The Marlins will option prized pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez to their alternate site/Triple-A to begin the season, Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter links). They’ll open the year with a four-man rotation.
While the first reaction of many fans will be to assume this is a decision driven by service time, that’s not the case in this instance. Sanchez racked up 103 days of service in 2020, meaning he only needs 69 days of service this season to reach a full year. The Marlins would need to keep Sanchez in the minors for at least 118 days in order to delay his free agency by another season at this point, and there’s no plausible scenario where that happens — barring an unfortunate and untimely injury while continuing to ramp up at the team’s alternate site.
In all likelihood, Sanchez will be up in the big leagues within the first few weeks of the season. Sanchez has been behind in camp after being in Covid-19 protocols early on, and he didn’t make his Grapefruit League debut until March 15. He’s still appeared in only three games and tallied just eight innings of work, so it’s understandable that the Marlins don’t want to drop him right into the big league rotation before he is sufficiently stretched out. In the meantime, they’ll be able to carry an extra reliever or an extra bench player, and early off-days will give them the luxury of skipping the fifth spot of the rotation until mid-month (when Sanchez will presumably be ready for his ’21 debut).
The Herald’s Craig Mish tweets that the Marlins are eyeing an innings target of about 150 to 160 for Sanchez in what will be his first full season at the MLB level. The 22-year-old flamethrower debuted last summer and hurled 39 innings of 3.46 ERA ball with a huge 58 percent ground-ball rate, a 20.9 percent strikeout rate and a 7.0 percent walk rate. Once he’s built up a bit more, Sanchez will step into the rotation behind Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez and Trevor Rogers.