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Introducing Sixto Sánchez: The most exciting Marlins arm since José Fernández

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In his first season with the Marlins organization, Sánchez looks to put the durability concerns behind him.

Photo by @sixto03_sanchez/Instagram

The time has finally come for Marlins fans to get excited about their franchise and the potential this team has to compete in the near future. Earlier this month, the Marlins traded J.T. Realmuto for a package of Sixto Sánchez, Jorge Alfaro, Will Stewart and international bonus slot money. Fans can breath a sigh of relief after months of speculation and concerns that they wouldn’t get enough in return for the All-Star catcher—they did.

I wrote last summer about how the Marlins needed an ace in their system, and specifically, how they could acquire one through trading Realmuto.

Well, the Marlins listened and delivered Sixto Sánchez. Sánchez is the most exciting young Marlins pitcher since José Fernández.

Sánchez is listed at 6 foot and 185 pounds, smaller than the prototypical MLB starter, but there is no concern that his height will affect his abilities going forward. He is a power pitcher through and through, possessing a fastball that reaches 100 and consistently sits in the high 90s. His slider has a very sharp cut to it and will be a menace to opposing batters. He also excels with his changeup that will pair nicely with the fastball to deceive batters.

His three-pitch mix is reminiscent of Luis Severino’s repertoire and there are many similarities between them. The expectation is for Sánchez to develop into a similar caliber pitcher as Severino and others...health permitting.

Last season, Sánchez dealt with elbow inflammation and was only able to throw 46 23 innings in Advanced-A ball. However, he tore apart the competition in that small sample. He held a 2.51 ERA to go along with a 2.66 FIP and a 3.11 xFIP.

The most exciting part of Sánchez’s game is his ability to strike batters out without giving away free bases. His 23.9 K% paired with a 5.9 BB% left him with a 18.0 K-BB%. At the major league level, a 18.0 K-BB% would’ve cracked the Top 20 along with names like Luis Severino, Zack Greinke, José Berríos and Charlie Morton.

Top 20 pitchers by K-BB% in 2018
Fangraphs

Although it is hard to make that leap, it would not be crazy to expect Sánchez to develop that kind of efficiency eventually. The combination of control and elite swing-and-miss stuff distinguishes him from every other current Marlins prospect. He heads into the season at No. 24 on the MLB Composite Prospect Rankings (compiled by Talking Chop’s Doc Herbert).

As mentioned above, Sánchez did miss a large chunk of 2018 due to elbow inflammation (final three months of the Florida State League season on the disabled list). Although concerning, almost every pitcher deals with pain and soreness in their arm and especially the elbow. Sánchez had no elbow issues prior to this. Long-term durability is influenced far more by pitching mechanics than size, and he has a very smooth delivery.

Sánchez began Spring Training in Jupiter this past week with no limitations and the hope is that he will make it through fully healthy. The Marlins are assigning him to Double-A Jacksonville, according to president of baseball operations Michael Hill. At 20 years old, he’ll be one of the youngest players in the entire Southern League. A full season in the minors would speed up his development and erase any worries about his arm health.

Marlins fans should get excited for Sánchez to make his MLB debut at some point in 2020. There is not a doubt in my mind that Sánchez can be a stud at the top of the Marlins rotation for years to come, picking up where Fernández left off (with the benefit of a deeper supporting cast).

The thought of a young Sixto Sánchez leading the Marlins to their first playoff run is very possible in the near future.