For the second straight season, the Marlins will have only one representative at the MLB All-Star Game. But rather than it being a veteran trade chip with one foot out the door, it’s a rookie with a long, bright future ahead of him in Miami: right-hander Sandy Alcantara.
Alcantara was named to the 2019 NL All-Star roster Sunday night in the midst of his first full season at the major league level. The 23-year-old Dominican has a 3.86 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 1.40 WHIP and 15.9 K% in 16 starts for the Fish. He leads the team with 95 2⁄3 innings pitched.
Before the public announcement, president of baseball operations Michael Hill, manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. delivered the news of his selection:
Alcantara is lined up to start on the road Wednesday against the Nationals. He would be fully rested to pitch in next Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic (televised on FOX).
It’s a nice PR win for the Marlins considering that Alcantara was one of the “peanuts” received from the Cardinals in the December 2017 Marcell Ozuna trade. The other prospects involved were outfielder Magneuris Sierra, right-hander Zac Gallen—currently occupying another spot in the Marlins major league rotation—and left-hander Daniel Castano.
Ozuna, meanwhile, is on the injured list with a fractured finger and has not been an All-Star in either of his seasons in St. Louis. The Cardinals missed the postseason in 2018. At 41-41 entering Monday, they once again look to be more of an average team than a contending one despite high expectations.
Alcantara joins Álex González (1999), Dontrelle Willis (2003), Dan Uggla (2006) and José Fernández (2013) as the only rookie All-Stars in franchise history. He performed especially well from mid-May through mid-June. His shutout of the Mets on May 19 remains the only complete game by a Marlins starter in 2019.
His combination of velocity and movement hasn’t translated to many strikeouts, but those factors do keep opposing batters off balance. That helps him avoid the barrel of the bat and results in plenty of weak contact (81st percentile among MLB pitchers in hard hit rate). At a time when the league-wide home run rate is at an all-time high, Alcantara has allowed only nine long balls.
With that being said, nobody would confuse Alcantara for the most valuable player on the Marlins through the first half of 2019. That distinction would go to either Brian Anderson or Miguel Rojas, steady all-around players who have been even better than usual lately. Garrett Cooper is emerging as the most productive bat in the lineup, though missing nearly half of the team’s games due to injury certainly affected his case. Caleb Smith was the clear ace of the Marlins rotation through a month-and-a-half before hip inflammation contributed to some struggles and landed him on the IL (Smith is expected to rejoin the Marlins on this road trip).
Anyway, congrats to Sandy!