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This top Marlins prospect has sights on No. 45

@JoeFrisaro
January 13, 2020

MIAMI -- No player currently on the Marlins’ 40-man roster has been assigned the No. 45. The organization just may be holding the number for when top prospect Sixto Sanchez is ready to reach the big leagues. To sport 45 on the back of his jersey would be special for

MIAMI -- No player currently on the Marlins’ 40-man roster has been assigned the No. 45. The organization just may be holding the number for when top prospect Sixto Sanchez is ready to reach the big leagues.

To sport 45 on the back of his jersey would be special for Sanchez, because that’s the number Pedro Martinez, his childhood idol, wore.

Like so many pitchers born in the Dominican Republic, Sanchez was raised admiring Martinez, the Hall of Fame right-hander and personable baseball figure who continues to be in the public eye as a TV analyst.

“Since I was little, I’ve admired him, seeing all his games,” Sanchez said in Spanish. “I always said, ‘Wow, I want to be like him.'"

Sanchez spoke to MLB.com last week at MLB’s annual Rookie Career Development Program, held in Miami. The right-hander is one of the top pitching prospects in the game, and he is tracking toward reaching the big leagues in 2020.

When it comes to his main goal this year, Sanchez makes his intentions clear: “To keep working hard and to be able to get to the big leagues.”

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Marlins’ No. 1 prospect, and No. 22 on the overall Top 100 list, Sanchez will be one of Miami’s most closely monitored players when Spring Training opens on Feb. 12 at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Sanchez is a hard-throwing right-hander with a fastball that routinely reaches 100 mph. The 21-year-old is already on Miami’s 40-man roster, and he’s been assigned No. 73 for Spring Training.

Players who have yet to reach the big leagues often have high numbers in Spring Training before they make it.

But when Sanchez does reach Miami, he can request another number. And since 45 is not already taken, it’s safe to assume it may be reserved for the Marlins’ top prospect.

Still, the right-hander may have to wait a little while.

The Marlins, entering the third year of their building process, are in no rush to speed up the development of their top prospects, especially Sanchez, who logged 114 innings in the Minor Leagues last year.

Acquired as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade with the Phillies last February, Sanchez was eased into the 2019 season. That’s because he dealt with right elbow inflammation in '18.

As part of building him up for '19, Sanchez didn’t make his first start until May 3, and he appeared in two games for Class A Advanced Jupiter. In 11 innings, he had a 4.91 ERA.

Once he was promoted to Double-A Jacksonville, Sanchez started to resemble the frontline-caliber pitcher the Marlins envision, going 8-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 18 starts and 103 innings.

Sanchez is expected to open 2020 at Triple-A Wichita and be part of a rotation that also projects to include three other Marlins Top 30 Prospects -- Edward Cabrera (6), Nick Neidert (11) and Jorge Guzman (16).

Like Sanchez, the other three should reach the big leagues at some point this year.

Starting-pitching depth is the strength of the Marlins, and at least three or four spots on the big league roster are secure. Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Pablo López, Jordan Yamamoto and either Elieser Hernandez or Robert Dugger head into Spring Training as the front-runners for the five spots.

José Ureña, the Opening Day starter the past two seasons, is being moved to the bullpen. He is not a serious candidate.

For Sanchez, this will be his first Spring Training with the big league club, meaning he will be around the Major League staff and face MLB hitters in games and scrimmages.

Last season, the right-hander did get a taste of pitching in a Major League park, throwing two-thirds of an inning in the SiriusXM Futures Game in Cleveland.

“It was a good experience,” Sanchez said. “I’d never been in such a big stadium with so many people. I thought I was going to be scared, but I took it as a good work opportunity and was able to achieve my objective.”

For Sanchez, it could be just a matter of months before he calls Marlins Park his home.

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