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2020 Marlins Season Preview: Sterling Sharp

Sharp brings his unique swagger and sinker/changeup combination to the Marlins organization.

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Photo by Jennifer Stewart/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The annual tradition has returned. Leading up to Opening Day, Fish Stripes will be previewing the 2020 Marlins season, one player at a time. Find every article of the series here.

Where Did He Come From? The Marlins acquired right-hander Sterling Sharp from the Washington Nationals in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft, selecting him with the third overall pick.

2019 Performance

3.53 ERA | 2.63 FIP | 2.87 xFIP | 1.30 WHIP | 58.2 IP (Double-A/Short Season A/Rookie levels combined)

Sharp began his age-24 season with Double-A Harrisburg and pitched to a 63.3% ground ball rate during his nine starts there, the third-highest rate in the entire Eastern League (min. 40 IP). Yusniel Díaz, one of the top prospects in the Baltimore Orioles system, was the only opponent to hit a home run against him during the regular season.

An oblique injury wiped out Sharp’s summer and prevented him from gaining Triple-A experience. He returned to the mound in mid-August, but was limited to minor league rehab starts.

To compensate for his injury absence, the Nats sent Sharp to the Arizona Fall League. He excelled—1.50 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 24 K in 24.0 IP (six starts)—while helping the Surprise Saguaros to an AFL Championship Game berth. His teammates and manager praised his character and pitch mix (via Emily Waldon, The Athletic).

The only blemish on his fall league record? Sharp entered the Championship Game in relief, loading the bases for Marlins outfielder Jerar Encarnación, who obliterated an inside fastball for a no-doubt, go-ahead grand slam.

Generally speaking, though, Sharp can be trusted to keep balls in play thanks to his sinker. Despite below-average velocity—sits 88-91 miles per hour—he’s able the generate impressive vertical movement. The pitch registers a spin rate around 1,900 RPM; that’s similar to Mike Montgomery and the recently retired Brad Ziegler, according to Statcast.

FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline both project Sharp’s changeup as a plus offering in the majors, with Eddy Almaguer of Prospects Live crediting his “deceptively quick arm speed” for keeping batters off balance.

The x-factor for Sharp is his low-80s slider. Finding more consistency with that pitch should result in more swinging strikes.

Off The Field

Not officially a big leaguer yet and Sharp already has his own logo?!

For all the concerns about how Major League Baseball struggles to market its individual players, Sharp won’t have that issue.

His athleticism is atypical for this sport—he could’ve potentially had a professional basketball career if he put his mind to it.

Sharp made his collegiate debut with Eastern Michigan University, but later transferred to Drury University. Sound familiar? That’s where ex-Marlins right-hander Trevor Richards attended. Richards graduated (and went undrafted) after the 2015 season, while Sharp was a 22nd-round pick the following year. Both of them learned from pitching coach Eric Peterson.

In 2019, Sharp partnered with the Detroit Police Athletic League to introduce the Sharpest Player of the Year award, supporting African American youth players in the Detroit metro area.

“Whenever I would see these black professional athletes give back to the community, I told myself I’m going to do that one day,” Sharp said during the award ceremony in August.
Andrea Ray/Detroit PAL

This past offseason, Sharp got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Chloe.

For more about Sharp’s hobbies, musical taste and reaction to becoming a Marlin, please read Tyler Wilson’s Q&A with him.

Follow Sharp on Twitter (@DatDude_Ster42) and Instagram (@datdude_ster).

2020 Expectations

This is the third straight winter that the Marlins have selected pitcher(s) in the Rule 5 Draft with plans to carry them in the major league bullpen. Barring an injury in Spring Training, Sharp should crack the 2020 Opening Day roster. Initially, expect him to get reps as a low-leverage reliever.

Marlins Rule 5 Draft picks under new ownership (2017-Present)

Year Name Position Acquired From Still with Marlins?
Year Name Position Acquired From Still with Marlins?
2017 Brett Graves RHP Oakland Athletics Yes
2017 Elieser Hernandez RHP Houston Astros Yes
2018 Riley Ferrell RHP Houston Astros No
2019 Sterling Sharp RHP Washington Nationals Yes

Two seasons ago, Sharp worked 148 13 innings in the Nationals organization, so if he does wind up in the Marlins starting rotation during the season, there shouldn’t be much concern about managing his workload. Due to unusual circumstances with their Triple-A affiliate, the Nats rostered many MLB vets in Harrisburg in 2019. That allowed him to pick the brains of players who have been through the thrills and adversity that comes with competing in The Show.

Physically and mentally, Sterling Sharp is ready for this challenge.

2020 Steamer projection: 3.95 ERA | 4.07 FIP | 4.27 xFIP | 1.35 WHIP | 0.2 fWAR | 35.0 IP