The signs Aaron Sanchez is maturing as a pitcher are subtle.

He still has the baby face — which belies even his meagre 21 years — and he’s still growing into his lanky, six-foot-four frame.

But on the mound the Blue Jays’ highest ranked prospect continues to command more and more respect from his peers, from hitters and from Jays brass.

“Barring injury he’s about as close to a can’t-miss that I’ve ever seen,” says Darold Knowles, pitching coach of the Dunedin Blue Jays, Toronto’s Class-A affiliate.

Considered by some prospect pundits as the only untouchable in the Jays’ farm system, Sanchez watched in the offseason as two of his teammates and closest friends — Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard — were dealt away as part of Alex Anthopoulos’s offseason trading frenzy: Nicolino as part of the 12-player swap with the Miami Marlins, and Syndergaard as part of the package sent to the New York Mets to acquire R.A. Dickey.

The fact Anthopoulos held on to Sanchez while giving up the other prized prospects speaks to what the organization thinks of him and his ongoing development.

Sanchez’s major-league debut likely won’t come for another two seasons, but it’s tough for the organization to keep from gushing about him.

“He just keeps getting better and better,” says assistant general manager Tony LaCava.

Sanchez is a power pitcher who can throw 98 m.p.h. while mixing in a devastating changeup. He continues to work on sharpening up his curveball and getting it to where he can throw it for strikes in any count.

“That’s the one thing he’ll have to master,” Knowles said. “Then it’ll just be a matter of staying out of his way.”

Kyle Drabek, who is in Dunedin while working his way back to the big leagues following Tommy John surgery, first met Sanchez last month when the pair played catch at the minor-league complex.
“I didn’t realize how hard he threw until we got to a longer distance,” Drabek said, before pausing a moment and exhaling deeply. “He throws a heavy ball.”

Sanchez’s numbers are not as sparkling this year as they were a year ago when he dominated the Midwest League as part of the so-called “Lansing 3” — with Nicolino and Syndergaard — but he is pitching with more consistency and more confidence, LaCava says.