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Why Alcantara Deserves the Opening Day Nod

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The Marlins’ ace said he hopes to serve as a leader in 2021.

Division Series - Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves - Game One Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Sandy Alcantara’s 2020 season may have only been limited to 7 starts, but the first of the 2 additional ones that came in the Marlins’ first postseason appearance in 17 years cemented his place as a foundational piece to the next era of Marlins baseball. In Game 1 of the best-of-three Wild Card round, Alcantara delivered 6 23 innings of 1-run ball, limiting the division winning Chicago Cubs to 3 hits over 100 pitches.

Now, with the 2021 season on the horizon and a full slate of games on the schedule, Alcantara is saying all of the right things at the outset of Spring Training.

“I want to be a leader,” said Alcantara in his first meeting with reporters, via Zoom. “It doesn’t matter how young I am,” said the 25-year old right-hander.

Alcantara has 45 career starts at the big league level, tops among all pitchers on the Marlins active roster with the exception of Ross Detwiler (95 GS) who manager Don Mattingly says is only a relief option at this stage of his career. Fellow rotation mate Pablo López is not far behind at 42.

In 53 appearances over parts of four seasons, Alcantara owns a 3.71 ERA (115 ERA+) in 283 13 innings pitched.

While the Marlins have another burgeoning ace in Sixto Sánchez, who established himself at the major league level in 2020, Alcantara’s seniority—if one could even refer to it as such—merits his place to start Opening Day. Miami is set to open the 2021 season against the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays on April 1 at Marlins Park.

For Alcantara, the leadership he hopes to exude in the upcoming season, as well as his early playoff prowess, make him an appropriate mentor for the aforementioned Sánchez, the No. 1 prospect in the Marlins farm system. Debuting in late August last season, Sánchez was electric from the start, pitching to a 3.46 ERA (129 ERA+) over 7 starts, striking out 33 in 39 innings pitched. In his first postseason start, he hurled 5 scoreless albeit gutsy innings in the clinching game against the Cubs to send Miami to the National League Division Series, where they would lose to the Braves in 3 games.

Alcantara’s leadership isn’t merely confined to grooming Sánchez though. As the 2019 All-Star puts it, he aims for each of the up-and-coming arms on the staff to follow in his footsteps.

“There’s a lot of young guys coming behind me...I’ve got to keep doing the right thing and show them that they can be like me, too.”

Beyond being an aspiration figure for his fellow teammates, Alcantara has the stuff and track record to be the team’s choice to start the season opener. Per Baseball Savant, Alcantara, primarily a sinker-baller, finished 33rd among 280 qualified pitchers in average pitch velocity at 96.2.

Baseball Savant

While Sánchez will undoubtedly make his fair share of Opening Day starts in the future, Alcantara should be leading the Marlins into this new year.