Watch a full inning of Sixto Sanchez pitches at Class A Advanced Jupiter
Sixto Sanchez didn’t need long to show off every weapon he has at his disposal. On his fourth pitch Thursday, the starting pitcher struck out his first batter on a 90-mph changeup. On his sixth pitch, Sanchez lit up the scoreboard at Roger Dean Stadium to triple digits as he blazed a fastball past a hitter on his way to a 1-2-3 inning.
There were ups and down for Sanchez in his latest start with the Jupiter Hammerheads, the Class A Advanced affiliate of the Miami Marlins, and at his best he provided a reminder why he’s a top 25 prospect in the MLB.com rankings.
“He’s electric. The kid was good tonight,” Hammerheads pitching coach Reid Cornelius said. “He throws strikes, he works quick, he gets the ball and throws it, he’s in the strike zone. He might need to go a little edgy at times, but he’s pitched two games for us, so he hasn’t gotten a whole lot of innings under his belt this year.”
Sanchez made his second start of the 2019 season Thursday in Jupiter and impressed even while allowing four earned runs. Sanchez regularly touched 98 mph in the early innings — occasionally ramping up to 99 or 100 — and paired it with a low-90s changeup when he was at his best. He dominated in his first time through the order before wearing down toward the end of his start against the Florida Fire Frogs, the Atlanta Braves’ Class A Advanced affiliate, in a 4-2 loss.
The final line for Sanchez in what might be his last Florida State League outing: six innings, eight hits, four earned runs, four strikeouts, one walk. He threw 74 pitches with 54 strikes and got 11 groundball outs, almost exclusively using his fastball and changeup.
Sanchez’s opening inning was the right-handed pitcher at his best. He set the tone with his fastball, then used the changeup for the finishing pitch on his game-opening strikeout and two groundouts. Sanchez’s final pitch of the first frame was a 91-mph changeup.
“He can use his fastball at the top of the zone and above, should be good. He pitches down in the zone very well and he has some sink down there, and he gets a lot of early-contact ground balls,” Cornelius said, “and then he has the changeup, which is a swing-and-miss pitch.”
He didn’t give up a hit until the No. 9 hitter order blooped a single to left field. In his first turn through the Fire Frogs’ order, Sanchez threw 32 pitches — 24 for strikes — with one hit, three strikeouts and no walks.
Hard contact didn’t come until the fourth inning, when Florida put up three runs. Catcher William Contreras doubled to center on a 98-mph fastball, then outfielder Jefrey Ramos reached on an infield single to set up a three-run homer for infielder Drew Lugbauer. Sanchez’s average fastball velocity dipped toward 94 by the end of the inning and the Fire Frogs added another run in the fifth when a misplayed single turned into a triple and a single drove another run home.
Sanchez finished his outing an inning later when he pitched the sixth inning for the first time in 2019. He went to the mound already having thrown 57 pitches — 45 strikes — and worked around a lead-off walk by ramping back up his velocity. To finish his day, Sanchez blew a 98-mph fastball by outfielder Garrison Schwartz for his first strikeout since the second inning.
“The pitches are in place, the delivery is in place, he’s very rhythmic,” Cornelius said, “and now it’s just a matter of, How do I use my stuff to the best of my ability.”