Will Sanders – Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
When the Cubs took pitcher Will Sanders in the fourth round of the 2023 MLB Draft, I was very excited that the Cubs made such an excellent choice as they got great value with the pick. Sanders was considered a mid first round pick before the season. He made several preseason All-American teams, but a foot injury sort of derailed his season as he wound up missing lots of time. Hence, that precipitated his fall from the top of the draft boards.
Age – 21
Throws – Right
Height – 6-foot-6
Weight – 215rFrom – Atlanta
Fourth round pick in 2023e
When Sanders arrived at the University of South Carolina, he had had a prestigious career as a high school pitcher. He was an Under Armor All-American. He was ranked as the number two pitcher in his class in the state of Georgia and the number three player overall.
He had a pretty solid freshman year. He appeared in 22 games and made 10 starts with a 3.54 ERA. He struck out 54 in 53.1 innings and walked just 11. Sanders had to walk away feeling pretty good about his freshman year, especially since he made 10 starts as it is hard for most freshman pitchers in the SEC to break into the rotation.
Year two was a little bit better. Sanders’ sophomore campaign saw him make 15 starts with a 3.43 ERA. He tossed 89.1 innings and struck out 91 while walking 31. That last fact was a little concerning but Sanders impressed enough people that his list of accolades coming in to his junior season was quite impressive from Baseball America to Perfect Game to D1 bBseball.
I can distinctly remember looking at MLB Pipeline‘s first set of rankings back in January and seeing Sanders right smack dab in the middle of the teens and not thinking that was out of place or out of the ordinary. He was almost assured, at that time, of being a mid first round pick.
Some injuries can change things and they did for Sanders. He appeared in 15 games this spring, but only made 11 starts. His 5.46 ERA is pretty much the outlier for his college career as it shows that something was not quite right. And a foot injury for a pitcher has to be quite aggravating considering the pain involved before you even release a pitch.
Sanders struck out 77 in just 62.2 innings and he walked just 27. While those numbers are far off his career highs/lows, the Cubs didn’t feel like there was anything to detract from them taking him in the fourth round. In fact, they are betting on him rebounding as a professional. In their mind, they are getting a first round talent in the fourth round.
Here’s what Dan Kantrowitz said to the Marquee Sports Network about Sanders.
“I think what really stood out to us about Will was the six-foot-six frame, but he generates a really extreme downhill angle with good extension,” Kantrovitz said. “He’s not just a power guy, though, even though he throws mid-90s fastball. There’s there’s three other distinct secondary pitches in the slider, the curve and the changeup all of which he can go to really at any count.”
This spring, Sanders was sitting in the mid low 90s most of the time, usually 92 to 94. The Cubs will probably try and get that bottom number up to 94 consistently. That will come through strength training and throwing with weighted balls to improve the muscles in his right arm, shoulder, and back. He also has a curve and a change. And depending upon how those last three pitches move, Sanders could be adding either cutter or a splitter, or he might just stick with the original three.
Sanders could pitch a little bit this year maybe 10 to 20 innings but not much. I would not expect them to see him throw more than 30 to 40 pitches total for a couple innings at a time. Depending on whether they want him to get a little bit of the playoff experience, he could be in Myrtle Beach, or he could be in South Bend, where he will likely start the 2024 season.
As someone who spends a lot of time taking pictures of South Bend players around Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, I will be excited when next season comes and he’s on the bump.
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