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Marlins Rotation Candidate: Sandy Alcantara

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The Marlins’ top pitching project has impressed this spring

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at New York Mets Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

“Certainly, the 6-foot-4 Alcantara has the tools to be the Marlins’ first legitimate staff ace since the late Jose Fernandez.”

So said Craig Davis of the Sun Sentinel, and judging by what this pitcher has shown in spring training, this is no overstatement. Alcantara came to Miami this off-season in the Ozuna deal, and he currently ranks as their top pitching prospect per MLB Pipeline. Given the shakiness of the Marlins’ starting staff, he is almost certain to pitch in the majors this season: the question is when.

Alcantara has a fastball that averaged over 98 mph last September after debuting with the Cardinals. He also flashes a hard, late-breaking slider that he used to strike out Yoenis Cespedes twice this spring.

Alcantara, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic, started in rookie ball in 2014 and has been almost exclusively a starter throughout his minor league career.

Before his promotion to the bigs, Sandy pitched 125 1/3 innings in double-A in 2017. He had an ERA of 4.31, FIP of 4.62, a solid K/9 of 7.6, and a WHIP of 1.42. Solid if unspectacular.

However, he also had a BB/9 of 3.9 while hitting 15 batters and threw 20 wild pitches. NOT a comfortable at bat, for sure.

None of these stats really blow you away, and the wildness is downright concerning, but his electric arm was his ticket to a September call up to the Cardinals.

What did his pitches look like with St. Louis? While with the Cards, he pitched eight games in relief. His four-seamer averaged 98.3 mph, to go along with a 91.0 mph changeup and an 85.6 mph slider per Fangraphs.

In terms of pitch-mix, he threw a fastball 67% of the time, his slider 22% and his changeup 11%. Hard to argue to not focus on his fastball given its velocity, though he also leaned on it due to control problems. In 8 1/3 innings he gave up 6 walks and 9 hits while fanning 10.

Here’s some video from last season:

And more from the Arizona Fall League:

So far in spring training Alcantara’s arm has impressed, and he has shown growth in terms of control and pitchability. In five innings, he has given up four hits and one run while striking out three and walking none. That’s right, NONE.

Despite the temptation to have this high-end talent start the season with the Marlins, it may serve him best to get a few months in triple-A first to further improve his control and to continue to mature as a pitcher.

On the other hand, if he continues to wow this spring, he could make the team’s thin starting rotation out of camp which would add excitement in what looks to be a lean April for the Fish.