If you love pitching, there is no better Twitter follow than Rob Friedman, aka @PitchingNinja. Every night, he posts GIFs of the nastiest pitches thrown by the big names and the unheralded hurlers.
Two starts into the career of former Phillies top prospect Sixto Sanchez, PitchingNinja seems smitten and for good reason.
Sanchez, who won his first start against the Nationals, dominated a very good Tampa Bay Rays team Friday night, striking out 10 in seven scoreless innings. The Rays entered with the third-best record in MLB at 21-11.
You're seeing exactly why scouts have raved for years about Sanchez, why the Marlins wanted him as the centerpiece in the trade for J.T. Realmuto last February. Sanchez's stuff looks electric. He has a high-90s fastball, a two-seamer, a curveball and changeup that all look like plus pitches capable of freezing hitters and missing bats.
If he keeps that arm healthy, Sanchez looks like he's going to be a very good major-league pitcher. The stuff is all there and he's had exceptional control throughout his pro career.
Through two starts, Sanchez has a 2.25 ERA with 14 strikeouts and one walk.
The Phillies signed Sanchez in early 2015 for $35,000. He was 16 years old and only two years removed from a transition from shortstop to the mound. Late Phillies scout Bart Braun saw Sanchez pitch in the Dominican Republic while there to watch a catcher. Braun liked what he saw, talked to his bosses and the deal was done.
"I remember calling (then-GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and scouting director Mike Ondo) and telling them, 'We're not going to sign the catcher, but we might have found a pitcher,'" Braun recalled in 2016. "It was kind of an accident, a luck deal. We were in the right place at the right time. Sometimes when you keep working you bump into stuff.
"Sixto has some of the easiest velocity I've ever seen," said Braun, who began his scouting career in 1983. "He's so athletic and under control in his delivery that he doesn't have to come out of his body and flop around with his arms and legs to get velocity. That allows him to command the ball so well.
"If he stays healthy, he's got a chance to be really good."
So far, he has been.
The Phillies will face him for the first time in two weeks during the seven-game Phils-Marlins series in Miami Sept. 10-14.