Unanimous: Alcantara 1st Marlin to win NL Cy Young

November 17th, 2022

MIAMI -- At the age of 8, Sandy Alcantara decided to become a pitcher full time.

Though the Little Leaguer enjoyed showing off his arm in the outfield of La Luisa Blanca in Monte Plata, Dominican Republic, he had never been a particularly good hitter. So Alcantara remained on the mound, throwing the ball toward home plate around 35 mph.

On Wednesday night, Alcantara became the first Marlin to capture the National League Cy Young Award after receiving 210 points and all 30 of the first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Braves southpaw Max Fried finished second (72 points) and Dodgers lefty Julio Urías finished third (66 votes). Alcantara is the third Dominican-born pitcher to win a Cy Young Award overall (Bartolo Colon in 2005 and Pedro Martinez in 2000, 1999 and '97). Martinez, Alcantara’s childhood hero, made the announcement.

“It means a lot, not just being the first Marlin -- [it] being my first one has made me feel so special,” Alcantara said, “because I came here to the Marlins with my positive mentality to try to win, try to compete, try to get better. This year, I put [in] everything, working hard, and you guys can see I got great success. And now I won the National League Cy Young. I feel so happy and blessed.”

In 32 starts, Alcantara posted the second-lowest ERA in the NL (2.28) with MLB highs for innings (228 2/3) and complete games (six) -- both marks the most in the Majors in six years. It marked the first time in AL/NL history that a pitcher threw more complete games than every club that season. Despite his MLB-low 14.20 pitches per inning, the 27-year-old righty was the first pitcher in franchise history to record consecutive 200-strikeout seasons. Because of all this, Alcantara accumulated the most WAR -- via FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference -- of the CYA finalists.

After a mediocre six-start stretch (3.03 ERA) to open his 2022 campaign, Alcantara turned the corner over an All-Star summer with 13 consecutive outings of at least seven innings. During that span, he recorded two of his complete games, including a thriller against his former club on June 29. When the NL-best Dodgers chased him in Los Angeles on Aug. 21, he went the distance in a rematch his next time out in Miami. Alcantara, who didn't pitch in the regular-season finale because of his workload, finished with complete games in two of his last three starts.

"I remember everything," Alcantara said. "But I think the part I will never forget is this day, to hear my name from Pedro's mouth. ... Winning the National League Cy Young made my day -- it's something that we'll never forget.”

Assistant general manager Brian Chattin, a member of the Marlins for 25 years, compared Alcantara's historic performance with seasons from Kevin Brown (1996), Dontrelle Willis (2005) and José Fernández ('13). All three finished in the top 3 of NL Cy Young voting their respective years.

"I was there for Dontrelle, and it was similar by way of -- you felt like when Sandy was on the mound, you were going to be in the game, the bullpen was going to get a break, and it was going to be a fun game to watch," Chattin told MLB.com. "Both of those guys had turned in years where they were such stabilizing parts of the club in so many ways."

Chattin first watched Alcantara pitch on a back field in 2015 because buzz had reached the Marlins' side of the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex they share with the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., where the teenager dominated opposing batters. Miami's scouting department quickly put Alcantara on the club’s radar, identifying him as a player of high interest. A trade finally aligned with St. Louis on Dec. 14, 2017, making the then-No. 6 prospect Alcantara the centerpiece of a five-player trade involving Marcell Ozuna.

Front office members and coaches alike believed the lanky Alcantara -- raw but oozing with potential -- could blossom into a star because of his intangibles. His commitment to the craft has become unparalleled, between off-field preparation in the weight room and advanced scouting.

"Whatever his ceiling was going to be, he was going to reach it," Chattin said.

Catcher Jacob Stallings knew something special was brewing while catching Alcantara during the 2022 lockout at Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Although pitchers are usually ahead of batters that time of year, Alcantara was unhittable. 

The 2021 Gold Glove Award winner whom Miami acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh on Dec. 1 to handle the pitching staff, Stallings quickly developed a rapport with the Marlins’ ace. Surprised by how reserved Alcantara was, Stallings bonded over their shared Christian beliefs. Before starts, Stallings could find a quiet Alcantara at his locker listening to the religious music of his late mother, Francisca.

By season's end, Stallings had caught all 3,248 pitches thrown by Alcantara. Only three other Cy Young Award winners pitched exclusively to one backstop:

2019: Justin Verlander -- Robinson Chirinos
1993: Greg Maddux -- Damon Berryhill
1977: Steve Carlton -- Tim McCarver

"[What was most impressive] I think, is whenever you have a guy doing things that nobody in the league is really doing or nobody in the league has done for a few years," Stallings told MLB.com. "Just with what he was doing and the bulk of innings that he was throwing and how deep into games he was throwing, but then still being as effective as he was. I know that his ERA wasn't historic or anything, but just with the way he pitched -- how effective he was -- I would think it was one of the best years in quite a while."

Stallings credits Alcantara's balanced four-pitch mix, while pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. praised mastering count management for his evolution into excellence. Both skills allowed Alcantara to find another gear later in games, as evidenced by his three pitches of 100-plus mph in the ninth inning this year.

"It was something that we all kind of dreamed of him getting to, and he's bought in," said Stottlemyre, who made Alcantara his first call upon joining the Marlins in 2019. "He knows who he is as a pitcher, and that's getting all these guys to that point to figure out who they are, how they work, understanding the ups and downs of this game and still competing and keeping yourself in games when your stuff is not good. ... Besides watching him work every day, and the time that he puts into that and how diligent and disciplined he is with all of that, that's amazing to get to that point."