch out a little.
Walker's struggles, on the other hand, are clustered into just three of his five starts. Yes, the walks are still there, but so are the strikeouts are still there. And his last start in Houston aside, when he allowed three bombs in three innings, he's done a good job keeping the ball in the park. Really, Walker has shown flashes of absolute brilliance. He struck out eight Astros in five innings on April 21, and followed it up with seven innings in which he didn't give up an earned run on the 27th. That's sandwiched, unfortunately, between three disaster starts where he's allowed 22 runs in 10.1 innings.
Unlike Sanchez, Walker's been incredibly inconsistent. But he has proven that he can start at this level and dominate major league lineups. He has proven that he might well belong if he can get in a groove and put together a run. Given that Hisashi Iwakuma's injury means that no one else is knocking on the door to replace him, the Mariners would be well served to keep him in the rotation a little while longer in the hopes that he can find it.