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The next great pitching star is in Miami

@_dadler
September 8, 2020

Sixto Sanchez has the "It" factor -- when you watch him on the mound, you can't help but get the feeling this kid is going to be the face of baseball in Miami for seasons to come. With his stuff and his flair, Sánchez is the most electric pitcher the

Sixto Sanchez has the "It" factor -- when you watch him on the mound, you can't help but get the feeling this kid is going to be the face of baseball in Miami for seasons to come.

With his stuff and his flair, Sánchez is the most electric pitcher the Marlins have had since the irreplaceable José Fernández. Fernández took baseball by storm as a 20-year-old; Sánchez is doing it at 22. The rookie right-hander has a 2.37 ERA and 19 strikeouts, and even three starts into his big league career, he has all the makings of the franchise's next great pitching star.

Just to give you a taste of how overpowering Sánchez has been so far, here's where he places on Statcast's expected ERA leaderboard. xERA tells you what a pitcher's ERA should look like based on his quality of contact allowed, strikeouts and walks. Sánchez currently ranks in the top five among starters.

Starting pitcher xERA leaders for 2020
Of SP with 70+ batters faced
1) Trevor Bauer (CIN): 2.22
2) Shane Bieber (CLE): 2.33
3) Jacob deGrom (NYM): 2.45
4) Sixto Sánchez (MIA): 2.53
5-T) Max Fried (ATL): 2.61
5-T) Kenta Maeda (MIN): 2.61

The Marlins look like they have something special on their hands. Sánchez is something to see. As he takes the mound again Tuesday for a big game against the first-place, NL East rival Braves, here's a look at the rare talent Sánchez has already shown.

He has triple-digit heat

Sánchez's first Major League pitch was 98.4 mph. His second pitch was 99.4 mph. His third pitch was 100.1 mph.

He didn't waste a batter before showing he has top-of-the-scale velocity. Sixto's first 100 on the radar gun made him the first Marlins starter to hit triple digits since the one and only Fernández, during a 14-strikeout game against the Dodgers on Sept. 9, 2016.

Sánchez has hit 100 seven more times since. In his second start, he blew away the Rays' Michael Perez with 100.1 mph heat, the fastest strikeout pitch by a Marlins starter in seven years -- since Nathan Eovaldi on Sept. 1, 2013.

Sánchez's four-seam fastball right now is averaging 98.5 mph. It's the fastest four-seamer of any starter in the Major Leagues.

Highest avg. 4-seam fastball velocity, SP, 2020
Minimum 50 thrown (156 pitchers)
1) Sixto Sánchez (MIA): 98.5 mph
2) Jacob deGrom (NYM): 98.4 mph
3-T) Luis Castillo (CIN): 97.5 mph
3-T) Dylan Cease (CWS): 97.5 mph
5-T) Sandy Alcantara (MIA): 97.1 mph
5-T) Nathan Eovaldi (BOS): 97.1 mph

It would also be the fastest four-seamer thrown by any Marlins starter in a season since the beginning of pitch tracking in 2008, by well over a full mph. Eovaldi, at 96.8 mph in 2013, and Fernandez, at 96.7 mph in 2015, are the closest to Sánchez's explosive velo.

His changeup is devastating

Sánchez has the perfect weapon to pair with his 98.5 mph fastball -- a wipeout change that comes in nearly 10 full mph slower on average, at 89.0 mph. Yes, Sánchez can break out a 100 mph fastball and 90 mph changeup, generating a combo of extreme velocity and significant velocity differential. In other words: he throws both pitches very hard, and together, they are very hard to hit.

While Sánchez's fastball was his best pitch by the scouting grades as he ascended to the top of Miami's prospect rankings, his changeup has been his out pitch at the big league level so far. That's what he's using to put hitters away -- 12 of his 19 strikeouts are on changeups, and when he throws it with two strikes, he strikes the hitter out 41% of the time, the second-highest rate in baseball to Brewers relief ace Devin Williams.

Make no mistake though: the fastball and changeup work together. Both pitches have lots of movement -- Sánchez's four-seamer breaks 3.9 inches more horizontally than an average four-seamer, and his changeup breaks 3.1 inches more horizontally than an average changeup (it also drops 1.6 inches more than average). They make a terrific combo.

Speaking of pitch combos ...

Sánchez throws a nasty sinker along with his four-seamer. And that sinker mimics his changeup even more closely.

Check this out: Sánchez's sinker averages 17.4 inches of horizontal break. His changeup averages 17.3 inches of horizontal break.

They have identical arm-side run, meaning they follow the same trajectory from left to right out of Sánchez's hand. But the changeup comes in 8 mph slower than his sinker, which is averaging 96.9 mph. So even though Sánchez's sinker/changeup combo has a narrower velocity differential than his four-seam/changeup combo, because the sinker and changeup move so similarly, that velo differential makes all the difference in throwing off a hitter.

And even though his sinker is a little slower than his four-seamer, Sánchez gets stronger movement with it. His sinker drops 4.5 inches more than an average sinker and breaks 2.1 inches more horizontally than an average sinker. That's plus movement in two directions.

Just to put it all together, here's a recap of Sánchez's four-seam/sinker/changeup troika:

4-seamer: 98.5 mph | 11.6" horiz. break (+3.9" vs. avg.)
Sinker: 96.9 mph | 17.4" horiz. break (+2.1" vs. avg.) | 24.3" drop (+4.5" vs. avg.)
Changeup: 89.0 mph | 17.3" horiz. break (+3.1" vs. avg.) | 31.2" drop (+1.7" vs. avg.)

When he uses all three of those in concert? Look out.

And when he adds his knee-bending back-foot slider into the mix ... what comes beyond "forget about it"?

We're not even going to get into Sánchez's slider right now, or his curveball. Maybe next story. Just know: they're weapons, too.

He's just awesome to watch

Sánchez's elite arsenal is only half the package. The electricity of watching him doubles because he pitches with emotion.

Every big Sánchez K comes with a celebration -- he struts off the mound, he dances, he crouches down, he poses. Sánchez evokes his Miami predecessor Fernández's mix of electric stuff and electric passion for the game.

Sánchez loves to pitch, he loves to strike hitters out and he's already doing that in dominant fashion. Marlins fans have to love to watch their ace of the future.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.