Eight days still remain until the Miami Marlins take the field for their first non-intra-squad Spring Training contest.
The Miami Marlins management group and coaching staff need to settle on a final 26-man roster from amongst the 65 players in camp. Nearly all of the finished product is likely already included on the present 40-man roster, with a few outliers perhaps lucky and good enough to break camp with the team.
In part 2 of our 40-man roster preview, we take a look at the Miami Marlins only player selected to join the 2019 National League All Star team, starting right-handed pitcher Sandy Alcantara.
Alcantara is a six-foot-four soon-to-be four-year veteran out of Azua, DR. Although last season was the third in which he appeared in the majors, 2019 was considered his “rookie” campaign.
In 2017 while still with the St. Louis Cardinals, Alcantara made his major league debut with eight relief appearances. He posted a 1.800 WHIP in 8 1/3 innings, but did strike out 10 batters for a not-again approachable 10.8 K/9.
In 2018, Alcantara showed flashes of what he could do, striking out 30 in 34 frames over six starts, with a 2-3 record, a 113 ERA+, and a better-but-still-not-good 1.412 WHIP. In his best start of the season on September 5th, he held the Philadelphia Phillies to three hits and a pair of walks over seven shutout innings, striking out six. He whiffed 10 in seven frames in the Marlins final game of the season, a tough-luck 1-0 loss to the New York Mets.
In 2019, Alcantara was the only pitcher on the team to remain in the rotation through the entire season, making 32 starts. As the unofficial “ace” of the staff, he racked up a misleading 6-14 record, but dropped his WHIP to 1.318 with 151 K’s in 197 1/3 innings. His two shutouts were tied for best in the majors, and he led the Miami Marlins pitching staff with a WAR mark of 2.9.
According to Statcast, Alcantara is reliant on a nice five-pitch mix, led by his 96 MPH four-seamer, which he throws about 30 percent of the time. He fills out his repertoire with a sinker (28 percent), a slider (21 percent), the change (12 percent), and a still-somewhat nascent curveball (nine percent). Statcast also lists the Atlanta Braves Mike Foltynewicz and the Cincinnati Reds Luis Castillo as two pitchers most similar to Alcantara, based on velocity and movement.
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Batters barreled up on Alcantara on 6.5 percent of pitches, which led to a manageable HR/9 of 1.0. Opposing batter splits show that left-handers hit him better than righties, but only by a small margin. Where left handers hold a significant advantage over right handers is in Sandy’s propensity to walk them at far greater rates. He holds a 2.47 K/BB versus right-handers, and a less tenable 1.47 mark versus left-handers.
At the end of last season, Alcantara was trending the right way – if you’re a Marlins’ fan. Over the last two months of the season, he limited the opposition to a .207/.271/.324 slashline, with an all-star worthy .595 OPS no doubt aided in part by his unsustainably low .243 BAbip.
Alcantara remains the staff ace at present, at least until one of these hot-shot up-and-comers knocks him off the throne. The exciting quartet of Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, Trevor Rogers, and Braxton Garrett all figure to make their major league debuts between this season and next. With Alcantara on board, it’s possible the Marlins starting five could be something special in the near future.
Alcantara figures to remain atop the Marlins rotation through this season at least, and he should start somewhere around another 32 games, health allowing. Happy Valentine’s Day, thanks for reading, and check back tomorrow for our read on Jorge Alfaro.