JUPITER, Fla. -- With little fanfare on a back field Thursday morning, Marlins top prospect Sixto Sanchez took a giant step forward in getting ready to make his Double-A debut.
The 20-year-old right-hander, ranked No. 26 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, threw two scoreless innings in an intrasquad scrimmage on Field 2 of the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex. May 2 is the tentative target date for Sanchez to join the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp rotation.
Thursday was Sanchez’s first game action of the spring, and second time he faced hitters since he was acquired by the Marlins from the Phillies as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade. Recently, he had a live batting practice session with hitters in the box. Also in that trade, Miami landed catcher Jorge Alfaro, and lefty prospect Will Stewart, and $250,000 international bonus money. Stewart is Miami’s No. 21 prospect.
“I feel great,” Sanchez said through an interpreter.
Those three words carry a lot of weight, because Sanchez’s 2018 season was cut short in June due to right elbow inflammation. He also didn’t appear in the Arizona Fall League because of left collarbone concerns.
Physically, Sanchez is healthy. That was clear on Thursday morning as his fastball topped at 98 mph, and his changeup was 88-90 mph.
Playing it safe, the Marlins are building Sanchez up gradually. He started his throwing program later than the rest of the pitchers in Minor League camp.
In a controlled setting, Sanchez threw 24 pitches in two innings, not allowing a run. He struck out one, and had a walk, while allowing two infield singles.
The power fastball was evident, even from where Marlins outfield prospect Victor Mesa Jr. stood in center field.
“He looked very good,” said Mesa Jr., a teammate of Sanchez’s on Thursday. “There’s a reason why he’s our No. 1 prospect. From back there, he looked very dominant, throwing strikes.”
Mesa Jr. is ranked No. 29 on Miami’s Top 30 prospect list.
Not yet on the 40-man roster, Sanchez is not expected to join the Marlins this season. When he is ready, he is a top-of-the-rotation talent.
Because he threw 46 2/3 innings a year ago, Sanchez will be on an innings limit this year. It likely will be in the 75-100 range.
“Every time I go out to the mound, I’m looking to throw strikes, work on my command and stay focused on my fastball, slider, curveball,” Sanchez said. “Anything I have that day. I was very focused on throwing my fastball down low, and outside. I feel very grateful. I feel very excited. I look very forward to what’s coming up in the next couple of weeks.”