Marlins' bright future set to enter spotlight

Sanchez, Stewart and Mesa brothers highlight prospects in Minor League camp

March 4th, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- A focus on the future is set to begin for the Marlins on the back fields at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex.

Tuesday marks the opening of Minor League camp, with players from all the organization’s affiliates participating in drills.

Sixto Sanchez, the Marlins' top prospect, will be experiencing his first Spring Training with Miami. Acquired in early February from the Phillies as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade, Sanchez is a hard-throwing right-hander who is rated by MLB Pipeline as the 27th overall prospect.

Left-hander Will Stewart, also in the Realmuto trade, is Miami's No. 22 prospect. Also going through Spring Training for the first time with the Marlins are outfield prospects Victor Victor Mesa and his brother Victor Mesa Jr.

"We know right now a lot of the focus on the Miami Marlins is on player development because of all the prospects we've acquired," said Gary Denbo, the Marlins' vice president of player development and scouting. "With our players, we're going to let them know that. The focus is on you. The focus is on the future of this organization."

Since Bruce Sherman took over ownership of the Marlins after the 2017 season, the commitment has been made to build the organization from the Minor Leagues on up.

On MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Marlins prospect list, eight of the top 10, and 20 players overall, have been added since Sherman's group took over.

"There is opportunity here," Denbo said. "We're going to try to make sure everybody understands there is great opportunity out there, ahead of them. All they need to do is focus on fundamentals. Focus on their individual objectives. Focus on doing things the right way, every day. Doing all those things. There should be opportunity available."

Sanchez will be among the most followed players in camp. But he also is a player the Marlins are handling carefully.

Due to right elbow inflammation, the 20-year-old was limited to 46 2/3 innings at Class A Advanced Clearwater last year.

Sanchez was acquired on Feb. 7, so he is getting acclimated with the organization, and he is not being rushed.

"He was a little bit behind when he came into camp in terms of being on a set throwing program that we have all of our pitchers in the organization on over the offseason," Denbo said. "We need to build his innings back up, obviously. So he's probably going to be, right out of the gate, starting out down here in extended spring, rather than starting with a club."

Sanchez will be on a to-be-determined innings limit for the season.

"He's on a limited innings total this year anyway," Denbo said. "We're going to build him up slowly and make sure that he's 100 percent healthy, and ready to compete. We'll get him going during extended spring [camp] and work him up to probably five innings, before we send him out."

Sanchez's fastball is in the 95-100 mph range, and the Marlins also targeted him because he is a strike thrower. At Clearwater last year, he had 45 strikeouts and 11 walks in eight starts.

"The first thing that catches everyone's attention is the velocity," Denbo said. "This guy is throwing anywhere from 95-100 mph. But with that, the one thing that he has that not many people do have is the ability to throw strikes with that type of velocity. When you add in the fact he has two above-average secondary pitches, then you have the makings of a potential top-of-the-rotation starter."

The Marlins also see tremendous potential in Stewart, who was the top lefty prospect in the Phillies' system.

Even before the Realmuto trade, Marlins director of player personnel Dan Greenlee had identified Stewart as a potential trade target. The left-hander was 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 20 starts at low Class A last year.

"The deception makes him tough on lefties," Denbo said. "The fastball movement makes him tough on righties. He’s got two secondary pitches we think have a chance to be above average. We think he's got a chance to fit into our Major League rotation sooner rather than later."

Victor Victor Mesa, Miami's No. 2 prospect, is dealing with a right hamstring strain, and he has yet to begin baseball activities.

"His rehab is coming along just fine," Denbo said. "It's just a normal course. I’m not sure when he's going to be back on the field yet."

Mesa Jr., a 17-year-old, is a promising left-handed hitter.

"He's athletic," Denbo said. "He's a left-hander hitter I think has a chance down the road to hit for power. He shows potential for hitability. He's a good-looking young player, but he hasn't played in a couple of years now in organized games. He's going to have to come in here to compete for a position, and we'll see where that all shakes out at the end of Spring Training."