clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Can We Expect: Sandy Alcántara

The Marlins are giving him every opportunity to stick in the major league rotation in 2018 and beyond. Will he?

Photo by Parker Waters/New Orleans Baby Cakes

Sandy is coming! The Marlins top-ranked pitching prospect is getting his long-awaited promotion to the big leagues. He will be Friday night’s starting pitcher, as announced by Derek Jeter himself.

What should we expect from Sandy Alcántara in his Marlins debut and for the next several years beyond that? Minor league statistics and scouting observations provide plenty of hints about his current abilities and ultimate potential.

Sandy Alcántara, 2017-2018 (AA/AAA/MLB)

2017 Cardinals (AA) 7 5 0 25 22 125.1 125 54 15 20 106 19.10% 9.70% 9.40% 0.257 7.61 3.88 44.80% 4.31
2017 Cardinals 0 0 0 8 0 8.1 9 6 0 0 10 25.60% 15.40% 10.30% 0.273 10.8 6.48 26.10% 4.32
2018 Marlins (AAA) 5 3 0 14 14 85 74 34 5 3 64 18.00% 9.60% 8.40% 0.234 6.78 3.6 50.80% 3.71

2017 Summary

Sandy primarily worked as a starter in Double-A last year with the Cardinals as he finished with a 7-5 record in 22 starts and a 4.31 ERA. He averaged 7.61 K/9, but also a concerning 3.88 BB/9. Hitters also hit .257 off against. Alcántara pitched 125 innings, giving up 125 hits and walking 54 batters—and 15 HBP, which is high—while striking out 106.

At first glance, these raw numbers look mediocre, but we also must consider that this was Alcántara’s age-21 season. Competing at a level that is the proving ground for all prospects, most of whom were older than he was, the right-hander had moderate success. The 70-grade fastball continued to develop and he didn’t allow the control issues to fluster him, an indicator that he might have the necessary makeup to thrive against adversity in the majors.

Now, for a closer look at the 2017 stats and their significance...

.257 BAA—This speaks to a player who became more hittable than he should’ve been by falling behind in counts. Advanced opponents took balls until they knew they could get a pitch to hit (preferably the fastball). This is the problem for many high-velocity pitchers without control. Alcántara was still learning to repeat his delivery, understand pitch sequencing and many other nuances of pitching. Those factors can negatively affect results, regardless of the quality of one’s pure stuff.

7.61 K/9 and 3.88 BB/9—Likewise, this is unsurprising when hitters are dictating their at-bats. First-pitch strikes were likely the issue here, putting Alcántara in vulnerable, predictable situations because he constantly battled from behind.

Let’s keep note that Sandy was called up last year late in the season as a bullpen reinforcement. He struggled some, but showed flashes of brilliance.

Here’s a peek at his Zone Profile and Batting Average Against.

2018 Summary

So far this season in 14 starts, Alcántara has a 5-3 record in 14 starts with a 3.71 ERA. In 85 innings, he allowed 74 hits and struck out 64 batters. He only has 34 walks, bringing his BB/9 down to 3.60. It’s a slight but important decrease. Once again, context is important: the Triple-A Pacific Coast League plays in many hitter-friendly ballparks.

The positives can be gleaned already from that information. There has been an ERA decrease at a more experienced, higher-scoring level. Despite his arm talent, it would not have been out of the question for the Marlins to assign him to Double-A in a search for dominance before a promotion. But this was not the case for Sandy, who has the makings of a viable big league starter, and that was evident to their talent evaluators. This is why he was targeted and valued as he was by the baseball operations department, considered a worthy centerpiece in the Marcell Ozuna trade.

.234 BAA—Alcántara clearly is understanding that he needs to be an out-getter rather than always chasing strikeouts. Though he does possess the ability to hit 100 miles per hour, he’ll frequently work in the 96-99 range with the goal of locating precisely and inducing harmless contact. Even minor league fielders can make those plays behind him.

34 BB/5 HBP—This is huge. At his age, the goal is to show improvement in control. Alcántara is proving himself capable of pitching inside and doing so without misfiring and putting on free baserunners. He’s fearlessly using the entire plate—and a couple inches to both sides of it—to his advantage.

50 GB% (ground ball rate)—Yep, that’s the last surprise. He’s keeping the ball down so that batters don’t have the opportunity to slug against him. Add in a 43 percent pull rate and we have guys pulling ground balls, which will end up most of the time as easy outs.

The Final Take

Sandy’s looking like a lot of fun and excitement for Marlins fans. A rebuild is all about watching guys develop and being there to celebrate the successes that they experience as they become contenders. Sandy is still just 22 and already reaching the majors, so that in itself is an impressive feat.

Temper your expectations, though, because the numbers don’t lend us to believe that Alcántara will ever have the greatest control. His delivery can go awry at times, but it is short and direct and repeatable. He understands the importance of a consistent arm slot and release point.

Peak Projection: A No. 2 starter, but I think it’s more likely he settles in as a No. 3, unable to fully put those control issues behind him. It will be incumbent on him to put in the necessary training on the side to overcome that. Filling out his slender frame could have a major impact on his trajectory too, as it requires strength to maintain pitching mechanics late in the game.

Friday is coming and even though most of us will be off for the weekend, Sandy’s going to work. TGIF—Thank Goodness It’s FishDay!