In an interview posted to the team’s Youtube channel, promising Marlins righty Sixto Sanchez told Marlins broadcaster Kyle Sielaff that he feels “100 percent” roughly four months after undergoing surgery to repair a capsular tear in his right shoulder, which ended his 2021 season before he’d thrown a pitch. This will come as welcome news to Marlins fans, who saw in 2020 the electric stuff that made Sanchez a consensus top prospect ahead of his debut (and, despite the surgery, the current No. 41 per MLB Pipeline).
The centerpiece of the deal that sent J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia ahead of the 2019 season, Sanchez turned in an excellent (if abbreviated) debut in 2020, posting a 3.46 ERA (3.50 FIP) in 39 innings across seven starts. He also started twice in the playoffs, holding the Cubs scoreless over 5 innings in the Wild Card round before getting knocked around by the Braves in the NLDS. He had been expected to slot in behind two other young (if more established) starters — Sandy Alcantara (whom the Marlins signed to a 5-year, $56MM extension yesterday) and Pablo Lopez — in 2021 before late-spring shoulder discomfort inaugurated a process of failed rehabilitation that ended in surgery. It’s unclear whether or not Sanchez has actually resumed throwing, but the Marlins have made it clear that they expect Sanchez to be ready for spring training.
Though his absence was clearly a disappointment to player and team alike, a return to form in 2022 could portend great things for the Marlins, who would suddenly have something of an embarrassment of riches in rotation. Beyond Alcantara (3.19 ERA in 205 2/3 innings), Lopez (3.07 ERA in 102 2/3 innings), and Sanchez, the Marlins feature 2021 All-Star and NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Trevor Rogers (2.64 ERA in 133 innings), former Rule 5 selection Elieser Hernandez (4.18 ERA in 51 2/3 innings), and flamethrower Jesus Luzardo, who struggled to a 6.61 ERA across 95 1/3 innings between Oakland and Miami (the A’s traded him for Starling Marte at the deadline) but displayed flashes of brilliance.
The Marlins disappointed in 2021, following a surprise playoff run in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season by finishing 21.5 games out of first, but their abundance of high-end young pitching makes them a threat to turn things around quickly. The 2021 club never really settled on a lineup — only five players had 300 or more plate appearances — and the team ranked 27th in the majors with a wRC+ of 84. GM Kim Ng began to address this shortcoming yesterday, agreeing to terms with outfielder Avisail Garcia on a four-year, $53MM deal — the largest free agent contract handed out by the club in the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter ownership era.
Still, while the Marlins feature a solid infield quartet (Jesus Aguilar, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Miguel Rojas, and Brian Anderson), the outfield mix remains unsettled. None of Lewis Brinson, Jesus Sanchez, Bryan De La Cruz, or Monte Harrison has established himself as a productive big-league bat, and it isn’t clear who would start in two outfield spots were the season to start today. Whether or not Ng has more money to spend remains to be seen, but a further upgrade either in the outfield or at catcher could go quite a long way toward making the Marlins a surprise contender in 2022.