Dominant Sixto (10 K's) flashing ace potential

August 29th, 2020

Two MLB starts hardly constitute a significant sample size, but based on the eye test, Sixto Sánchez is making a statement so far. The 22-year-old right-hander not only is showing that he belongs in the big leagues, but he is also proving that he has the makings of an ace.

The way Sánchez dominated the Rays, with 10 strikeouts in seven innings, reinforced that the Marlins’ top prospect has a bright future. What he lacked in the series opener in the Citrus Series was run support.

Yandy Díaz’s two-out RBI single off in the eighth inning opened the scoring as the Rays topped the Marlins, 2-0, on Friday at Marlins Park.

“He was really good,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Sánchez. “He was kind of in control all night. Used his changeup a lot. Was able to elevate. He gives you seven innings of scoreless. He gives us a chance to get on the board. We just weren't able to get on the board for him.”

Sánchez, who scattered six hits and walked one, was not involved in the decision. He was locked in a duel with Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough, who exited with left groin tightness after 6 2/3 shutout innings.

“That was some impressive stuff,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Sánchez. “He was able to land his offspeed pitches. He established the fastball and he had a wipeout changeup. He is pretty talented.”

According to Statcast, Sánchez’s maximum fastball velocity was 100.6 mph, and he had 13 pitches at 99 mph or higher. Of his 92 pitches, 17 were swinging strikes, with eight coming on his changeup.

“I will say it's my main pitch, my changeup,” Sánchez said through an interpreter. “I'd say my second one is my fastball. I truly trust my changeup a lot. I use it to get ground balls and get outs, get double plays. I do trust my changeup a lot.”

MLB Pipeline’s No. 24 overall prospect, Sánchez has displayed plenty of confidence in his first two starts, challenging hitters while displaying emotion on the mound.

“When I'm like that during the game, it actually helps me a lot to throw my pitches with high emotions,” Sánchez said. “I just use that to do a good job in the game.”

Marlins designated hitter , reinstated from the COVID-19 list on Friday, had two hits, including a double in the ninth inning. Cooper, who said during his Zoom call that he was hit hard physically by the virus, had to face Sánchez in his first at-bat a few weeks ago at the alternate training site in Jupiter, Fla.

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“There's not too many guys with that kind of stuff in the big leagues,” Cooper said. “It's pretty darn good. He's got four pitches, and they're all plus-plus. There's a lot of velo and a lot of mixing of speeds.

“He was my first at-bat coming off the COVID list. The first time facing him, I was in for a rude awakening. He's just a confident guy. He struts his stuff out there. He strikes guys out. That's some power ace stuff, right there.”

Sánchez had his scheduled start pushed back after Thursday’s game at the Mets was postponed due to the players, in solidarity with other clubs, opting not to play as a stance against social injustice.

Sánchez didn’t do any extensive throwing on Thursday in New York, and he ended up getting an extra day of rest for his second big league start.

Perhaps a little fresher arm led to some extremely high pitch velocities. In the first inning alone, four of his first 10 pitches were tracked by Statcast at 99 mph or higher, including a 100.6 mph heater to Díaz. He induced nine ground-ball outs and no fly-ball outs.

“Once you get that extra day off, I did feel fresh,” Sánchez said. “My strength, even my mind is clear to face those batters.”