MIAMI -- A few weeks ago, Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Guzman and Braxton Garrett were part of a promising pitching staff at Double-A Jacksonville. Each is among the Marlins’ top prospects, each has a chance to make the leap to the big leagues in 2020 and each was recognized on Friday as part of the Marlins Minor League Award winners.
On Friday night, the touted prospects got a glimpse of what to expect at the next level as honored guests of the organization. Each had his own locker designated in the Marlins’ clubhouse, and each took part in a ceremony prior to Miami’s 6-4 loss to the Nationals.
“With all the hard work that we’re doing, I feel like I’m almost here,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “Hopefully, that’s going to be the case next year.”
Sanchez (the Marlins’ No. 1 prospect, and No. 23 overall, per MLB Pipeline) received the Double-A Jacksonville Most Valuable Player Award, while Garrett (Miami’s No. 7 prospect) was named as the Class A Advanced Jupiter MVP. Guzman (the Marlins’ No. 16 prospect), who spent the entire season at Jacksonville, was honored as the Student of the Year.
The Minor League Awards were overshadowed a bit because the Marlins also announced they were extending the contract of manager Don Mattingly for two more years, and that shortstop Miguel Rojas had signed a two-year contract extension.
Also honored as Marlins Minor League Award winners were:
• Staff Member of the Year: Robert Rodriguez (Gulf Coast League manager)
• Community Service Member of the Year: RHP Matt Givin
• Triple-A New Orleans MVP: Isan Díaz (2B)
• Class A Clinton MVP: Peyton Burdick (OF; No. 28 prospect)
• Class A Short Season MVP: Nic Ready (INF)
• Gulf Coast League Marlins MVP: Víctor Mesa Jr. (OF; No. 27 prospect)
• Dominican Summer League MVP: Jandel Paulino (OF)
Even in a 100-loss season at the big league level for the Marlins, the organization is confident it has a bright future thanks to a vastly improved farm system, ranked fourth overall by MLB Pipeline.
Sanchez, Garrett and Guzman all understand the Miami organization is stacked with starting pitching candidates, and each will develop at his own pace.
“I love it,” Garrett said. “I’m a competitor. As a competitor, I thrive on competing with others. Obviously, we have some of the best pitchers in the Minor Leagues. Also, I get to see them pitch every day. I get to work with them. I get to learn what they do and what their thought process is on other things. It helps in every way. In no way can it hinder me, if I do my best.”
Guzman, 23, made a case for a September callup. But after logging 138 2/3 innings at Jacksonville, the Marlins felt it was time to shut him down.
“I thought I was going to get the call at any time this month,” Guzman said in Spanish. “But it didn’t happen. I can’t get desperate because of that. I know there are some things I have to keep working on, and that’s [how] I’m going to use this offseason, to keep working, and hopefully make the team next year.”
Sanchez, acquired from the Phillies in February as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade, completed his first season in the Marlins organization, and the hard-throwing righty showed he was healthy after a right elbow issue limited him in 2018. The 21-year-old was 8-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 18 starts for Jacksonville, and he added two more starts at Jupiter. Overall, he was 8-6 with a 2.76 ERA in 20 starts and struck out 103 and walked 21 in 114 innings.
“I feel amazing, just to be able to throw that many innings, and be able to finish healthy,” Sanchez said. “My arm feels really strong right now.”
Garrett, 22, was the Marlins’ first-round Draft pick in 2016. The left-hander bounced back from Tommy John surgery, and was 6-6 with a 3.34 ERA in 105 innings at Jupiter.
Garrett finished up his season with a start at Jacksonville.
“I think my fastball command got better,” Garrett said. “It was a little shaky at the beginning, for sure. But I was just getting back. I had two years off. I’m pretty hard on myself, but I tried to give myself a little slack.”
Guzman rebounded from a slow first half, and went 3-1 with a 1.20 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 13 walks in 30 innings in August. For the season, he was 7-11 with a 3.50 ERA.
“That was my focus in the second half of the season, I started working on my control, and things started coming by themselves,” Guzman said. “All the good things that happened this year came by working hard.”