Fantasy Baseball Spotlight: Anibal Sanchez
Last Word on Baseball is back again with another fantasy baseball spotlight. This week the light shines on Anibal Sanchez of the newly-minted, first-time National League Champion Washington Nationals. Has the 35-year-old pitched himself back into fantasy relevancy? After years of decline, the past two seasons have been another story.
Up and down with Detroit
Sanchez’s first two full seasons for the Detroit Tigers were excellent. In those years, he went 22-13, had a 2.92 ERA, and posted a 1.13 WHIP. Strikeouts came frequently in 2013, when he whiffed 10 batters per nine innings. That fell to 7.3 per nine innings in 2014, but the hits per nine stayed the same (7.7). Those are ace-like numbers, plain and simple. He didn’t win a ton in Detroit, but the peripherals were there. Multiple stints on the IL (then DL) hampered his production. After the early success with the Tigers, things went south. Each season from 2015 to 2017 was progressively worse. His ERA climbed from 4.99 in 2015 to 6.41 in 2017. His WHIP shot from 1.28 to 1.60. Sanchez won 20 games total in that time. Not terrible, but certainly not what fans and fantasy owners wanted to see.
National League Resurgence
Anibal Sanchez ended his time in Detroit on the DL yet again. He entered free agency in 2017 and was signed to a minor league contract by the Minnesota Twins. They weren’t impressed, and he was released not even a month later. Bleak times for the veteran, but the Atlanta Braves saw something in him and gave him a shot. After a bumpy start including another injury, he got rolling for good in June. Sanchez performed well the rest of the season, posting a 2.81 ERA and throwing 11 quality starts from June through September. Finally healthy, Sanchez looked more like his old self, earning a career-high seven hits per nine innings to end the season. The switch from the American League to the National League worked in his favor.
Sanchez was a free agent again for the 2019 season, ultimately staying in the division; however, he signed a two-year, $19 million deal with the Washington Nationals. It wasn’t a repeat of his bounce-back 2018 season, but Sanchez still pitched well and provided good depth to the Nationals rotation. In 30 starts, his record was 11-8 with a 3.85 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.
What stands out the most, though, is his most recent outing in the playoffs. In Game 1 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sanchez carried a no-hitter through 7.2 innings. The Cardinals were fresh off a 13-run shellacking of the Braves to win the NLDS, but Sanchez had all the answers. He finished the game with one hit allowed, one walk, and five strikeouts. Prior to that, Sanchez stymied the Los Angeles Dodgers in a losing effort in Game 3 of the NLDS. He tossed five innings, allowing just one run on four hits while striking out nine. After a good regular season, his postseason so far has been absolutely spectacular.
Now all of this begs the question: is Anibal Sanchez fantasy relevant again? It’s hard to say what will happen as he enters his age 36 season. The injury history is robust – he’s landed on the injured list eight times in the past six years. Yet, he’s now posted back-to-back strong seasons. The postseason numbers are staggering. Owned in 43% of Yahoo leagues and 23% of ESPN, it’s hard to ignore the value. The wins aren’t great, but in leagues that favor quality starts he is a nice option. According to FantasyPros, Sanchez’s average draft position in fantasy leagues was 294th overall. That number may get lower after the numbers he’s putting up lately, but owners may also shy away due to the injury risk. At any rate, Sanchez has earned consideration for fantasy baseball purposes again. After all, he may be pitching for a defending World Series Champion with a shiny new ring on his finger.