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Offishial news, 3/19/21: Sandy starts Opening Day; MLB Pipeline hype

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For the second consecutive season, the 25-year-old All-Star gets top billing in the Marlins rotation.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

Counting down to April 1

Barring any freak injuries, the Rays vs. Marlins 2021 regular season opener will feature starting pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Sandy Alcantara. Don Mattingly finally confirmed the Alcantara news on Thursday when speaking with the media.

This comes as no surprise—Alcantara also took the ball for the Fish on Opening Day in 2020 and impressed during the shortened season despite missing a chunk of it after testing positive for COVID-19.

Always highly regarded as a prospect, the Dominican right-hander has matured before our eyes. The control issues that plagued him in 2018 and the first half of 2019 have been addressed. Alcantara has filled out his six-foot-five frame to help him maintain plus-plus velocity deep into his starts, and his confidence in using various pitch types in any count keeps opponents off balance.

For what it’s worth, Alcantara is thriving in the Grapefruit League. Through four starts (12.2 IP), he hasn’t allowed an earned run while striking out 37.3% of all batters faced.

Kyle Glaser of Baseball America made Alcantara his pick for breakout MLB pitcher of 2021. David Marcillo notes that Josh Beckett (2003, 2004 & 2005) and Josh Johnson (2010, 2011 & 2012) are the only Marlins pitchers to get the Opening Day nod more than twice. The Marlins say they’ve sold out their socially distanced tickets for the big game, but leave open the possibility that more could become available online in the coming days.

Pablo López and Elieser Hernandez are lined up to start the second and third regular season games, respectively.

Fourth-ranked farm

Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline describes the process by which the Marlins assembled one of baseball’s deepest reservoirs of young talent.

Pipeline’s updated Marlins Top 30—including scouting reports for each player—is here. Perhaps the biggest surprise is seeing OF Víctor Mesa Jr. vault way up to No. 13 on the strength of his 55 hit tool, tied with José Devers and JJ Bleday for best in the organization. According to MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola, RHP Jorge Guzman, RHP Breidy Encarnación, INF Cristhian Rodríguez and INF Osiris Johnson are leading candidates to make the cut in the coming months assuming several top-30 players stick on the Marlins active roster and graduate from prospect eligibility.

Walk-off links

  • Earlier this week on Aram’s Locked On MLB Prospects pod, he put the Marlins second in his farm system rankings.
  • Michael Simione of RotoGraphs went even bolder than we dared to, predicting an NL East title for Miami.
  • During Thursday’s media tour of Marlins Park, it was revealed that the fish tanks have been removed from behind home plate. Most of the early backlash I’ve seen is coming from baseball fans in other parts of the U.S. who neither attend nor even watch the team on a consistent basis.
  • Man On Second Baseball shines the spotlight on five Marlins who have flashed nice upside this spring, either in exhibition games or on the backfields.
  • New MLB mock draft from Prospects Live has the Marlins selecting Kansas State left-hander Jordan Wicks with the No. 16 overall pick.
  • The Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos have debuted this Future Fish t-shirt in honor of their minor league affiliation with the Marlins that begins this season.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos