Despite a losing record this past season, Sandy Alcantara has earned the right to be the Marlins Opening Day starter in 2020.
If the 2019 MLB season taught Sandy Alcantara anything, it may have been resiliency and being patient and a very trying situation. It’s not often you can look at a pitcher who has six wins and 14 losses and call him in Ace but that’s exactly what the Miami Marlins have as they prepare for next season.
If Alcantara had any kind of support from the lineup and a solid bullpen backing him up in late innings, who knows what kind of year he would have had, especially in the second half of the season.
"“He has turned the corner,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “The confidence has been building. For Sandy, our conversations have been about being aggressive. ‘Let’s get in the strike zone. Your stuff is good. Let’s go attack.’ You have to refine even that as you go along.”"
One of the things that stands out about Alcantara, 23, is his ability to pitch an entire season when it seemed every other starter in the rotation went down with some ailment at one point or another. This from the player who missed time in the second half of 2018, himself.
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"“It started with durability, with Alcantara able to make 32 starts. His 197 1/3 innings pitched set a Marlins’ rookie record and was the 17th most in the Majors. A year ago, the hard-throwing right-hander opened the season at Triple-A New Orleans, and after being promoted in late June, he missed more than two months with a right axillary infection,” writes Joe Frisaro.“Staying healthy wasn’t a concern this year, and Alcantara made steady strides, improving as the season rolled along. In his final seven starts, he had a 3.02 ERA, with 43 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.”"
The best thing is Alcantara really has not reached his full ability on the mound, which means 2020 could be a breakout season and a possible mention for Cy Young consideration. Yes, he was that good at times on the bump.
Caleb Smith, the Marlins leader in wins this past season with 10, is the only other arm the front office and coaching staff could consider as an ace and potential starter on Opening Day. But even with double-digit victories, the long ball cursed his season. Smith needs more balance between home and away games and consistency in staying in games longer with shorter pitch counts in the first five innings.
When you look at Alcantara, you see a thin, wiry pitcher trying to emulate Pedro Martinez. The Marlins can only hope to get that kind of production from the former St. Louis Cardinals prospect. As long as he stays focused, Alcantara can become a 15-17 winner and should be the team’s Opening Day starter in 2020.
"“It’s aggressiveness,” Mattingly said. “It’s [about] using his fastball, and that just sets everything up. Nowadays, you don’t see many guys do what he does. He’s more of a power/sink pitcher and his pitches run. Now, that’s kind of out of the game. To see him make the ball move the way it does, at those velocities. The changeup works off of it, and the slider is getting better.”"