Marlins’ Sixto Sanchez to begin 2021 season at alternate site, per report

Miami Marlins right-hander Sixto Sanchez, the seventh-place finisher in the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year voting and the team’s No. 2 starter in the postseason, will begin 2021 at the alternate site, reports Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald. He will continue building up there after being delayed by a false positive COVID-19 test earlier this spring.

“I don’t feel frustrated, but it was a weird feeling,” Sanchez told the Associated Press after making his spring debut on March 15. “That false positive spoiled my momentum, but I’m not that far behind. I just can’t pitch as many innings as the other guys.”

Sanchez has made only three starts this spring and has yet to throw more than 3 1/3 innings or 61 pitches in an outing. The Marlins have two off-days in the first nine days of the regular season and won’t need a No. 5 starter until April 14. That looks to be a good target date for Sixto to rejoin the rotation.

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Last year Sanchez, who came over in the J.T. Realmuto trade from the Phillies, threw 39 innings with a 3.46 ERA and a healthy 58.0 percent ground ball rate in seven starts. He also made two starts in the postseason. Our R.J. Anderson ranked Sanchez the No. 5 prospect in baseball earlier this month. Here’s his scouting report:

Sanchez was arguably the most exciting individual aspect of the Marlins’ season. He started seven times, amassing a 3.46 ERA and a 3.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 innings. The biggest concerns with Sanchez’s game entering the year were his size and his fastball’s effectiveness — despite good velocity, he’d never missed bats as expected. Sanchez will have to string together some 30-start seasons to fully put the former to concern; he did miss bats with his heat in the seven-game stretch, though opponents batted .368 against his sinker. In other words, the jury might still be out. Given the topline results, it might not matter.    

It’s understandable to think there are service-time shenanigans at play here, though that is unlikely the case. Service time was prorated last year and Sanchez accrued 103 days. He would need to spend 118 days in the minors this year to delay his free agency. It’s hard to think Miami would bury Sixto in the minors close to fourth months.

Sanchez, 22, has never thrown more than 114 innings in a season and the Marlins have said they will monitor his workload this year, and make sure he’s available late in the regular season and potentially in the postseason. They don’t want a Stephen Strasburg situation where they have to shut Sanchez down for workload reasons late in the year.

Sandy Alcantara will start Opening Day for the Marlins and will likely be followed by Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez, and Trevor Rogers in the rotation. Daniel Castano, Jordan Holloway, and Nick Neidert represent other rotation options should Sanchez be unavailable when the team needs a No. 5 starter.

The Marlins open the 2020 regular season at home against the Rays on April 1.

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