Sixto Sánchez made us feel that the bright future for the Marlins is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER! The Dominican impressed on the mound in his highly anticipated MLB debut and remained in Miami’s starting rotation the rest of the way. Now that the 2020 season is over, it’s time to evaluate how good he was in his first campaign as a big leaguer.
After being lights out in the minors during his first year as a Marlin in 2019, Sánchez came up from the alternate training site and started his first MLB game on August 22. Through five innings against the Nationals that start, he allowed six hits and three earned runs, including two home runs. Imperfect yet encouraging due to the quality of his stuff.
But right after that, he shined with seven scoreless frames of six hits, only one walk, and 10 punchouts vs. the Rays. In fact, from August 28 to September 13, he cruised with 27 frames, in which he surrendered 18 hits and three total runs, along with five bases on balls and 25 strikeouts (1.00 ERA, .494 OPS).
Sixto dominated. He did struggle in some of his outings, but advanced statistics show he’s real. The Dominican righty registers better-than-average numbers in exit velocity (87.8 MPH), launch angle (4.3º), and BB% (7.0). One of the things I liked most about his 2020 performance was his ground ball percentage: 58.0% (league average is 45.3). Keeping balls in the infield and preventing hard contact suggests he should have a lower BABIP than his rookie season .303 mark.
Regarding his repertoire, Sánchez proved that his four-seam fastball and his changeup can both be plus pitches. The former (23.8% usage) led to a .217 batting average and even though it generated a .565 slugging percentage, it helped to make his changeup even more successful. This latter pitch gave Sixto great results, with opponents batting 8-for-54—all singles—and 18 of his 33 strikeouts (55%).
As if it wasn’t enough, he stymied the Cubs in the National League Wild Card Series with five scoreless innings of four hits, two walks, and six punchouts, before getting pounded by the Braves (3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER) in the NLDS to bring his season to an end.
- Sixto had notable success against lefties: .232/.270/.261 slash line in 74 plate appearances. Only two of his 16 hits allowed were extra-base hits (two doubles).
- According to Baseball-Reference, opponents hit for a .125 average on fly balls off Sánchez (three singles in 24 at-bats).
- If you remove his two starts against the Nationals (9 IP, 14 H, 8 ER), his ERA was 2.10 across 30 frames.
High Points: Throwing seven scoreless and punching out 10 vs. the Rays on August 28; six shutout innings of three hits and six strikeouts at Atlanta on September 8; five scoreless against the Cubs in the NLWC on October 2
Recently, Don Mattingly announced that Sandy Alcántara, Pablo López, and Elieser Hernández are the only three pitchers to have a secured spot in next year’s Opening Day starting rotation. He added youngsters Sánchez and Trevor Rogers have to earn their way in.
Sánchez, who won’t turn 23 until July 29, will need to report to spring training in better shape than he did in 2020. It’ll be crucial for him to have a good showing in camp during exhibition games. Even that may not be enough—expect the Marlins to conservatively manage his workload considering that his career-high workload for a single season is only 114 innings pitched.
In 2021, Sánchez will be one of the most exciting figures on the Marlins. It’s true he’ll need to battle to earn a rotation spot, but he can finish the regular season as the Marlins unquestionable ace. It all depends on how a more mature Sánchez can perform throughout a full season—it’s up to him!