Alcantara quickly becoming one of baseball's best pitchers

June 1st, 2022

The following story written by Manny Randhawa was excerpted from Christina De Nicola's Marlins Beat Newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Nobody in the Majors has thrown more innings this season (67 2/3) than the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara. Only teammate Pablo López, the Padres’ Joe Musgrove and reigning Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes of the Brewers have a lower ERA in the National League than Alcantara’s 2.00. Alcantara’s 1.5 fWAR (FanGraphs) ranks only behind Musgrove and the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler in the NL (1.7 each).

What we’re watching unfold is the early career of one of baseball’s best starting pitchers, and possibly the best starting pitcher many in the broader baseball world have never heard of. Alcantara, who signed a five-year, $56 million extension last December, is on track to earn his second All-Star selection, and if the 26-year-old right-hander continues to do what he’s done over the first two months of the 2022 campaign, we’re talking about a Cy Young Award contender.

Alcantara has gone at least eight innings in each of his past three starts, including a complete game against the Braves on May 22, and a masterful eight-inning performance last Saturday in Atlanta, when he struck out a career-high-tying 14 batters.

"He’s something else, and it’s almost impossible when you get him in a four o’clock game with the shadows and everything," Braves manager Brian Snitker said following Saturday’s contest. "He’s so hard to hit anyways. Then, when that comes, it’s almost impossible."

Alcantara is the first pitcher to have three consecutive starts of eight or more innings since Gerrit Cole accomplished the feat in 2019. Prior to Alcantara this season, no Marlins pitcher had done it since Dontrelle Willis all the way back in 2005.

With a four-seam fastball that touches triple digits on the radar, along with a changeup, slider and sinker, Alcantara has been one of the most dominant starters in the game since 2020. Pitching for the rebuilding Marlins means he hasn’t gotten the fanfare that others in his echelon have, but Alcantara posted a 3.16 ERA (135 ERA+) over 40 starts from 2020-21.

And Alcantara is a workhorse, not only leading the Majors in innings so far this year, but also finishing last season as one of only four pitchers to throw more than 200 innings (205 2/3). He even seems to get stronger the longer he goes into a start, as evidenced most recently by a 100 mph fastball for his 14th strikeout of the game.

“I actually do think he gets better [as the game goes on],” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said after that performance. “He was a little rough early on, but then he finally got that groove that we talk about where it’s like he’s going 75 mph on the highway.”

If Alcantara continues to improve the way Mattingly sees him improving in his starts, it’s going to be a long season for opposing hitters. And it might just land Alcantara some hardware in the fall.