He struck out Buster Posey in his major league debut.
Yadier Molina once used the words “nice, calm and easy” to describe his pitching style to the St. Louis media.
And J.T. Realmuto is already singing his praises after just one appearance in spring training.
Sandy Alcantara hasn’t even pitched a full game’s worth of innings in the majors yet.
But he’s already caught the attention of at least three of the National League’s best catchers, and Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez – one of his boyhood idols.
“I got to meet him once,” Alcantara said of Martinez. “He said I had a great arm and to keep working hard because you never what the future will bring.”
The future could be soon for Alcantara if he can turn himself into the top of the rotation starter the Marlins were looking for when they acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals in the trade for Marcell Ozuna in December.
Alcantara, a 22-year old right-hander, has been highly-regarded by scouts for a fastball clocked as high as 102 mph since signing five years ago out of the Dominican Republic.
But it’s his command of that pitch and the potential development of a changeup, breaking ball and a wipeout slider that has already worked well for him so far that could make him a standout major-league starter.
“He’s a nice, composed kid,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s got the mentality that he’s working on getting better. We talk about fastball command with him. He’s a guy that throws hard and has good stuff. But sometimes you have guys that just rely on that and don’t realize that command is so important. Obviously his arm is impressive, but he’s got a mixture of pitches too. He’s not a one pitch guy. He’s got a pretty good changeup, can run a little two-seamer in there. His breaking ball is getting better and better. He’s a guy that has all the ingredients.”
Alcantara, who started pitching when he was seven years old in his hometown of Azua, stands at near 6-5 and is a slender 170 pounds.
He made his major-league debut last season in September with the Cardinals posting a 4.32 ERA with 10 strikeouts and six walks in 8 1/3 relief innings. Opposing batters hit .167 off 42 four-seam fastballs.
Alcanatara showed good command of all his pitches in his Marlins’ debut last Saturday in Jupiter in which he retired all six batters he faced with one strikeout. And did that without really dialing up the velocity. Alcantara’s fastball touched 96 mph, which below his average from last season of 98.6 mph on his four-seam fastball per Statcast.
“He has great stuff, good breaking stuff,” said Tomas Telis, who caught Alcantara on Saturday. “He threw a few two-seamers really well. The ball has a lot of good movement. He looks like he has the talent to be a great big-league pitcher. It’s not just speed and you don’t worry about him overthrowing. Everything is around the zone and he’s shown good control of all his pitches.”
Alcantara, who went 7-5 with a 4.31 ERA in 125 1/3 innings (22 starts) in Double-A last year, could become one of the Marlins’ three yet to be named starters in the rotation or start the year in the minors.
That decision is one the Marlins intend to be very judicious with in order to ensure Alcantara’s long-term development.
“We’re in a situation in which we must make sure we don’t have to speed any processes up,” Marlins pitching coach Juan Nieves said. “It takes time and you guys have seen that when you speed up guys to the big leagues, you see consequences either way. Guys that leave because options are out or they don’t grow in the big leagues and aren’t able to stay and be solid pitchers in the big leagues. We’re going to try and make the process be everything on time.”
Alcantara said while he would love to earn a starting spot immediately, he appreciates the value of the Marlins’ long-term plan for him.
“I’ll be ready to pitch wherever they place me,” Alcantara said. “I’m just trying to work hard no matter what. No one knows what could happen in the future.”
The Marlins don’t intend to make mistakes similar to past seasons in which they have rushed pitchers to the majors out of necessity and seen them either struggle like Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani or have to let them go and watch them succeed with other clubs the way Brad Hand did with San Diego.
“The fact that for a young kid, you look at the way he talks about getting better and he has to prove he belongs here and he’s thinking I have to keep getting better,” Mattingly said. “When you see that, the sky’s kind of the limit when you have the ability.”
Tuesday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily vs. Nationals TBA, 1:05 p.m., West Palm Beach.
Wednesday: Marlins RHP Odrisamer Despaigne vs. Nationals TBA, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.