There is a saying that “a left-hander who throws a fast ball will definitely bring it even if he goes to hell,” and the importance of the proverb (?) becomes stronger in the KBO League. This is because there are relatively more left-handed hitters than Major League Baseball, and on the other hand, the proportion of left-handed hitters who play well is higher.
The recent trend of selecting foreign players in the KBO League is also in line with this perception. Since left-handed batters dominate the KBO League, there is a perception that “the basics are over” if a relatively strong left-handed batter is brought as a left-handed batter. Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho, a former pitcher, also said, “The domestic league is a league where left-handed batters play well,” adding, “There are many left-handed pitchers, but in terms of the overall ratio, they are considerably less than right-handed pitchers.”
Amidst this perception, Hanwha also recruited left-hander Ricardo Sanchez (26) as a foreign player to replace Birch Smith, who suffered an injury this year and lost his horse early. Director Choi said, “When it comes to hitting, it is difficult to hit accurately as the ball moves away from the line of sight. If the skills are similar, I think the probability of success for the left-hander is high,” he supported the selection at the time.
It was difficult to bring in players with brilliant careers or skills from the pool of substitute foreign players. In fact, Sanchez’s career in the major leagues was only playing three games for St. Louis in 2020. He had nothing to offer in his career. It was only natural that there were dubious views about Hanwha’s choice until the time of the recruitment. But Sanchez is gradually replacing question marks with exclamation points. His performances so far have exceeded expectations.
As of the 7th, Sanchez is throwing 69⅔ innings in 13 games for the season, and has an average ERA of 2.84 with 5 wins and 3 losses. The number of on-base per innings allowed (WHIP) is 1.19, and the number of walks per 9 innings is stable at 2.2. He doesn’t have a high strikeout rate, but he has the ability to contain long hits with his fastball. It is difficult to see him as a complete player yet, but there are some noteworthy parts. It’s fastball restraint. It’s top notch in the league. In terms of speed, there is no such player.
According to the tally of ‘Trackman’, which provides tracking data to nine KBO league clubs, Sanchez’s average speed of four-seam fastballs this season is 149.6 km per hour. There are five starting pitchers (with more than 400 starting pitches) with a faster average velocity than Sanchez, including An Woo-jin (Kiwoom) and Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha), but all are right-handed. Sanchez is the fastest left-hander. Even his teammate Kim Beom-soo (149.2 km), who is the top left-handed bullpen, has a higher velocity.
‘Legend’ Yoon Seok-min, a former KBO triple crown achiever, also pointed out that being quick at speed is a clear advantage. Commissioner Yoon said of Sanchez, “There is no left-handed selection in the KBO league that throws an average of 150 km. Here, the slider comes out to 140 km. His control is good, and he seems to throw the slider at two different arm heights. He gave a good evaluation saying that he basically has a lot of things, saying, “I throw the right-handed batter well.”
After joining, he showed peak performance, but struggled at the time of July 8th against SSG (3 innings, 8 runs) and July 21st against NC (5 innings, 5 runs). However, his sluggishness at the time was related to his pitching habit. It is said that there was a subtle difference in how the opposing batter could predict the type of pitch. Sanchez, who corrected this, got on the right track by playing an active role in the following two games with a total of 13 innings and 3 runs (2 earned runs).
The skills shown so far are positive. Affinity, affability, and adaptability are all excellent. Rumor has it that he speaks Korean better than expected and asks a lot of questions from his colleagues. He is a foreign player that Hanwha front desk staff look very good at. Director Choi also said, “I get along well with the pitchers as well as the catcher. (Jung) Asked Woo-ram about the ball formula and told him about it. He is a very approachable style,” he smiled.
However, in order to renew the contract, it may be necessary to make up for weaknesses and appeal more to the strengths during the remaining period. There are also opinions that there is ample potential for development because he is still a young player.
Coach Choi said, “Sanchez has above-average speed in Korea and has the ability to throw strikes. It is also equipped with various breaking balls,” he said. “In the domestic league, it has enough elements to succeed. I throw the ball in the second half of the 140km average into the corner,” he said, showing relatively satisfaction with his current performance. However, “actually, it is not such a good operation. The age is still too young. He also advised that he needs to improve a little more in game management, saying, “I don’t have much experience in the big leagues.
However, at a young age, Sanchez lacks experience in a league where he plays 144 games, such as the KBO League. If you can build up experience while stably rotating the starting rotation in the second half, and if that experience can lead to skill in game management, there is plenty of potential for growth. The icing on the cake is if it leads to the relatively rapid adjustment of pitches. For Hanwha, which has been greatly scolded by foreign players, renewing the contract with a verified foreign player may be a stable option. Attention is focusing on whether Sanchez can be that option.