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Top prospect Sixto: 'Just wait for the call'

Nearing MLB debut, righty Sanchez in big league camp for first time
@JoeFrisaro
February 14, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- In Spring Training, high uniform numbers are often reserved for prospects in big league camp for the first time. At the Marlins' complex, Sixto Sanchez has been assigned No. 73. But in terms of talent and untapped promise and potential, Sanchez ranks as Miami's No. 1 prospect

JUPITER, Fla. -- In Spring Training, high uniform numbers are often reserved for prospects in big league camp for the first time. At the Marlins' complex, Sixto Sanchez has been assigned No. 73.

But in terms of talent and untapped promise and potential, Sanchez ranks as Miami's No. 1 prospect and No. 22 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list. Among all right-handed pitching prospects, he ranks fifth.

All the makings are there for a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Even though the Marlins are handling their top prospect with care and insisting Sanchez won’t be rushed, it’s clearly just a matter of time before he takes that next step to the big leagues.

When he does arrive, anticipate Sanchez being awarded jersey No. 45, in honor of his favorite player growing up, Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez.

When that day comes is anyone’s guess. It’s safe to say it won’t be before June, and at Spring Training, the right-hander will be eased along.

"I think what you're looking for is how they handle camp," Miami manager Don Mattingly said of Sanchez and the other pitching prospects in camp. "What's their work habits look like? What kind of shape are they in? Just what they look like and what their routines look like. Do they have an established routine? Or have they just kind of 'talented' their way here? You're just kind of looking for all those little signs."

Ultimately, performance and an organizational plan will be part of that process. So will managing Sanchez's innings, which is another part of the bigger equation.

Sanchez sees the light at the end of the Minor League tunnel, and he knows his first big league opportunity could come in 2020.

Asked if he feels he is close to reaching the big leagues, Sanchez said through an interpreter: “Yeah, I feel it.”

What Sanchez plans to accomplish in Spring Training is simple.

“Work hard, and just try to make the team," Sanchez said.

From the organization’s wide-lens point of view, Sanchez is considered to be in the next wave of Marlins starters, along with fellow Top 30 prospects Edward Cabrera (sixth), Braxton Garrett (seventh), Trevor Rogers (eighth), Nick Neidert (11th), Jorge Guzman (16th) and Jordan Holloway (18th).

“We’ll see,” Mattingly said of prospects timelines. “There’s a lot of guys. You start talking about Edward, Guzman, Neidert, Rogers, Brax Garrett, Jordan Holloway. There’s a number of guys that you’re excited about seeing. But with Sixto, a lot of people like what he can do and what he’s capable of doing. Then we get to see how fast it comes.”

At least early in the season, Sanchez projects to be in a Triple-A Wichita rotation that likely will include Cabrera, Neidert, Guzman and whoever doesn’t make the Opening Day rotation. That list could include Elieser Hernandez and Robert Dugger.

Many Marlins fans envision the day when Sanchez and Cabrera are positioned at the top of the Major League rotation. And the two are like brothers.

"Sanchez is a great guy, first of all," Cabrera said through an interpreter. "Second of all, he has great stuff. Nasty stuff. And he has great status here in the organization. That's always one of the things fans always look for."

To Sanchez, all he is focused on in spring is controlling what he can control.

“Just being here in camp is something that is amazing to me,” Sanchez said. “Just being around these great players. I’m just focused, and I have to do my job.”

Miami acquired Sanchez from Philadelphia before the 2019 season for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Due to right elbow inflammation at Class A Advanced Clearwater in 2018, Sanchez was limited to 46 2/3 innings. In order to build Sanchez back up in '19, the right-hander was not part of Major League Spring Training. The Marlins organization moved him along slowly, and he didn’t make his first Minor League start until May 3.

Aside from two warmup starts at Class A Advanced Jupiter, where he logged 11 total innings, Sanchez spent the season at Double-A Jacksonville, going 8-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 103 innings. The 114 combined innings were a career high.

Along with throwing 100 mph, Sanchez has always shown command. He fanned 97 batters and walked 19 last year at Double-A. The right-hander also made an appearance at the SiriusXM Futures Game during All-Star week in Cleveland.

The caliber of hitters are a little more experienced at Triple-A, but Sanchez doesn’t anticipate making too many personal adjustments.

“I don’t need to make changes, just wait for the call,” Miami's projected future ace said.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.