Each MLB team’s biggest X-factor

TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Shohei Ohtani
TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Shohei Ohtani /
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Toronto Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez

Armed with a bowling-ball sinker, young right-hander Aaron Sanchez led MLB in winning percentage and the American League in ERA in 2016 while going 15-2 with a 3.00 mark. The Toronto Blue Jays managed Sanchez’s innings very well in his age-23 season, and he looked poised for big things in 2017.

Instead, a series of recurring blisters limited Sanchez to only eight starts and 36 innings. He was unable to find any consistency between stints on the DL, and finished the year 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA while allowing 10.5 hits per nine. Sanchez also allowed 1.5 home runs per nine, which does not bode well for a pitcher who relies so heavily on his sinker.

The Blue Jays made the playoffs in 2015 on the backs of their sluggers, but the return trip in 2016 was largely fueled by a breakout from Sanchez and unexpected dominance from J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. With all three pitchers struggling with injuries and effectiveness in 2017, the Jays were pulled into last place for most of the season.

The dominant offense is not coming back for the aging Toronto lineup, but the starting rotation can rebound this year and keep the team in playoff contention. The Jays will need a full season out of Sanchez, and the blister issues should not impact him for a second straight year.