3 out of options pitchers to watch during Spring Training

The Pirates should monitor these three pitchers are out of options with their current teams and could hit waivers at th end of Spring Training.

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins - Game Three
Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins - Game Three / Bob Levey/GettyImages
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Sixto Sanchez

Sixto Sanchez once looked like a future ace. Originally a Philadelphia Phillies prospect, Sanchez was the headliner in the JT Realmuto trade. Sanchez made his debut a few years later in 2020 and was awesome, pitching to a 3.46 ERA, 3.50 FIP, and 1.21 WHIP in his first 39 MLB innings. While his 20.9% strikeout rate was unimpressive, he had a great 0.69 HR/9, 58% ground ball rate, and 7% walk rate.

Then, just 21 and already averaging 99 MPH on his four-seam fastball, Sanchez had a lot going for him heading into 2021. Many had him taking the league by storm, and after his 2020 debut, who wouldn’t think that? But injuries then started to set in.

Shoulder troubles led to season-ending surgery in 2021. The shoulder issues lingered into 2022, and while he was expected to return in 2023, even more shoulder soreness kept him out of action. It wouldn’t be until mid-September that Sanchez would return to the mound. He only pitched one inning at Double-A, the first time he pitched in a game since his NLDS start against the Braves in 2020.

It’s unknown just what Sanchez has in the tank. After all, he’s pitched just one inning in three seasons and 40 (plus eight Postseason innings) since 2020. But obviously, that long of a layoff because of constant shoulder troubles is extremely worrying. However, what’s more questionable is his condition. There have been some pretty unflattering photos of Sixto in camp that make it look like he’s gained a significant amount of weight.

Now, Sanchez was never lanky and thin like Kent Tekulve, but compared to just a few years ago, he’s definitely gained some pounds. Sanchez recently faced batters in Spring Training, with the Marlins hitters who did square off against him estimating that he’s hitting about 93-95 MPH, a far cry from the 97-100 MPH he was sitting at in 2020.

I wouldn’t expect Sanchez to all of a sudden reclaim his 2019-2020 form, but I don’t think it would be a bad idea to see what he has. I would not mind having him in the bullpen as a long relief man to see if he can work as a solid reliever. But that’s assuming the Marlins want to try the same idea. We shall see how he performs in Spring Training.