Sixes Up: Marlins’ Top Prospect Set To Make MLB Debut

Welcome to the Sixto Show. After an abbreviated four-year minor league career, the Marlins top prospect, will make his MLB debut this Saturday.

Welcome to the Sixto Show.

After an abbreviated four-year minor league career in which he overcame a few trials and tribulations and was able to just keep improving, Sixto Sanchez, the Marlins top prospect, will make his MLB debut this Saturday. The 22-year-old Dominican who came to America for the first time in 2015, will make his big league debut in our nation’s capital. He will become the sixth league-wide team top prospect and the 12th member of the Marlins’ top 50 to debut in 2020.

Sixto’s story starts in San Cristobal, DR. He was actually born Sixto Sanchez Encarnacion, making him a member of the trio of Encarnacions currently in the Marlins system and now the second to make an appearance with the Marlins. He shares his surname with two other Miami top prospects, Breidy and Jerar, with 2003 World Series champion Juan and with potential future Hall of Famer Edwin Encarnacion. By all intents and purposes, Sixto has the raw talent to live up to each and every one of those accolades.

Phillies scouts first saw the potential in Sanchez’s arm when he was throwing batting practice at a workout the Phillies were holding for another player at their Dominican academy in Boca Chica. Yes, the arm of the Marlins’ top prospect was discovered during batting practice. Stealing the spotlight from the guy he went up against, catcher Leidner Ricardo by dominating him in BP, Sanchez — who was already able to ramp up to the low 90s and who was prized for a simple, clean, low-effort arm action — was inked by Philadelphia in 2015 for a $35,000 signing bonus.

“The Phillies called my father,” Sanchez, who was 16 at the time, said recalling the moment he got the news. “My father was laughing.”

After breaking into affiliated ball by way of 25.1 IP with the DSL Phillies in 2015, the club brought him stateside in 2016. The results were immediate and the heads of the baseball scouting world turned his way just as instantly. As a 17-year-old transitioning to life alone in America, Sixto tossed 54 innings worth of 0.50 ERA ball by way of a 0.76 WHIP and 5.5 K/BB. All of those marks ranked first in the GCL. The teenager capped his breakout season off by tossing seven more scoreless frames in the league playoffs.

In 2017, Sixto made the transition to full season ball with A Lakewood. Five of his 13 starts with the BlueClaws were of the quality variety and he totaled seven or more Ks in four of his outings, including his full season ball debut where he struck out eight. Two days after his 8th birthday, Sixto got the call to A+. After a rough initial outing there, he ended 2017 on a 21.2 IP, 3.72 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 17/9 K/BB run.

Enter 2018. Sixto began back in A+ Clearwater. His year was off to a promising start 46.2 IP, 2.51 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 45/11 K/BB start and a call to AA was imminent. His fastball was being clocked as high as 102z however, after a seven inning two hit shutout performance on June 3rd, potential disaster struck when it was revealed that Sanchez had inflammation in his throwing elbow. This injury was most plausibly caused by the fireballer being overused by the Phillies at a young age. Before his 19th birthday, Sixto had already thrown 230+ career innings.

Even though his time on the field came to an end in June, Sixto’s 2018 was far from over. On () the Phillies won the sweepstakes for catcher JT Realmuto. The price: Jorge Alfaro, lefty Will Stewart and the top prospect in the Phillies organization, Sixto Sanchez. According to Sanchez, the news of having to leave the organization which jump started his career and where he learned how to become a man hit him hard. In fact, Sanchez told NBC Sports the news reduced him to tears.

“I was really surprised. I would have never imagined that they would have traded me. I wasn’t prepared for it, Sanchez said. “Once I came to terms with it, I said, ‘OK. I’m traded now and I’m going to work hard.’ “

And work hard he has. Sixto showed up in Miami for spring training 2019 as the new guy but also as the team’s brand new top prospect. He was a participant in the Marlins’ annual Captains’ Camp, a program which mixes on field work with life coaching. Through that process and through another restart in the A+ Florida State League, Sixto stunned both his opponents and his own teammates and coaches.

“He throws strikes, he works quick and he fills up the strike zone,” Hammerheads pitching coach Reid Cornelius said after just two starts. “The changeup is really good, the fastball is explosive and he throws some good sliders. He’s electric.”

The Marlins saw a lot of the same things Cornelius saw. After just those two aforementioned starts in Jupiter, Sixto was given the big call up to AA Jacksonville. There is only one term for his performance there: staggering. Going up  against guys nearly four and a half years older than him on average, this was the line: 103 IP, 2.53 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 1.029 WHIP. Those metrics ranked sixth, third and fourth in the Southern League. His 5.11 K/BB ratio made possible by a 97/19 K/BB was tops in the SL.

This season, the Marlins, in an abundance of caution to preserve his arm and in order to steer as far away from necessary surgery as possible, put Sixto on a very strict throwing program. In early March, Sixto was hardly up to full speed even in his bullpens. Then, COVID struck and delayed him even more. However, Sanchez didn’t waste his time away from the Jupiter site. Instead, he did some extremely advantageous fitness work and showed back up to summer camp in arguably the best shape of his life.

“In spring, I wasn’t ready,” Sanchez told the Miami Herald’s Jordan McPherson. “I was a bit overweight. … I was able to lose some weight and get to 225. Now, I feel great.”

Sixto’s level of comfort has shown during scrimmage games against his teammates including big league guys at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

On top of being in his best physical shape and on top of his present arsenal markedly improving (namely his previously good turned great changeup that is now showing table-dropping break) Sixto has also added a new weapon to his already ridiculous arsenal, a curveball. The power curve sits low 80s and — in true Sixto fashion — flashes room for quick growth. The curve adds a further separation in velo, from 100 all the way down to 82 with the same smooth arm motion and speed. With repeatability and comfort leading into plus command and control over a plus-plus four-pitch arsenal, Sixto is drawing comparisons to the likes of Pedro Martinez and Johnny Cueto.

Feeling his best with his stuff at its best and still growing, Sixto has unquestionable ace potential, making him a puzzle piece the Marlins have been looking for for a substantial amount of time.

Miami, Sixto is here. Prepare to be dazzled.

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