Being selected to represent your team and city at the All-Star Game is always a special honor, regardless of whether you are voted in or chosen as a team's lone representative. While some will say that Miguel Rojas was snubbed—he even received a glowing recommendation from manager Don Mattingly before the announcement—Sandy Alcantara performed admirably for the Marlins in the season's first half, pitching to a 3.82 ERA over 17 starts in his first full big league season.
Since then, though, things have gone downhill in a hurry for the young Dominican. He has allowed 24 runs over 34 1⁄3 innings since the Midsummer Classic despite coming off a nice start against the Braves on Sunday (7.2 IP, 3 ER). On the season, Alcantara has produced a 4.44 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 1.44 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, and 4.3 BB/9.
To put it bluntly, those numbers are nowhere near good enough for a pitcher being dubbed as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter. The inconsistency and lack of command are two glaringly obvious issues that need to be ironed out if he is to have any chance of succeeding at the major league level long term. For Marlins pitchers who have started more than five games this season, Alcantara sports the second-worst batting average against (.254), WHIP, K/9, and BB/9. The only pitcher with consistently worse peripherals on the team is José Ureña (the debate regarding his future with Miami can be saved for another time). On a broader scale, Sandy does not rank inside the top 50 qualified pitchers in baseball in any significant category outside of innings pitched.
However, he has made arguably the two best starts for the team this season—eight scoreless innings against the Rockies on March 31, and complete game shutout of the Mets on May 19. In those cases, Alcantara showed that when he is able to command the strike zone and miss bats, he can be extremely effective.
What is frustrating is that those occasions are few and far between. Alcantara's inability to consistently paint the corners and hit his spots is leading to opposing hitters feasting on his get-me-over pitches when he is behind in the count. When the 23 year-old does fall behind hitters, they are slashing .286/.515/.514.
One silver lining is that Alcantara is only 23. He has time to continue to improve and adapt to major league hitters. While the Marlins should be concerned that his numbers are trending in the wrong direction as the season progresses, it is not time to hit the panic button just yet. The durability he has shown thus far should grant him a few more opportunities to turn this narrative around before the regular season comes to an end.
That starts tonight, when the Marlins take on the Rockies in Denver. Even though Alcantara dominated Colorado in his first start of the year, they have an MLB-best .893 OPS and 378 runs scored at home due to playing at the homer-happy Coors Field.
Will Alcantara build upon his strong showing last time out? Hopefully so, as he has a lot to prove over the next six weeks.