Patrick Sandoval arrived back at camp this last week looking as confident as ever. Something was different. Returning from the WBC in which he made 2 strong starts for Team Mexico, he’s primed to take another step forward this season. He successfully held the 2 finalists teams, USA and Japan, to only 1 run collectively across 7 1/3 innings with 8 strikeouts. When speaking with Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Sandoval said, “If [my stuff] plays against those guys, it will play against anyone. More confidence in throwing strikes and not letting people get free bases.”
The lone run came against the USA “Dream Team” lineup that was top-to-bottom All-Stars. Despite being a known quantity for all MLB players and a teammate of Mike Trout, he held them to 1 run over 3 innings. This has been a discussion point for me all offseason with Grey, “Patrick Sandoval gets no respect.” He’s been overlooked a bit because in his breakout last year, to the tune of a 2.91 ERA across 148 2/3 innings, came with the caveat of a 1.34 WHIP. That’s understandably not great to see but there’s plenty of reason to believe it’s not a predictor of what will come this season either — even without a step forward.
I was going to pass on diving into him this preseason, I really was; but, after several drafts in which I was able to grab him much later than I anticipated, I can resist no longer! I want to codify or ossify my position on him for this season as a “re-breakout” or continued breakout pitcher in 2023. Let’s look at his development.
Last year he “regressed” some in controlling his WHIP, but you see that his BABIP actually made a large jump last year. Despite that, he was able to reign in his home run rate even more to 0.48 HR/9. That was an HR/FB rate of only 6.3%, down from nearly 16% in 2021. After camping out around .264 for the previous 123 2/3 IP between 2020-2021, Sandoval’s BABIP rose to .316 last season while his walk rate remained the same. If that moves any amount toward the mean, he should see easy dividends in his WHIP despite the potential regression in his ERA.
If this renewed confidence takes root, Patrick Sandoval could become a bit more aggressive with hitters while trusting his stuff. And that could be the catalyst for shaving off some of his unnecessary balls and walks, and thus potentially going deeper into games. He already has multiple plus-pitches including his notoriously nasty changeup.
Last year he made a pitch mix adjustment, essentially swapping the frequency of his slider and fastball, without sacrificing his breaking pitch effectiveness. He maintained a .201 AVG against his slider and .215 AVG against his changeup, with both being backed up by the expected stats. In addition, his fastball looked to be a bit unlucky and could stand to rebound in effectiveness this season (likely reflected in BABIP).
All this to say, I felt compelled to plant my flag after taking in nearly every draft near pick 200. There are 2 pitchers I have drafted on every team this year, Joe Ryan and Patrick Sandoval. Grey already gave you his love for Ryan in his Joe Ryan fantasy. I echo all those things PLUS his offseason addition of a split-change that has increased both the vertical and velo separation of his fastball, please and thank you. As I pointed out in my Kodai Senga fantasy, MLB is at a distinct disadvantage to splitters. Then there’s Patrick…
What can we expect to see from Patrick Sandoval in 2023? He is only 25 years old and just completed his first “full season” as a starter, meaning, there is plenty of room for improvement. Last year he learned a lot about himself surpassing 140 innings for the first time and seeing multiple MLB teams more than once. I expect that experience to take a step forward with the added benefit of increased stamina.
Then there’s his performance on the big stage of the WBC. The confidence boost from that should spill over and I suspect he’ll improve his pitch execution. Will there be some regression in ERA? Most likely; but, I’m in the camp that there will be peripheral improvements in other areas including BABIP. For 2023 I project Sandoval for 178 Ks in 170 IP with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. Last year his record was 6-9 with terrible luck; this year with a much deeper roster behind him, I expect more run support and him to log around 12 wins.
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