Tag Archive for: Sandy Alcantara

Player Spotlight: Sandy Alcantara

Sandy Alcantara: Elite

There is no doubt in the world that Sandy Alcantara is the ace of the Miami Marlins. Over the course of just a few seasons, Sandy has elevated his game higher and higher with each passing start… and that is not an exaggeration. When looking at every basic and advanced analytic in the book, it is clear that Sandy is evolving at an extremely fast pace. Let’s take a look at what has allowed this progression:


Changeup Usage


Arguably, the best pitch in Sandy Alcantara’s arsenal is his changeup. Between 2017 and 2020, Alcantara threw a changeup on just 12% of his pitches with it maxing out at 13% in 2018. However, in 2021, Sandy has thrown his changeup on 23% of his pitches. The result? Through his first 2 starts of 2021, Sandy is posting career highs in K%, BB%, xBA, xSLG, and xWOBA. With Sandy being in the top 6% of pitchers this season in three of the stats (xBA, xSLG, xWOBA), Sandy is becoming recognized around the league as a dominant force. His trust and confidence in his changeup has allowed quicker progression as a young starter, posting career lows in ERA, xERA, and WHIP in 2020 and to start 2021. 


Pitch Location


For any power pitcher, location becomes the attribute that differentiates between the deGroms and the rest of the pack. In his young career, Sandy has had opponents get the “sweet spot” of the bat on the ball at a relatively higher clip (Sweet Spot % 2017-2019: 69.6, 32.5, 29.9). His growth as a pitcher is most evident in 2020 and the start of 2021, where batters are getting the sweet spot on the ball just 21% of the time. He was transitioned to working out of the zone, being effectively wild. A high proportion of his pitches are thrown out of the zone inside and low to righties and up and into lefties. This shift in approach has created a career high in chase rate over the past two years, putting him in the top percentiles of Major League Baseball.


Spin Rate


In his 2017 debut season, Sandy’s fastball came out of the gate averaging 98 MPH with a relatively low spin rate for that kind of velocity. In his next few seasons, Sandy lowered his fastball velocity (around 95 MPH in 2018) and focused on raising the spin on his pitches. Now, he has combined an average velocity of 97 MPH (92nd Percentile in 2020) and a spin rate in the 75th Percentile. This change has allowed him to control his elite fastball more effectively, posting dwindling numbers in batters Hard Hit %. With just 28.2% of balls in play hit hard in 2020 and 15.4% in early 2021, these numbers continue to get better as the spin rate and velocity of Sandy’s pitches increase. 


Sandy will continue to grow


This growth in such a short amount of time in the baseball world is quite rare. The loss of Jose Fernandez a few years ago was demoralizing, but the Marlins have finally found an elite arm to take up the “Ace” duties. Alcantara should be a dark horse for NL Cy Young this season. Regardless, he will be a mainstay on a dangerous Marlins rotation for years to come. The sky’s the limit.


Shoutout to Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, and Sports Info Solutions  for the data.

Follow me on Twitter @chasechrisjr for daily Marlins coverage.

Marlins Braves NLDS

5 Keys to Marlins and Braves NLDS Series

The Miami Marlins stand among MLB’s final eight teams. The 2-0 sweep of the Chicago Cubs caught most baseball fans by surprise. It marked only the second postseason sweep in franchise history, but the Marlins were not among those astonished by the accomplishment. The Marlins expected to win, as they do against their NL East rival the Atlanta Braves, in the NLDS.

The juggernaut that is the Atlanta lineup presents a far more formidable challenge for the Fish, but there is a pathway for this unlikely Cinderella story to continue.

Here’s a look at five keys to the Marlins and Braves NLDS Series.

Frontline Starting Pitchers Need to Come Through

The Miami Marlins starting pitchers posted a 4.31 cumulative ERA in 2020. That was good for 14th in MLB, but it included 13 different pitchers. The Braves touched up Pablo Lopez, Game 2’s starter, for nine earned runs in 12.2 innings pitched (three starts). Sixto Sanchez made two starts versus Atlanta, surrendering four earned runs over nine innings pitched.

Sandy Alcantara, who has yet to lose against the Braves in his career, takes the hill for the Marlins in Game 1. In three career starts versus Atlanta, Alcantara has a 2.41 ERA without recording a decision. Braves hitters have posted a .230/.338/.279 slash line in 71 career plate appearances versus Alcantara.

The Marlins likely need two of these three pitchers to dominate their starts versus the Braves. The other options to start on the NLDS roster include unproven rookies Dan Castano, Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers.

The pitching staff in general posted a bloated 6.64 ERA versus Atlanta this season, but a closer look at that number shows 41 of the 64 earned runs came courtesy of pitchers who were not on the Wild Card roster. Subtract those pitchers, and the staff ERA drops to a far more manageable 4.00 against the Braves.

“We have to attack the strike zone,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve got good stuff. Don’t give them anything. Make them earn it. We have to go attack these guys.”

Leverage the Bullpen

Miami’s starters will need to go deep into games to prevent exposing the weaker portions of the team’s bullpen. The Marlins used a staggering 37 different pitchers this season, including 28 different relievers. Overall, the bullpen ERA finished at 5.50, fourth worst in the league. A closer look at that number reveals it as a flawed measure.

17 of those 28 relievers pitched less than eight innings out of the ‘pen but surrendered a whopping 65 earned runs over 59.2 innings combined. Hence, the inflated bullpen ERA. If you take the Marlins top-five relievers, you’ll see a group that posted a 2.00 ERA over 85.2 innings pitched. That would be the best mark in the league by far.

Brandon KintzlerYimi GarciaBrad BoxbergerJames Hoyt and Richard Bleier sport a mix of stuff and experience and should be able to save games if given the opportunity. As a group, those five are 13 for 18 in save opportunities. As a team this season, the Marlins are 31-0 when leading after six innings, so the bullpen has come through.

Mattingly will need to leverage these top-five arms to win this series. In the Wild Card round, the bullpen posted a scoreless 6.2 innings pitched in two games, allowing just two hits.

Watch Out with the Fastball

Marlins pitchers relied heavily on the fastball in their Wild Card sweep of the Chicago Cubs. Miami threw fastballs at a 75 percent clip against the Cubs, with an average speed of 95.8 mph. Chicago hitters struggled to turn on those offerings, hitting just .157 against Marlins’ fastballs.

Against the Braves, the Marlins staff may need another approach in the NLDS. Atlanta sports the best fastball-hitting lineup in the MLB these days. Braves batters posted a .311 average against fastballs in 2020, the highest such mark since the 2015 Royals hit .312. Atlanta’s slugging percentage remained a whopping .551 against fastballs.

The Reds tried to limit fastball use in the Wild Card round, throwing just 43 percent of their pitches as heat. The Marlins staff will need to locate their off-speed and secondary pitches well, and be selective with their fastballs, because Atlanta’s lineup is stocked with five regulars who hit well over .300 against the fastball.

Getting Runs Early

The Marlins offense did nothing through six innings in both Wild Card games. Thankfully, their starting pitchers kept those games in control, allowing a stirring comeback in Game 1 and a go-ahead homer in Game 2. The offense seemed to come alive late in both games.

Against the Braves, the Marlins will need more runs early in the ballgames. Atlanta gave up 24 runs over its final three games of the regular season, losing two of them, but they were dominant in their two-game sweep of the Reds in the Wild Card round. If the Marlins can chase Atlanta’s starters early, they set themselves up for success down the line in this series. With no off days, bullpen management will be key, and the Braves don’t have a solid fourth starter in their rotation.

What’s more, the Braves bullpen was one of the best in MLB in 2020. Atlanta’s bullpen posted a 3.50 ERA, which was fourth lowest in MLB and second lowest in the NL. Miami struggled to scratch runs across the Braves bullpen during their 10 matchups this season.

The Marlins will look to repeat their last outing against Atlanta’s ace Max Fried, when they connected on two home runs in the first inning. Those were the lonely two homers surrendered by Fried in 2020. Miami hitters have had some success against Fried, with a slash line of .333/.383/.593 in 60 plate appearances.

Jesus Aguilar went 15-for-40 with two blasts and eight RBIs against Atlanta during the regular season.

Make Up for Marte’s Loss

Starling Marte suffered a non-displaced fracture of his left pinkie in Game 1 of the wild-card series and sat out Game 2. He’s on the taxi squad for the NLDS, and will not make an appearance for the Marlins in this series.

Reserve outfielders Magneuris Sierra, Monte Harrison and Lewis Brinson each have excellent speed and are strong defenders but can’t hit like Marte. And that’s a problem for a club that batted .203 in the wild-card series.

For Marte’s replacements, getting on base and putting pressure on the defense will be key. The Marlins stole 53 bases in 2020, and they’ll need to manufacture runs with the feet in this NLDS series against the Braves.


Tuesday, Game 1: Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.00 ERA) at Max Fried (7-0, 2.25 ERA), 2:08, FS1

Wednesday, Game 2: Pablo Lopez (6-4, 3.61 ERA) at Ian Anderson (3-2, 1.95), 2:08, MLB Network

Thursday, Game 3: Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.21 ERA) at Sixto Sanchez (3-2, 3.46 ERA), 2:08, FS1

Marlins win

Miami Marlins Win Game 1 Over Cubs

The Miami Marlins crashed MLB’s postseason party in 2020. On Wednesday, the franchise played its first playoff game in 17 years. The Marlins rallied around a dominant pitching performance from Sandy Alcantara to win Game 1 over the favored Chicago Cubs, 5-1.

It wasn’t just Alcantara leading the way, though. Key veterans provided the offensive lift late in the game, and veteran additions to the bullpen closed the door for the Marlins.

The Marlins entered the playoffs with nothing short of the most historical turnaround in MLB history. No team in the long life of the sport has ever emerged from the depths of a 105-loss season to qualify for the playoffs a year later. And the key to that emergence has been not only the development of young talent, but also the production from veterans acquired for just this purpose.

Two of those additions, Corey Dickerson and Jesús Aguilar, provided the dramatic lift Miami’s dormant offense needed against the Cubs.

Veteran Additions Lead the Way

Chicago’s starter Kyle Hendricks dominated the Fish through six, surrendering just one hit in that span. But Hendricks’ control was uncharacteristically off, as the starter who’d issued just eight walks in 2020 gave up three free passes and a hit-by-pitch.

In the seventh, the Marlins offense finally broke through. Back-to-back singles by Miguel Rojas and Chad Wallach preceded a game-changing three-run home run by Dickerson.

“[Hendricks] was tough,” Dickerson said via Zoom postgame. “He was hitting his spots. Very tough at-bats. It was about getting a good pitch, and don’t miss it. Early on, I was thinking too much, trying to get the right pitch. It was about seeing it over the plate, get my timing right and letting it go. I got a good pitch to hit.”

From there, Cubs manager David Ross went to the bullpen, summoning closer Jeremy Jeffress. What followed was a sharp single from Starling Marte and a two-run home run by Aguilar. That quickly, the Marlins went from down 1-0 with a punchless offense, to up 5-1 and in full control.

“That inning was a great inning for us, especially with Corey’s homer,” Aguilar said postgame. “It was like, ‘We could do it.’ We just tried to do our job, and stay aggressive. We’re here. I think we have the right pieces. We’ve got the right guys. Now let’s see what happens.”

Don Mattingly, managing his first game in the postseason for the Marlins after becoming the club’s all-time leader in wins earlier this season, lauded the additions of Dickerson and Aguilar postgame.

“Corey was one of the guys that we went after,” Mattingly said. “He’s always hit. He’s always been a guy that seems to hit good pitching. It was good for him. His first postseason, and he hits a homer. He was excited, and then [Aguilar] is another guy that’s hit. Good year a couple of years ago, struggled last year. We were hoping for the bounce back, and we got it. Both of those guys bring a ton to the club.”

Pitching Key to Marlins Win

Veteran additions to the bullpen also helped in this one.

Richard Bleier entered in the sixth and retired Ian Happ with on pitch to end the inning. The eighth belong to Yimi Garcia, and he knifed through three Cubs hitters, registering two strikeouts. In the ninth, closer Brandon Kintzler shut the door and helped the Marlins win their first playoff game in 17 years.

Alcantara’s efforts in this one signal a bright future for the Marlins. The 25-year-old starter went 6.2 innings and surrendered just three hits, one being a home run to Ian Happ that just barely escaped Wrigley Field.

After the game, Alcantara said it wasn’t one of his “best days.” He did walk three and struck out only four. He relied mostly on his fastball and struggled to spot his off-speed pitches consistently.

“We’ve seen him even better than that,” Mattingly said of Alcantara. “He didn’t really get his changeup going today. I’m not complaining with Sandy. You know that he has more there.”

Alcantara admitted he “didn’t have his best stuff” but he managed to throw enough strikes. He also induced six ground ball outs, which is key against the Cubs lineup.

Marlins Win, But Lose Marte in the Process

The one sour note from an otherwise excellent Marlins win was the potential loss of Marte. In the ninth innings, Cubs reliever Dan Winkler caught Marte on his left hand, leading to a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal.

Marte’s been hit four times since joining the Marlins, including a scary moment just prior to the postseason when a pitch came up and in and clipped the brim of his batting helmet.

The Marlins haven’t officially announced Marte as out, listing him still as day-to-day. There seems to be a chance that he could return to the lineup soon and would do so with a considerable wrap of his injured pinkie finger.

If Marte does miss time, Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison and Magneuris Sierra are all options for Mattingly in centerfield.

For Game 2, the Marlins give the ball to rookie right-hander Sixto Sánchez (3-2, 3.46) against Cubs ace You Darvish (8-3, 2.01).

Check out the Five Reasons Sports Marlins postgame show below:

Marlins Yankees

Marlins Make Playoffs With Win Over Yankees

The Miami Marlins defeated the New York Yankees 4-3 in 10 innings on Friday night. The win, coupled with a 6-4 loss by the Philadelphia Phillies, put the Marlins in the postseason for the first time since 2003.

It took an ace-level performance from Sandy Alcantara, a clutch pitch from Brandon Kintzler and timely defense.

Prior to the Yankees series, Alcantara sounded very confident. “They got to fight me a lot,” he said of the potent New York lineup.

“I just want to be the guy,” Alcantara said. He wants to go as deep as he can in every game, establish consistency and attack the hitters. Each of those were evident in his start on Friday.

Alcantara went 7.1 innings, surrendering six hits, two walks and two earned runs, while striking out nine. He struck out former Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton three times. He induced three double plays throughout the game, helping minimize many of the Yankee threas.


Alcantara’s ace performance lifted the Marlins, who had lost four of five entering Friday. Alcantara was visibly frustrated in the dugout after getting pulled from the game with one out in the eighth. He admitted afterwards that he’d hoped to finish the game, but he respected manager Don Mattingly’s decision to go to the bullpen.

Marlins Bullpen Helps Secure Win Over Yankees

The Marlins bullpen needed to secure five outs, and although Yimi Garcia allowed a game-tying single in the eighth, they held on when needed. Brad Boxberger walked Stanton before getting Luke Voit in ground into a double play.

Marlins closer Brandon Kintzler came on in the 10th for a save opportunity, one night after his first career six-out save. Kintzler worked into trouble, ultimately loading the bases with one out. But facing DJ LeMahieu, one of the league’s best hitters, Kintzler induced a game-ending double play.

Despite LeMahieu being a great hitter, Kintzler knew he could get one of the best hitters in the league to put the ball on the ground.

“He did exactly what I wanted him to do, exactly what I planned, exactly what I had seen him do before,” Kintzler said. “The guy’s a great hitter, but that’s just for me a great situation.”


While the story of the night was pitching, the Marlins offense did just enough to secure the victory. Former Yankee Garrett Cooper put the Marlins ahead early with his three-run home run in the first inning.

From there, it was a struggle. The Marlins managed only three hits for the night and were 1-of-8 with runners-in-scoring-position, ultimately stranding seven on base. Jesus Aguilar, who’d flies out with the bases loaded in the second and stranded runners and the corners in the seventh, came through with a clutch sacrifice fly in the 10th to give Miami the lead.

Monte Harrison scored the go-ahead run but did so after scrambling back to third base on a botched run-down by the Yankees. All told, New York committed four fielding errors, including a crucial one in extras.

The resilience of the Marlins club was on display through the night, as it has been throughout the season. The win over the Yankees propels the Marlins to the playoffs for the first time since 2003, snapping the second-longest postseason drought in MLB (16 seasons).

Marlins Phillies

5 Keys to the Marlins, Phillies Series

The Miami Marlins need to shrug off last night’s historic drubbing at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. And they need to do that quickly, because the Marlins return to Miami to face the waiting Philadelphia Phillies for seven games in five days.

The Marlins’ playoff push stands a stout test in the second-place Phillies. At 19-19, Miami enters with an opportunity to not only solidify its playoff position, but also overtake Philadelphia in the standings.

The Marlins are 5-5 over their last ten games. Philadelphia’s play has improved of late, as they’ve rattled off 12 wins in their last 16 games to vault up the standings, passing the Marlins in the process.

Marlins, Phillies Start Seven-Game Series

The Marlins and Phillies are playing a seven-game series thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak that affected the club back in July. MLB scrambled to rearrange the schedule and settled on this 7-game series (a first in Marlins history) which includes a pair of doubleheaders.

The Phillies will start veteran RHP Jake Arrieta (3-4, 5.67 ERA) on Thursday. Arrieta marks the ninth former Cy Young Award winner to start against the Marlins this season. Miami is 3-5 in those starts, including recent wins against Jacob deGrom and Blake Snell.

But Arrieta has had success in Marlins Park before, going 6-1 in seven career starts with a 3.40 ERA. In his career against the Marlins, Arrieta holds a 8-1 record with a 3.55 ERA in 11 starts.

This season, the Marlins are 2-1 against the Phillies. On Opening Day, RHP Sandy Alcantara (2-1, 3.78 ERA) beat the Phillies 5-2. He allowed three hits, two walks and two runs while striking out seven over 6.2 innings. Alcantara landed on the IL shortly thereafter, but he regained his rhythm in his last start. Against Tampa Bay, Alcantara went six innings and allowing just three hits and one run while striking out eight.

Keys to the Marlins, Phillies Series

The Starters

The Marlins enter this crucial seven games in five days stretch with one of their top pitchers on the mound. In five career starts against the Phillies, Alcantara has been really good, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.51 ERA.

As a staff, Miami’s starters have a 4.11 ERA this season, 11th-best in MLB. They were top-10 in ERA prior to Pablo Lopez‘s struggles last night. Former Philly farmhand Sixto Sánchez has allowed his opponent to score in just three of his 25.0 innings this season. He’s struck out 25 batters combined over his first four starts.

In Marlins franchise history, only Dontrelle Willis (26) has fanned more batters through his first four career starts. That said, Trevor Rogers has 21 strikeouts through his first three starts, so we’ll see.

Phillies starters have posted a 4.01 ERA overall. But if take out Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, the other starters (Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez) have a combined 5.34 ERA.

The Bullpen

Where the Marlins have a clear advantage is the bullpen. Prior to last night’s game, Miami had a 4.29 bullpen ERA, which was 13th-best in baseball. After Jordan Yamamoto’s implosion, though, the ERA sits at 5.27 (26th). All told, Marlins relievers coughed up 22 runs (20 earned) in last night’s debacle.

Even so, it’s the Phillies who sport MLB’s worst bullpen this season with a 7.24 ERA. Despite making a number of trades for bullpen arms at the deadline, Philadelphia still struggles in that department.

If the Marlins can post runs against Philly starters, they’ll be in great shape. And comebacks are certainly possible against Philadelphia relievers.

Finding Some Offense at Marlins Park

Miami holds a 17-10 record on the road this season, but they’ve struggled to win at home (2-9). The Phillies are 6-8 on the road this year. For the Marlins, they’ll need to find a way to put up five runs. The team is 11-2 this season when scoring at least five runs.

Miami hits just .234 at home, with a .288 on-base percentage and a .622 OPS. Not great. Jesus Aguilar has reached base safely in 9-of-10 career games at Marlins Park, going 10-for-40 (.250) with five walks, and there are several Marlins players who have performed historically well against Philadelphia.

The Phillies have hit .249 on the road, with a .288 on-base percentage and a .659 OPS. While Rhys Hoskins has been the offensive engine of late, Bryce Harper has struggled. In his last 15 games, Harper is batting .143 and slugging .163 with no homers and a .502 OPS.

Clutch Two-Out Rallies

The Marlins are batting .268 (114-for-426) this season with two outs, the fourth-highest mark in the Majors and second in the NL behind the Padres (.269).

Miami’s .366 on-base percentage with two outs is tops in the Majors in 2020. The Marlins have scored 48.5 percent of their runs this season with two outs (82-of-169), the highest such percentage in the Majors.

Rivalry Bringing Out the Best

The Marlins are 2-1 against the Phillies this year after they went 10-9 against them in 2019. All told, Miami is 12-12 against NL East opponents in 2020, while the Phillies are 17-9 against the division. Winning this series would hurt a division rival and solidify Miami’s playoff position.

And no one has enjoyed playing the Phillies more than Miguel Rojas. He sports a nine-game hit-streak against the Phillies, going 18-for-37 (.486), including a 3-for-4 effort with a home run and four RBIs in his last game against Philly on July 24.

Jorge Alfaro also plays well against the Phillies. He owns .432 (19-for-44) batting average in 13 career games versus Philadelphia, with two doubles, three homers and five RBI. Brian Anderson, meanwhile, has posted a .349 batting average (22-for-63) and a 1.128 OPS (4 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 13 RBI) over his last 17 games versus the Phillies.

One player who needs to get going is Starling Marte, who’s managed just a .200 batting average (7-for-35) with two home runs and four RBI in the eight games since the trade deadline.

Rays Sweep Marlins

5 Takeaways from Rays Sweep of Marlins

The Miami Marlins entered their three-game Citrus Series tilt against in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays, above .500 in August for the first time in a long time. They were coming off taking two of three from the Mets in New York, then working with the Mets to stage a walk off. Back in Miami, though, the Rays dominate the Marlins over three games, en route to the series sweep.

Here are five takeaways from the Rays sweep of the Marlins.

Elite Starting Pitching

Any Marlins fan would have taken a pair of games where the starting pitchers combined to throw 14 innings, allowing just two earned runs and one walk while posting 15 strikeouts. Sixto Sanchez and Pablo Lopez were dominant in their starts, but they received literally zero run support.

Sixto’s start was particularly encouraging, as the 22-year-old tore through the Tampa Bay lineup and demonstrated his potential as an ace.

“He was really good,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Sanchez after the game. “He was in control all night. Used his changeup a lot. Was able to elevate. He gives you seven innings of scoreless [work].”

Lopez was nearly as good. He posted his sixth straight start of at least five innings and no more than two earned runs. That ties the best such start in Marlins history with Josh Johnson (6 games) in 2011 and Anibal Sanchez (6 games) in 2012. Lopez is one of just 10 pitchers in MLB to post as many such starts this season.

“I felt like this is the best Pablo has thrown,” Mattingly said. “He gives up the run on a Díaz chopper, just unfortunate. … He was able to use all of his pitches. His sequences were good. I thought he did a great job all night. He was really good.”

On Sunday, the Marlins welcomed back ace Sandy Alcantara from the IL. Sandy looked to end the Marlins skid and avoid the sweep at the hands of the Rays. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be and Tampa Bay jumped on him early.

“Today, this is my first start,” Alcantara said after the game. “It was like Opening Day. It was a little different for me. My first two innings, I was too quick. I could feel it [with my] four-seamer. I had to calm down and try to make a pitch.”

Although he ultimately surrendered eight runs (five earned), Alcantara’s return means the Marlins are closer to throwing elite arms at opposing lineups every day.

Dormant Offense During Most of Rays Sweep of Marlins

Perhaps the most frustrating element of the Rays sweep of the Marlins was the lack of production at the plate. Veteran hitters failed to convert in key opportunities and the Marlins were shut out on back-to-back nights.

Before Corey Dickerson’s fourth inning home run on Sunday, the Marlins went 39 straight scoreless innings in Marlins Park against the Rays.

On Friday night, the team managed just five hits. On Saturday, just three. The Marlins were a combined 0-for-5 with runners-in-scoring-position during those games, both very winnable contests.

Mattingly lamented the lack of offense after Sanchez’s performance: “He gives us a chance to get on the board. We just weren’t able to get on the board for him.”

After Saturday’s game, Mattingly admitted the team’s frustrations.

“Any time it’s happening in a short run like this, it’s frustrating,” he said. “You know you’re getting good outings, and you’re not really able to do anything with it.”

On Sunday, the offense came to life some, but too late. Dickerson’s homer in the fourth made it a 5-1 deficit, but the Rays put up seven runs in the fifth. The Marlins did post seven runs over the span of four innings but couldn’t continue any of their rallies to truly threaten the Rays.

After the game, Mattingly said the offense showed “some decent signs. Hopefully we can kind of get this thing rolling and get back a little bit more of a groove as you get into this final month.”

Return of Garrett Cooper Provide Life

One of the bright spots from the Rays sweep of the Marlins was the return of Garrett Cooper to the lineup. Cooper went 4-for-13 with two doubles, a home run and four RBI. His bat clearly lengthens a lineup that has struggled at times this season to score runs.

“Getting him back, you obviously see what you missed,” Mattingly said on Sunday. “Coop, that’s the one thing, he’s always been able to hit. It’s good to have him back. Hopefully, we can get everybody going around that.”

With Jesus Aguilar dealing with back issues, Cooper should be a fixture in the lineup moving forward. His versatility to play first base, right field or DH provides Mattingly with a veteran bat to deploy in the middle of the lineup.

Unfriendly Confines of Marlins Park

Normally, teams perform better at home than on the road. In 2020, that has not been the case at all for the Marlins. The Marlins are 13-7 (.650) on the road this season, the fourth-best road winning pct. in the Majors (second in NL behind the Dodgers: 14-5, .737); only the Dodgers have more road wins. They have outscored opponents 97-86 away from home.

At Marlins Park, however, they’re 1-8, with eight straight loses.

“I can’t explain home, why we haven’t played as well,” Mattingly said. “I can guess at stuff, and I would just be guessing. On the road, you have nothing else but going to the ballpark. You’re stuck in a hotel. The only time you get out is when you’ve got to go to the ballpark. It’s the one time you have a little freedom.”

With 17 of their final 30 games at home, the Marlins will have to figure out these struggles quickly if they want to make a playoff push.

The biggest struggles have come offensively, as the team is hitting just .212 at Marlins Park. Miami’s home OPS is .568, whereas on the road their OPS is .711 with a .247 batting average.

Prior to Sunday’s offensive outburst, the Marlins had connected on only three home runs in Marlins Park. Sunday saw three leave the park, as Dickerson, Cooper and Lewis Brinson all connected on big flys.

Struggles Lead to Uncertainty at Trade Deadline

This Rays sweep of the Marlins, and four-game losing skid overall, has come at a difficult time for the front office. As Monday’s Trade Deadline approaches, the Marlins are below .500 for the first time this season (14-15), but they are still clinging to a playoff spot.

Being in the pennant race might dictate an out-of-character move from the Marlins.

“Traditionally, we have not been a team in the last few years that has been buying anything,” Mattingly said prior to Sunday’s game. “I’m not sure we’re going to be giving any prospects away to get one piece.”

The Marlins are poised to end a 17-year playoff drought with a solid September. A key contest looms against the New York Mets this afternoon, then 12 of their final 30 against either the Philadelphia Phillies or Washington Nationals. If the Marlins can win each of those series, they could end MLB’s second-longest playoff drought.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Marlins decide to move any of their veterans. Teams have called about closer Brandon Kintzler and utility player Jonathan Villar. The Marlins could also part with young veteran starters in Jose Urena and/or Caleb Smith.

It’s hard to imagine the Marlins giving up one of their prized prospects to rent a bat for a month. Unless the deal is similar to the one with Arizona last season (where Zac Gallen was flipped for Jazz Chisholm), it’s unlikely Miami parts with a top-end prospect.

Lewin Diaz

Meet the Marlins: Lewin Diaz

The Miami Marlins made a few roster moves this afternoon, following their 8-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves. The team moved Corey Dickerson to the Bereavement List and called up first base prospect Lewin Diaz.

Marlins Call Up Lewin Diaz

The 23-year-old Diaz, who’s from the Dominican Republic, stands six-foot-foot and is an imposing figure in the box. He came to the Marlins organization last year as part of a deal with the Minnesota Twins for closer Sergio Romo and pitching prospect Chris Vallimont.

In 31 games for Marlins’ Double-A level affiliate, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Diaz connected on eight homers and drove in 14 runs. He slashed .200/.279/.461, but overall in 2019, he hit 27 home runs and drove in 76 runs in 121 games.

This from MLB Pipeline:

Diaz’s value lies in his offensive potential from the left side of the plate. He had shown an ability to make consistent contact and drive the ball to all fields in the past, though lost his way in 2018. He rediscovered his stroke in 2019 and is starting to tap into his tremendous raw power, especially to the pull side, setting a career high in home runs. Even when Diaz struggled, he kept his strikeout rate low and never really tried to sell out for power.

In Spring Training 1.0, Diaz went 7-for-26 with two doubles, a home run and four RBI.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly said this afternoon that the Marlins selected Diaz over fellow left-handed hitting prospect Jesus Sanchez because they want to keep Jesus Aguilar rested. Diaz plays first base and could spell Aguilar there, whereas Sanchez plays RF and Mattingly said the team is set in the outfield for now.

Diaz will not start on Saturday, given the Braves are throwing their left-handed ace Max Fried (3-0, 1.59 ERA). He has a chance to see the field on Sunday, depending upon who Atlanta trots out there.


The Marlins announced today that most of the players on the COVID-related IL have been approved by the MLB/MLBPA Joint Committee for reinstatement. Craig Mish reported early today that Sandy Alcantaraand Miguel Rojas were approved and that they were on the verge of beginning their rehab at the team’s alternate site in Jupiter.

The Marlins did not share additional names regarding the approved reinstatements. Among the other names are Jorge Alfaro, Garrett Cooper, Harold Ramirez, Caleb Smith and Jose Urena.

Remember, two-thirds of the bullpen and three-fifths of the starting rotation suffered the COVID-19 set back, so the pitching staff could receive a shot in the arm in the coming weeks.

Mattingly said yesterday he’s not going to rush the players coming back from the COVID-related IL, especially the pitchers.

“It’s safety first. These guys are too valuable. If you bring them back too quickly, they get hurt.”

Miami has made 60 roster moves since the season began on July 24. The Marlins currently have 21 players on the IL. Only 13 players on the active roster were on it on Opening Day. But it would seem that reinforcements are right around the corner.

Marlins win

Alcantara Dominates, Leads to Marlins Win on Opening Day

The Miami Marlins hadn’t won on Opening Day since 2014. The last time they did, Jose Fernandez took the mound for Miami and struck out nine Rockies en route to a 10-1 win. For the 2020 season, Sandy Alcantara toed the rubber, becoming the youngest Opening Day starter for Miami since Fernandez. His seven strikeouts were also the most since Fernandez’s nine in 2014. Alcantara’s performance helped spur the Marlins win.

Alcantara entered the game with a 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA versus the Phillies, including a 2-0 mark with a 1.32 ERA at Citizens Bank Park. He’s a breakout candidate for the Marlins this season and his performance on Friday showed why.

Over 6.2 innings pitched, Alcantara posted seven strikeouts, surrendering just three hits, two walks and one earned run. He induced seven ground-ball outs including one double play. He relied mostly on a fastball-changeup-slider combination and kept hitters off balance all night.

Alcantara particularly flummoxed the middle of Philadelphia’s lineup. He dominated Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, keeping them 0-for-8 with four strikeouts and just one walk.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly pulled Alcantara from the game in the seventh after 87 total pitches.

“I was ready [to finish it],” Alcantara said after the Marlins win. “I see [Mattingly come to the mound] and I’m thinking ‘Oh my God. I’m done, but I don’t want to give him the ball. I want to be on the mound.’ But I respect his decision.”

“His stuff is overpowering, when he stays aggressive and attacks the strike zone,” Mattingly said. “Then we were able to get him some runs, which takes the pressure off and gives us some breathing room.”

New Additions Contributed to Marlins Wins as well

The breathing room for Alcantara came thanks to the Marlins offseason additions. Jonathan Villar‘s sac-fly in the third inning drove in the first run of the year for Miami. Then Jesus Aguilar broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning when he deposited an 0-2 breaking ball from Aaron Nola 409 feet away in left-center.

Corey Dickerson helped chase Nola from the game when he lined a double to right field three pitches later. Dickerson finished the game 2-for-4, scoring a run on a wild pitch in the sixth.

Francisco Cervelli, subbing in for Jorge Alfaro who landed on the 10-day IL prior to the game, played well, too. He registered the first hit and scored the first run of the year. Cervelli finished 1-for-3 with a walk and run scored. He called an excellent game for Alcantara.

The addition of the DH to the National League also paid dividends for the Marlins. In what would have been the pitcher’s spot, Miguel Rojas went 2-for-3 with a walk, stolen base and run scored. Garrett Cooper manned the DH spot went 1-for-4 with a two-out RBI double in the sixth inning.

“It’s good to get on the board,” Mattingly said of the Marlins win. “Feels like a big win, to be honest with you.”

The Marlins are back at it this afternoon at 4:05 PM. Caleb Smith starts for Miami versus Zack Wheeler. Smith was 10-11 with a 4.52 ERA and 168 K in 2019. He surrendered 33 HRs, which is something he’ll need to improve upon in 2020. In four career starts versus the Phillies, Smith is 1-2 4.50 ERA with 19 K over 18 innings pitched.

Marlins breakout candidates

5 Marlins Breakout Candidates for 2020

For the Miami Marlins, the 2020 season arrives with new faces and renewed hope. While not the normal spring beginning by any means, this optimism feels real and is largely tied to a number of potential Marlins breakout candidates.

The 2020 MLB season arrived last night in rainy Washington, D.C. For the Marlins, they’re a few hours north in Philadelphia awaiting their first tilt of the truncated season. The landscape of MLB transformed this year thanks to COVID-19, new rules and an eleventh-hour agreement to expand the playoffs. Everyone has a chance, and for Miami, their opportunity to break a 17-year postseason drought could be decided by a handful of players.

So here’s a look at five Marlins breakout candidates for the 2020 season.

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Sandy Alcantara

Miami’s Opening Day starter is 24-year-old Sandy Alcantara. A first-time all-star in 2019, Alcantara finished 6-14 with a 3.88 ERA, 151 strikeouts, 81 walks and two complete-game shutouts. His best work came over an 11-game stretch to end the season. Over his final 74.1 innings, Alcantara posted a 2.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 62 strikeouts. He hit seven innings in seven of his last 11 starts.

“I think that’s the biggest thing in my life, being the Opening Day starter. I feel great about that,” Alcantara said. “I’m ready to go.”

In 2019, Alcantara went 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA versus Philadelphia. He sports a five-pitch arsenal which includes a solid fastball-sinker-slider combo. His changeup and curve are weapons versus lefties.

“His stuff is as good as anyone,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said recently. “I don’t care who you want to put out there. His stuff is as good as anyone’s.”

For the Marlins, if Alcantara can ascend to top-line starter level, the 2020 season will be a success.

“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” Alcantara said. “They want me to be a leader. That’s what I’m trying to do. Keep preparing myself. Keep getting better. Become an ace.”

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Pablo Lopez

If the Marlins are going to contend for a playoff spot, they’ll need Pablo Lopez to make a leap. In 2019, Lopez sported a 4.23 ERA through mid-June, allowing four earned-runs or less in 13 of his 14 starts. But after he went down with strained right shoulder, he wasn’t the same pitcher.

Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. has been impressed by Lopez throughout the spring and summer, particularly considering the tragic passing of Lopez’s father recently. He said Lopez is the pitcher he’s “most excited about.” And Lopez has worked tirelessly to develop his game, adding a cutter to his arsenal, which already includes a top-level changeup.

Following an impressive performance during a simulated game last Thursday, Mattingly noted that it was “the best I’ve ever seen Pablo look as far as being that aggressive guy.”

Lopez also looked good against the Braves. He dispatched Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman on six pitches in the first inning of that game. Lopez will start the home opener versus the Baltimore Orioles next week.

Starting him in Marlins Park is a nod to Lopez’s struggles on the road in 2019, where he went 2-5 with a 7.36 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. At home, Lopez was much better, going 3-3 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Isan Díaz

The hype surrounding Isan Díaz seemed well worth it when he took Jacob DeGrom deep in his MLB debut. That memorable moment, though, was followed by uncharacteristic struggles at the plate for the 24-year-old. Díaz finished his first year in the Majors with a .173 batting average, five home runs and 23 RBI.

“There were a lot of things going on mentally,” Díaz said of the struggles. “I wasn’t allowing my ability to evolve in the game. Those are things that happen.

“I had a great group of guys here who told me to take it as a learning curve and come back ready for next year,” he said. “Here we are for this 2020 season and already there’s a big difference with how I’m mentally feeling and how I’m going at this. I think that last year’s failure actually is going to help me for this year.”

Mattingly sees Díaz as the team’s second baseman now and of the future. He said Díaz’s “track record show that he’s gonna hit.”

Díaz should find the addition of new bench coach/offensive coordinator James Rowson hugely beneficial. Díaz has raw power but was too patient as a rookie, falling behind often. He’s already demonstrated strides at the plate in the exhibitions versus Atlanta. Although he only had one hit and one walk, there were productive at-bats.

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Jorge Alfaro

The player who could enjoy the most gains from the addition of Rowson is Jorge Alfaro. The 27-year-old catcher flashed his potential with the bat in 2019, connecting on 18 home runs, 14 doubles and 57 RBI. What hurt Alfaro was a 38.4-percent swing-and-miss rate, a 48-percent chase rate and a 33.1-percent strikeout rate.

Rowson says he wants Marlins hitters to take “swings to do damage,” and Alfaro can certainly do that. He sported a 44.8 percent hard-hit rate (a ball with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph) last season.

Alfaro demonstrated the new aggressive approach on Tuesday when he punched the first pitch he saw over the leftfield fence at Truist Park. In the two games, Alfaro went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBI.

He’ll also need to improve defensively. Alfaro posted the fourth-most errors by a catcher (11) and the third-most passed balls (11). He’ll be mentored this year by Francisco Cervelli, who’s well known for his defensive acumen.

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Brian Anderson

Although the Marlins added higher profile names to their lineup (Jesus Aguilar, Corey Dickersonand Jonathan Villar), Brian Anderson remains a key component to this offense. Anderson’s second year ended in August after a hit-by-pitch fractured his left hand. He slashed .261/.341/.468 with 20 home runs, 33 doubles and 66 RBI.

“I think he’s been getting better and better,” Mattingly said. “I think he’s got all the attributes. I’ve talked about him a lot from the standpoint of he sees the ball good and controls the strike zone. He’s got a good swing. He uses the whole field. Everything’s there in place.”

Anderson does have the tendency to get frustrated at the plate, evidenced by his 0-for-4 performance in the first exhibition versus the Braves. But Anderson bounced back with a solid 2-for-3 outing, including a double and run scored.

Adding Villar, Dickerson and Aguilar around Anderson should also provide the 27-year-old third baseman with lineup protection he’s never received in Miami.

“Those types of guys are definitely gonna make our lineup just more well-rounded and just tougher to pitch to,” Anderson said. “For me, I’m hoping that means I get more pitches to hit. It’s my job to make sure that I get those good pitches and I hit them.”

Recent reports indicate that Miami and Anderson have discussed a long-term contract extension.

“They’ve obviously given me an incredible opportunity here so I would love to stay here,” said Anderson, who the Marlins drafted in 2014 (third round).

“I love the direction that we’re going. I love getting to hear Derek talk about expecting to win,” he said. “That’s something that can grow and build and we can start making something special here.”

Marlins roster

5 Marlins Roster Questions

Fans learned the answer to one of the big questions for the Marlins roster in 2020 yesterday. Manager Don Mattingly revealed on the Marlins YouTube show ‘The Line Drive’ that Sandy Alcantara will be the Opening Day starter for Miami.

This decision was not unexpected, particularly considering Alcantara’s stretch to end 2019. The first-time all-star pitched lights out over his final 11 starts of the campaign. Over 74.1 innings pitched, Alcantara posted a 2.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 62 strikeouts. He hit seven innings in seven of his last 11 starts, including one shutout.

With that question answered, the focus now shifts to others. Here’s a look at five questions Mattingly still needs to answer regarding the Marlins roster.

Marlins Roster – Who will be the fifth starter?

While the front end the rotation seems set, the fifth starter on the Marlins roster is a spot still up for grabs. Vying for that spot are: Jordan YamamotoElieser HernandezRobert Dugger and Nick Neidert.

Last Sunday, Yamamoto and Hernandez faced off as the starters. According to reports, both pitchers had moments and struggles. Yams played well defensively and struck out two. Hernandez gave up a homer but struck out five over his five innings.

Dugger threw on Monday, finishing four innings with two strikeouts and two hits.

Neidert also threw Monday. Over four innings, he surrendered three hits and registered three strikeouts. Lots of weak contact, according to reports. Mattingly said Neidert, who impressed in the Arizona Fall League, is in a “position to stay.”

“There’s a good chance you could see both of those guys here, either early or at some point during this year,” Mattingly said of both Neidert and Dugger.

Yamamoto and Hernandez seem like the frontrunners for the spot. Dugger could land in the bullpen. Neidert might not break camp with the club, but he’s probably the next pitcher in line for promotion.

Who will be the centerfielder?

Heading into spring, Monte Harrison stood out among the options for centerfield. He competed with Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra, among others, for the spot. Harrison built on successes last year at the Triple-A level and parlayed that into an impressive spring/summer.

“Monte looks good,” Mattingly said. “He’s swung the bat good here. Plays with energy, plays fast. He’s aggressive.” Mattingly called Harrison a “mega-talented kid.” The 24-year-old profiles as a potential 30-30 guy for the Marlins.

The other significant option is Jonathan Villar, who started in center on Monday for the sim game. According to Mattingly, Villar could bounce “back and forth between centerfield, second base, shortstop and DH.”

Villar said he’s “here for the team” and the possibility of playing multiple positions is one he’s ready for. “You have to prepare mentally and physically every day. I’m prepared for whatever comes.”

Villar admitted some discomfort working in centerfield, saying judging line drives has been particularly difficult early on. However, his spot atop the lineup is all but assured.

Other options include Sierra and Harold Ramirez. For Sierra, he’s out of minor league options. If he doesn’t make the team, he’ll need to go through waivers to remain with the team. His speed would be valuable for Mattingly off the bench.

Who will man first base?

One of the major issues for the Marlins in 2019 was a lack of power. The team was last in homers and runs scored. Miami made that a focus of their offseason acquisitions, adding Villar, Jesus Aguilar, Corey Dickerson and Matt Joyce. Among that group, Aguilar sports the most power, having hit 35 home runs during his 2018 All-Star campaign.

Mattingly has said “we like the way he looks” and he’s put Aguilar at first for the most recent scrimmages. Aguilar’s fine defensively, but he’ll need to regain his 2018 form, after struggling in 2019, in order to remain the regular first baseman.

Garrett Cooper manned first for the Marlins 73 times in 2019. During the offseason, Mattingly expressed doubt concerning Cooper’s ability to be an everyday player. Cooper has struggled with injuries during his time with the Marlins, but he does possess All-Star and 30-homer potential.

Cooper will be on this roster, and he’s likely going to be a regular fixture in the lineup. He can play first, right or DH. That versatility makes him a valuable plug-and-play option for Mattingly this season.

The dark horse candidate for the Marlins roster this year is Lewin Diaz. The 23-year-old prospect holds tantalizing power potential. Mattingly compared Diaz to former MLB All-Star Carlos Delgado, and the manager has indicated there’s a good chance Diaz could be with the club at some point this season. His left-handed power could be an integral part of this lineup.

Who will fill out the bullpen?

Last season, the Marlins featured one of the worst bullpens in MLB. Miami relievers posted the fifth-worst ERA (4.97), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.11) and save percentage (55.1). Their WHIP (1.45) was seventh worst. Relievers blew 22 save opportunities and surrendered a .235 batting-average-against and .343 on-base percentage.

The Marlins turned over a considerable part of this bullpen. And while Brandon Kintzler seemed locked in at closer, there are question marks throughout the rest of the ‘pen.

The other locks are probably Yimi Garcia, Ryne Stanek and Drew Steckenrider. At least one of the pitchers who don’t make the cut as fifth starter will likely slide over as a long reliever. Sterling Sharp also seems like a lock considering his Rule-5 acquisition.

Beyond that, players like Brad Boxberger, Jeff Brigham, Adam Conley, Aaron Northcraft, Josh A. Smith, Stephen Tarpley, Alex Vesia and Nick Vincent, among others, are all vying for spots.

Who are the wildcards on the Marlins roster?

One of the most interesting parts of the Marlins roster construction remains the versatility. Multiple players could slot into various positions. Most notably, Villar has been seen during summer camp working along three different positions (CF, 2B and SS), and he has experience at a fourth (3B).

Another wildcard is Vesia, the lefty rookie who sported a 41 scoreless inning streak through spring. Vesia posted a 1.62 ERA with 138 strikeouts over 100 innings while advancing to Double-A.

“Everywhere he went he had success.” Mattingly said Vesia “pitched with confidence” and “has some moxie about him,” noting “He’s on the attack; he’s not afraid; he’s a strike thrower.”

Vesia’s emergence could endanger lefty veteran Conley’s spot in the bullpen. A similar emergence from Steckenrider could make Kintzler expendable at the trading deadline should the Marlins be out of the race.

Harrison also stands a wildcard for the Marlins roster because if he can take center or right field, that will transform what the roster looks like. Joyce’s absence thus far makes Harrison’s spot with the club all the more important. Joyce, who could also be a DH, would’ve competed with Cooper and Ramirez for an everyday role in right.

Finally, former Olympian and local product Eddy Alvarez is also a Marlins roster wildcard. He’s another player with positional versatility, and he’s a switch hitter. At the Triple-A level in 2019, Alvarez hit .323 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI over 66 games.

“I like the kid,” Mattingly said of Alvarez. “I think he’s got a chance to help us depending on what happens during this this camp.”