Since the advent of the bonus pool system in the Draft, the 11th round has become a place where teams use extra pool money to aggressively go after tough-to-sign players. That’s when the Astros took Sandoval, a San Diego area prep product, and gave him $900,000 to sign him away from Southern California in 2015. The left-hander took off in 2018 before being traded to the Angels at the Trade Deadline for Martin Maldonado and ended up the year in Double-A, his third level of the season. He kept his upward trajectory going in 2019, reaching the big leagues for the first time.
All of Sandoval’s stuff ticked upwards in 2019, allowing him to ascend to the highest level. While his fastball averaged around 91 mph in 2017-18, he averaged close to 93 mph in 2019 and topped out at 96, throwing it with good movement. Sandoval’s changeup is now a true plus pitch as he’s committed to using it more and he threw it over 30 percent of the time in the big leagues last year, missing a lot of bats with it (49.6 percent whiff rate). His 78-81 mph curveball is an above-average breaking ball and he also mixes in a fringe-average slider.
While Sandoval’s walk rate in Triple-A did spike a bit, he has a solid track record of throwing strikes. With his improved stuff, he now has a legitimate four-pitch mix with a plus weapon and more velocity, everything he needs to settle in as a No. 4 type starter.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
There were signability concerns about Sandoval as he finished his high school career in the San Diego area, but the Astros were able to woo the left-hander away from his Southern California commitment by giving him $900,000 in the 11th round of the 2015 Draft. The left-hander made very little progress as a pro until 2018, when he earned a promotion from the Midwest to the Carolina League before being sent to the Angels for catcher Martin Maldonado close to the Trade Deadline, and he finished the year up one more level in Double-A.
The Angels might have gotten on the Sandoval train at precisely the right time as he turned in one of the best performances of any left-handed pitching prospect in the game in 2018. While there isn't a true plus pitch in his arsenal, Sandoval does have three above-average offerings and showed tremendous feel for all of them during his breakout. While his fastball averaged at 91 mph, it played up because of its movement and his command of it. The biggest difference maker last year might have been the development of his changeup, which he throws with terrific arm speed and deception, leading to both swings and misses as well as weak contact. His slow, deep curve also flashes plus and he effectively mixes in a slider.
Doubters will want to see Sandoval repeat his success. If he does that, he could be a No. 4 type starter and a steal for the Angels organization.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Back in 2015, the Astros spent a Draft-record $17,865,000 on bonuses. That included shelling out $900,000 for Sandoval in the 11th round, when signability concerns drove his stock down. It's been extremely slow going for the left-hander, though he was gaining some traction and pitching well in 2018 when he was sent to the Angels in a deal for catcher Martin Maldonado.
Sandoval's best pitch continues to be his curveball, a slow deep breaking ball that flashes plus. He'll throw his fastball in the 88-92 mph range and will mix in an average slider and will show good feel for an average changeup as well. As Sandoval has progressed, particularly in 2018, his command has improved and he throws a ton of strikes with all four of his pitches.
Sandoval's ceiling is somewhat limited to that of a back-end starter. He'd never thrown more than 62 innings in a season before the 2018 season, with the Angels perhaps getting him right when he's starting to figure things out.