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The unassuming tale of Alex Sanabia

The short tale of a 33rd round pick who is now a featured starter in the Marlins rotation.


On Tuesday night, Alex Sanabia's 2013 campaign reached another bump in an already ugly road as he struggled in his homecoming game against the San Diego Padres. Despite giving up three runs on nine hits that included a two-run shot from Will Venable, the downfall for this California native was being pulled in the middle of the fifth inning because of a tight right groin. While the status of said injury is still in question, Sanabia's 2013 season up to this point has been the definition of mediocre with his 4.85 ERA and 5.64 FIP, which would probably pull him out of most starting rotations if he wasn't on a team like the Marlins who are lacking in depth.

Even with Sanabia pitching the way he has been, his overall climb up the minor league ladder is admirable in itself. Sanabia was born and raised in San Diego, California is a hotbead for baseball not only because of the Padres but also the fact that the city has produced All-Star players from the past and present like Adrian Gonzalez, Tony Gwynn, David Wells and Ted Williams. While Sanabia had dreams and aspirations to be like one of those great players, the world would be against him after being drafted in the 33rd round of the 2006 draft. Potential Hall of Fame pitchers Roy Oswalt and John Smoltz were both drafted after the 20th round but the success rate of somebody like Sanabia who was drafted after the 30th round was still incredibly low.

Despite the odds not being on his side, Sanabia started his minor league career in the Gulf Goast League (Rookie ball) where he played alongside of future Marlins teammate Logan Morrison who was a prospect that was also coming straight out of high school.

A solid showcase (3-1 with 2.72 ERA) with the GCL Marlins, Sanabia made a surprisingly quick rise up the minor league ladder by taking only three seasons to make his way up from Low-A to Triple- A, which is a pace that is actually quicker than even some of the better prospects, let alone a 33rd round selection. Perhaps it was a product of the team's shallow farm system because despite the quick rise through levels, he really wasn't that great until he made his way to Double-A and Triple-A where pitched like lhe next coming of Cy Young by allowing a 0.87 WHIP and 2.80 FIP combined between the two leagues.

What was the meaning behind the sudden boost in production by this former throwaway pick? Nobody really knew but it didn't stop Marlins management from calling him up in June 2010 to the big league club. He took full advantage of that opportunity by posting up a 3.65 FIP that was similar to long time Marlins starters at the time like Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad.

After that great rookie season, Sanabia had a very bright future as he was looking forward to the 2011 season until he met a fate that is well known to every single player who's ever played this great game when he missed most of the season due to injury. He took the next two seasons to battle different variations of injuries as he not only struggled to get back with the Marlins but on the mound in general by making less than 30 starts in the team's system between 2011 and 2012.

The slate was wiped clean for the 6'2, 210 pound right handed pitcher as he recieved a clean bill of health and a nice spot in the team's rotation as he entered 2013. Like I stated before, Sanabia has not played at a quality level so far this season, but he's faced more challenges through out his pro career than most young pitchers so I think he'll find away to break out of a slump to help this young Marlins team out.