Alcantara looks to lead, mentor Marlins in '21

Bass: Marlins 'going to be a sleeper bullpen'

February 18th, 2021

Though he's only 25, Sandy Alcantara is the most experienced arm in the Marlins' projected 2021 rotation. With 45 big league starts to his name, the right-hander has taken on the mantle of leading the organization into perennial contention.

"I want to be the leader. It doesn't matter how young I am," Alcantara said on Zoom on Thursday. "I think I've got too much experience. I've been pitching for four years now. I'm going to keep working hard to keep getting experience and help my team."

As part of this undertaking, the Marlins have asked Alcantara to mentor top prospect Sixto Sánchez, whom the franchise expects big things from for a long time. The 22-year-old Sánchez debuted in 2020, showing flashes of his ace potential across seven regular-season starts and Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series. Among the other top prospects in camp at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., to catch Alcantara's eye are righties Max Meyer (No. 3) and Edward Cabrera (No. 6).

Miami has built its system on strong starting pitching depth, and the club believes that is its ticket to being competitive every year. Validation of the process came last season, when the franchise snapped a 17-year playoff drought, despite roster turnover following a COVID-19 outbreak. Alcantara, who threw 30 pitches on Thursday during the first Spring Training workout for pitchers and catchers, was the start of the transition in 2017 as the centerpiece of the Marcell Ozuna trade. Entering his fourth season with Miami, Alcantara wants to be the role model, the workhorse for a young staff.

"There's a lot of young guys coming behind me, and they're going to follow me," said Alcantara, who wants to throw 200-plus innings in 2021. "I've got to keep doing a great thing and keep showing them they can be like me, too."

I want to be a contender
Entering free agency this offseason, right-hander Anthony Bass wanted stability after playing for a different club (including one in Japan) in each of the past five years. He also sought to join a contender after reaching the playoffs with the Blue Jays in 2020. The Marlins proved to be a fit for Bass, who is one of the key pieces of a revamped bullpen that includes newcomers Ross Detwiler, Dylan Floro, John Curtiss, Adam Cimber and Zach Pop.

"I think we're going to be a sleeper bullpen," Bass said. "Honestly, it reminds me a lot of kind of where the bullpen was last year, where I came from. We weren't expected to be the best, and I think we were one of the better bullpens in baseball."

Bass, who threw all three of his offerings across a 15-20-pitch bullpen session on Thursday, is a candidate to close after leading the Blue Jays with seven saves in 2020. Asked whether he had been told there would be a closer competition with various late-inning options on the roster, Bass said he hadn't heard anything.

"I'm just going into camp really focusing on getting my body in shape, and prepared for whatever [manager Don Mattingly] needs me," Bass said. "Whether it's the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth. That's up to him, but I know my job when I go on the mound is put up a zero, whether it's the sixth or the ninth. So that's all my focus is, and I hope that there is competition, because when there's competition, that's usually a healthy thing for a group of arms in the bullpen."

Feels good to be wanted
On Wednesday, Miami general manager Kim Ng noted that right-hander Floro was one of the ballclub's top offseason targets. When the Marlins acquired the reliever last Friday from the Dodgers, she was the first to call.

What made Floro so sought after? In 2020, he posted elite numbers for exit velocity, xERA, hard-hit percentage, barrel percentage and walk rate. With the addition of the three-batter-minimum rule, Floro made a conscious effort to use his changeup more (21.6 percent in '20 from 3.8 percent in '19) because he expected to face more southpaws. Of the 80 changeups he threw, 63 came against lefty batters. It paid off, as hitters slugged just .167 against the pitch -- and it recorded the highest whiff rate (31.1) of his four offerings

"I feel really comfortable with it," Floro said. "I needed to come up with another pitch that just helps get the hitters off my two-seam, and I started focusing on the changeup."

The 30-year-old, who threw 20 pitches in a bullpen session on Thursday, is excited for the chance to prove himself, particularly in the late innings. It's an opportunity he didn't get much of with the stacked World Series champion Dodgers. Yimi García, a former teammate of his in Los Angeles, was in the same situation until joining Miami in 2020.

"For the most part they show up and they stay relaxed," Floro said of what he learned in L.A. "Just go up there and be accountable for yourself and when you go on the field. You can control what you can control, but be accountable when you get a chance to execute that one pitch. Take advantage of it, and you get ahead, get ahead early. Just everything was pretty much hold yourself accountable. When you get the chance to get in there and help the ballclub, and that that's all you can do."

Worth noting
A source told that three Marlins pitchers and catchers are not yet at camp: Jeff Brigham (60-day IL), Santiago Chavez (delayed in Mexico) and Sánchez (delayed in Dominican Republic). The club expects the trio in Jupiter on Friday to start the intake process, with the hope that all three will be on the field at the start of next week.