Sandy named OD starter, how the rest of Marlins’ lineup shapes up
Hard-throwing right-hander Sandy Alcantara got the start on Wednesday against the Mets at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, he struck out nine and was announced as the Opening Day starter on Thursday.
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
JUPITER, Fla. — Sandy Alcantara made a statement on Wednesday, striking out nine in five shutout innings. On Thursday, the Marlins made it official: the 25-year-old will start on Opening Day.
Alcantara was the clear choice all along to face the Tampa Bay Rays on April 1 at Marlins Park. The Rays already have announced Tyler Glasnow is getting the nod for the opener. It should be a terrific pitching matchup.
Alcantara cemented his status as the club’s ace against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, when he fanned nine and didn’t allow a walk in a 3-2 win.
The right-hander scattered three hits, two of which were singles by Francisco Lindor. Of his 64 pitches, 45 were strikes.
Now, it’s a matter of consistency, because in Alcantara’s last spring start, he walked five.
“Sandy is a guy who is on the move,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “His stuff is great.”
Mattingly added it was Alcantara’s outing was his best of the spring.
Now in his fourth season with the Marlins, Alcantara is beginning to reach his prime. His biggest strides forward are traced to his ability to now throw multiple pitches for strikes in any count.
Along with his four-seam fastball and sinker, Alcantara now is able to spin sliders for strikes and get swings and misses on his changeup.
Alcantara’s confidence also has grown, as he’s achieving more success on the mound. He has a tremendous mound presence, and is not afraid to attack hitters.
After Wednesday’s outing, Alcantara said he is “100 percent” ready for the season.
“I feel great,” he said. “I feel healthy.”
On Wednesday, Alcantara’s first three innings were masterful. He had a stretch of striking out seven of eight and six in a row.
In 2020, Alcantara made seven starts, and logged 42 innings. He had a 22.7 strikeout percentage and a 49.1 groundball percentage.
Velocity has never been an issue. His four-seam topped at 98.5 mph on Wednesday.
In 2020, Alcantara averaged 96.2 mph on his sinker, and 96.8 mph on his four-seam fastball. His changeup averaged 90.1 mph and his slider 87.3 mph.
His hard-hit percentage ranked in the 42 percentile, and his fastball velocity was in the 92 percentile.
Add all this up, and Alcantara was the obvious Opening Day pick.
Still not completely clear is the rest of the starting lineup.
Perhaps Wednesday gave a hint.
Miami’s lineup was:
- Corey Dickerson, LF
- Starling Marte, CF
- Jesus Aguilar, 1B
- Garrett Cooper, RF
- Brian Anderson, 3B
- Jazz Chisholm, 2B
- Jorge Alfaro, C
- Miguel Rojas, SS
- Sandy Alcantara, RHP
If there is no universal designated hitter by Opening Day, Wednesday may indeed be a preview of Game 1. Cooper was in right field, not a natural position for him. And it showed in the seventh inning, when a two-out, two-run double was awarded to Albert Almora on a ball that should have been caught.
Adam Duvall is another right-field option.
Who will start at second base also hasn’t been announced. Chisholm or Isan Diaz? Based on Spring Training statistics, neither has clearly won the job.
Still, the organization has their own criteria for what they want to see.
Chisholm got a taste of the big leagues late last season, after reaching as high as Double-A in 2019. Diaz had experience in Triple-A in 2019, when he also participated in the Future’s Game before being promoted to the big leagues on Aug. 5 of that summer.
Chisholm is more athletic, and provides more versatility. He is a natural shortstop who has more speed.
Chisholm continues to adjust to playing second base more, but he also has plenty of power at the plate.
In his first plate appearance on Wednesday, Chisholm drew a walk off left-hander Joey Lucchesi. But he was picked off first on a close play.
His second time up, Chisholm blasted a bomb. Off right-hander Robert Gsellman, Jazz took a mighty swing and missed an elevated fastball. The next pitch, the 23-year-old didn’t miss. He crushed it to deep right field for a home run.
According to Statcast, the home run had an exit velocity of 112.7 mph, and the projected distance was 393 feet. The 112.7 mph speed off the bat is the fastest by any Marlins player on a home run since 2018.
“Me and a couple of the coaches have been talking lately this spring,” Chisholm said. “I was really trying to just put balls in play hard early in the spring, you know, work from the ground up.
“The last two games, me and a couple of the hitting coaches were just like: ‘Alright, time to let it loose.’ The season is almost around the corner. Let’s get it going and take some hacks, you know? So, today, just was letting some loose and letting the hands work. I know there were big hacks, but you know, I was working more hands still.”
For the Marlins, second base becomes a matter of who the club feels gives them its best chance to win, along with who is most ready for the daily big league grind.
On Thursday, Diaz got the start at second against the Cardinals.