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Arizona Fall League

Top prospect ready for AFL after elbow injury

Sanchez has been limited to 8 starts in High-A ball this year
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Most of the chatter around Sixto Sanchez this summer has focused on the fact that the Phillies refused to include him in trade talks for Manny Machado a month ago. The top prospect has not appeared in a game since early June because of right elbow inflammation. That will soon change.

Sanchez, the Phillies' No. 1 prospect and No. 17 in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, will be among the Phillies' eight Minor Leaguers to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League in a little more than a month, it was announced Thursday. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak hinted this week that Sanchez was in consideration after the right-hander missed most of the season.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Most of the chatter around Sixto Sanchez this summer has focused on the fact that the Phillies refused to include him in trade talks for Manny Machado a month ago. The top prospect has not appeared in a game since early June because of right elbow inflammation. That will soon change.

Sanchez, the Phillies' No. 1 prospect and No. 17 in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, will be among the Phillies' eight Minor Leaguers to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League in a little more than a month, it was announced Thursday. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak hinted this week that Sanchez was in consideration after the right-hander missed most of the season.

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Joining Sanchez will be right-handers Luke Leftwich, Seth McGarry and Tyler Viza, infielders Arquimedes Gamboa (No. 11 Phillies prospect), Darick Hall and Luke Williams, and outfielder Austin Listi. Aaron Fultz, the pitching coach for Class A Advanced Clearwater, is on the Scottsdale staff as well.

Sanchez, 20, posted a 2.51 ERA with 45 strikeouts in eight starts (46 2/3 innings) with Clearwater before he was shut down with the elbow injury. This followed a dominant 2017 at Class A Lakewood in which he posted a 7.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio and allowed just one home run in 67 1/3 innings before a late-season promotion to Clearwater.

The Phillies have taken the safe route with Sanchez because his combination of velocity and command give him the potential to become a front-line starter. He didn't start on Clearwater's active roster as they eased him into the season. They were careful when the inflammation flared up in June by shutting him down. Lately, Sanchez has thrown to hitters in batting practice and "feels great," Klentak said. Instructional league, which happens before the AFL, is a possibility, too.

The Fall League will allow Sanchez to make up for development lost to a summer of downtime. Now in its 27th season, the AFL has long been a place for elite prospects to take their next steps toward the big leagues. All 30 MLB teams supply players for six rosters. Joining the Phillies' contingent in Scottsdale will be prospects from the Mets, Giants, Reds and Astros.

Scottsdale will play its first game Oct. 10, with the season running until a Nov. 18 championship.

Kapler ready for roster expansion
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said he knows exactly who will arrive when rosters expand from 25 to 40 players on Saturday for September. Some choices are easy. Some are not.

Kapler must balance the conflicting interest of developing younger players as Triple-A Lehigh Valley enters the International League playoffs as a first-place club -- something that aligns with the effort of "trying to foster a culture, an environment of winning" -- while a deeper bench would allow him more creativity deep in a game.

"We're going to have plenty of bodies," Kapler said. "But what if we had not the greatest matchup and we decided to leave that guy in Lehigh for the Triple-A playoffs instead of having him around? I think that would, like, haunt me forever. So those are the things that we are considering here coming up."

Members of the 40-man roster currently at Triple-A include Aaron Altherr and J.P. Crawford, who could be back in Philadelphia as early as Saturday, and Andrew Knapp, who should return once his 10 days since being optioned on Tuesday are up. Kapler said the club has not ruled out going beyond the 40-man.

"We will have a second wave that comes here after the Triple-A season is over, but we don't know that date yet," Klentak said.

Many of the expected additions, though, are already here. Relievers Austin Davis, Edubray Ramos and Aaron Loup are on the 10-day disabled list, and will soon bolster the bullpen without bumping someone from the active roster.

Jerad Eickhoff, after pitching another lengthy rehab start Thursday night, is healthy and will be activated from the 60-day disabled list.

"He's now going to be part of our club and probably, most likely part of our bullpen to start," Kapler said. "And the way I see using Eickhoff is in kind of a length role at first, looking for a stretch of innings to give him, but also not ruling out any starts at some point."

Justin Bour took swings off a tee for the first time since straining his left oblique. Although that can sometimes be a nagging injury, Kapler said fans can expect to see Bour "soon," possibly a day or two after Monday, when he is eligible to return.

Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Sixto Sanchez