The Marlins deployed Garrett Cooper as their designated hitter on Friday night, his first game action since he missed more than a month on the COVID-19 Injured List. But before his return, Cooper rehabbed with Miami’s alternate squad in Jupiter, Florida. The first pitcher he faced during his comeback was Sixto Sanchez.
“There's not too many guys with that kind of stuff in the big leagues. It's pretty (darn) good,” Cooper told reporters. “ ... The first time facing him, I was in for a rude awakening.”
So is the rest of baseball, it would seem.
The top Marlins prospect shoved in his second Major League start Friday night, striking out 10 over seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 loss to the Rays at Marlins Park. Sanchez allowed six hits, walked a batter and lowered his ERA to 2.31 through 12 big league frames. Miami mustered only five hits, however, and didn’t have a runner reach third base.
Velocity is what made Sanchez such a tantalizing prospect during his journey through the Minors and it’s what powered the right-hander against Tampa Bay. Per Statcast, his four-seam fastball topped out at 100.6 mph. It averaged 98.7 mph and hit triple digits on the radar gun three times. Even more importantly, his changeup averaged 88.5 mph; the 10.2-mph difference helped Sanchez rack up eight whiffs on the changeup alone. He induced 17 swinging strikes in all, and all five pitches in his arsenal -- which also includes a sinker, slider and curveball -- contributed to the total.
“To be honest, all my pitches were working very well but mostly the changeup,” Sanchez said through a team interpreter of the pitch he used to record 13 outs. “The changeup was the one that I was able to locate … I would say it's my main pitch. The second one would be my fastball. But I truly trust my changeup a lot. I use it to get ground balls, to get outs, double plays. I do trust my changeup a lot.”
MLB Pipeline’s No. 24 overall prospect needed seven pitches to fan the game’s first two batters. He allowed a first-pitch single to Ji-Man Choi in the second and walked Manuel Margot with two outs but escaped the frame unscathed. The Rays managed three hits -- all singles -- over the next four innings.
Willy Adames knocked a leadoff single in the seventh, but catcher Jorge Alfaro caught him trying to steal second base on Sanchez’s next pitch. Margot singled later in the frame to reach base for the third time. He stole second to become just the second Tampa Bay baserunner to get into scoring position. But Sanchez got Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to ground to first base to end his night. His final offering was an 87.3 mph changeup that followed a 99.4 mph heater.
Of the 21 outs the Rays made against Sanchez, 10 were on strikes, 10 were on the ground and one was on the basepaths. None were in the air.
Sanchez had an extra day of rest following his Major League debut on Aug. 22, and he said the additional time helped his arm feel fresh and his mind get clear. He lauded Alfaro for calling a “perfect game.”
“He was really good. Kind of in control all night,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He used his changeup a lot. Was able to elevate. He used his breaking ball when he needed to. He was really good and he gave us a really good shot. When he gives us seven innings of scoreless, gives us a chance to get on the board, and we just weren't able to get on the board for him.”
It was the kind of showing the Marlins likely envisioned when they made the February 2019 deal that sent catcher J.T. Realmuto, who led the Phillies with 4.5 bWAR last year, to a division rival. Sanchez was the centerpiece of Miami’s three-player return, which included Alfaro. The 22-year-old hurler began his tenure in the Marlins organization with Class A Advanced Jupiter but spent nearly all of last season at Double-A Jacksonville. Over a career-high 114 innings, the native of the Dominican Republic posted a 2.53 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 23.6 percent strikeout rate and 4.6 percent walk rate.
As good as Sanchez was in 2019, the Marlins were still cautious. He had made only eight starts during his final season in the Phillies organization because of elbow inflammation. The need for caution, though, has worn out.
“There's no holding back with him at this point,” Mattingly said. “He pitched a great game. He goes seven innings. He's a built-up pitcher that we're willing to let go.”
In other action:
Blue Jays 5, Orioles 4 (10 innings)
Fifth-ranked Orioles prospect Ryan Mountcastle put together his third multi-hit game of the week. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, the second of which knocked in two runs to tie the game in the sixth. Mountcastle is batting .400 with a 1.000 OPS through 16 Major League at-bats. No. 25 Blue Jays prospect Thomas Hatch lowered his ERA to 1.72 with an inning of scoreless relief. Box score
Brewers 9, Pirates 1
Rookies Mark Mathias and Jacob Nottingham each plated two runs in the Brewers’ rout. The latter reached Derek Holland for a two-run shot in the fourth, the second big league dinger of the 25-year-old's career. Tenth-ranked Brewers prospect Drew Rasmussen closed out the game with two hitless innings, dropping his ERA to 3.38. Box score
White Sox 6, Royals 5
No. 3 overall prospect Luis Robert crushed his eighth homer of the season, a solo shot off Danny Duffy in the second inning, to get the White Sox on the board. The 23-year-old went 2-for-4 and has five hits in his last three games to bring his slash line up to .284/.331/.569 in 109 at-bats. No. 27 White Sox prospect Codi Heuer tossed a scoreless fifth out of the bullpen. Box score
Indians 14, Cardinals 2
While not as sharp as he was during his 10-strikeout debut a week ago, ninth-ranked Indians prospect Triston McKenzie limited the damage in his second Major League appearance. He allowed two runs on three hits and three walks in four innings, with all of the damage coming on Dexter Fowler's two-run homer in the second. Indians No. 26 prospect Yu Chang collected his first RBI of the season with a groundout in the seventh. Top Cardinals prospect Dylan Carlson went 0-for-4 with three punchouts and is batting .183 since being called up two weeks ago. Box score
Angels 3, Mariners 2
Mariners rookie Sam Haggerty singled home J.P. Crawford to open the scoring in the sixth inning, giving Haggerty an RBI in each of Seattle’s last three games. Top Angels prospect Jo Adell struck out three times on an 0-for-4 night and is hitting .175 in 63 at-bats. Box score
D-backs 7, Giants 4
No. 17 D-backs prospect Andy Young drew a walk to bring his on-base percentage up to .455 in eight games. Top Giants prospect Joey Bart singled in a 1-for-4 effort. San Francisco rookies Caleb Baragar and Sam Selman combined for 2 1/3 innings of no-hit relief. Box score
Mets 6, Yankees 4 (1st game)
Seventh-ranked Yankees prospect Estevan Florial recorded a hit in his Major League debut. The two-out single in the fifth inning was the only knock in three at-bats for the 22-year-old outfielder. Florial, who was promoted Friday afternoon when Aaron Judge was placed on the Injured List, appeared in two playoff games with Double-A Trenton in 2017 but did not play a regular-season game above the Class A Advanced level in five Minor League seasons. Box score
Mets 4, Yankees 3 (2nd game)
Mets No. 28 prospect Ali Sanchez bounced a one-out single back through the middle in the third inning for his first MLB hit. The 25-year-old backstop worked with 13th-ranked prospect David Peterson for four innings. The 6-foot-6 left-hander had some trouble finding the zone, particularly in the third, when he allowed three runs on three hits and three walks. Activated from the IL before the game, Peterson allowed just one other baserunner and struck out three, bringing his ERA to 3.51 over 25 2/3 innings. Yankees No. 17 prospect Nick Nelson yielded a run on two hits and a walk in the fifth. He was able to limit the damage by getting Sanchez to bounce into a double play. Box score
Reds 6, Cubs 5
Reds No. 6 prospect Jose Garcia had a hit in four trips to the plate. The 22-year-old infielder has two hits through six at-bats since making his Major League debut on Thursday. He spent only two seasons in the Minors, topping out at Class A Advanced Daytona, where he batted .280/.343/.436 with 37 doubles and 15 stolen bases last year. Box score
Nationals 10, Red Sox 2
Nationals No. 24 prospect Ben Braymer yielded a run on four hits and a walk with one strikeout over 1 1/3 innings in his Major League debut. The 26-year-old southpaw worked around a leadoff double to Jose Peraza in the eighth, then ran into some trouble in the ninth. Braymer was used exclusively as a starter in 26 appearances with Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Fresno last year, sporting a 4.53 ERA with 116 strikeouts over 139 innings. Second-ranked Nats prospect Luis Garcia entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. Box score
Rangers 6, Dodgers 2
Third-ranked Texas prospect Leody Taveras recorded a hit and a walk, stole a base and scored a run in three at-bats. The 21-year-old outfielder beat out an infield single on an 0-2 sinker in the third inning, swiped second and scored on a double by Shin-Soo Choo. The run and the steal were the first at the Major League level for Taveras, who's 3-for-13 through five games. Box score
Padres 10, Rockies 4
Padres No. 14 prospect Jorge Mateo tallied his first multi-hit game, delivering an RBI single in the fourth inning and a leadoff double in the ninth. Mateo, who also made a diving catch in left field, is 3-for-13 through his first nine big league games. Even without recording a hit, Padres No. 18 prospect Jake Cronenworth found a way to contribute. He walked and scored on a double by Ty France in the sixth and produced the Friars’ final tally with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. The 26-year-old infielder is batting .348/.404/.584 with 13 extra-base hits, 13 RBIs and 16 runs scored this season. Rockies No. 29 prospect Ashton Goudeau yielded a pair of runs on four hits over the final two frames. Box score
Joe Bloss is a contributor for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jtbloss.