It’s hard to replace an icon in sports, especially if the person owning the moniker has left this world too soon and under such sad circumstances.
Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was everything the organization needed him to be until his untimely death in 2016. While the Marlins were embedded in a playoff race, Fernandez was about as automatic as any player in the game until a boating accident took his life on Sept. 24 at the age of 24.
The Marlins haven’t had that kind of dominant pitcher to send to the bump since then. At least since the team acquired Sixto Sanchez from the Philadelphia Phillies. And after watching the team’s top prospect mow down the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, I’m not sure the thought of comparing the two pitchers crossed the minds of many Marlins fans or even the front office.
But a case was made and it makes sense now that Sanchez has proven he is the future ace of this organization.
“I never thought we’d see a rookie pitcher in Marlins uniform as dominant as Jose Fernandez was, but here we are,” Craig Mish wrote on his Twitter account.
While Fernandez was the lightning bolt that flashed brilliance at times, could Sanchez, who is ranked as the 22nd overall prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline, became an even bigger star in South Florida? To steal a phrase from former WWE superstar and Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle, “Oh, it’s true. It’s damn true.”
With all due respect to Sandy Alcantara, it is Sanchez the Marlins hope becomes another Pedro Martinez or Fernandez-type of flame-thrower. The combination of the two would be the best thing for this franchise. And with the development of Pablo Lopez and potentially Edward Cabrera, this starting rotation could be “scary” in a year’s time.
All the while, team CEO Derek Jeter is grinning, thinking of how this is type of positioning is how the New York Yankees won World Series titles when he was the team’s captain. Stranger things have happened. Trading J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies for Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro and Will Stewart more than makes up for foolish dealings the team entered into in years past – such as added Wei-Yin Chen in free agency prior to the 2016 season.
The Marlins front office was smart to begin the process of rebuilding the minor league system with pitching, adding young arms at every level of the organization to either keep for the future or use as trade capital for the present. Jazz Chisholm and Starlin Marte are prime examples of how to make a baseball team better in a short period of time.
This should be a continuing theme in Miami as the pitching depth for a lack of a better word, is insane on all four levels of this ball club. And it should get better with the six picks the team made in the most recent MLB Draft.
For now, Sanchez is the player everyone is talking about and rightfully so. He is a diamond on a team full of future glowing stars. His small sample size of success is exactly what the Marlins hoped for, only it might be coming a season or two earlier than expected.
No worries. The front office will take that kind of return on their investment. And the dividend is he should be even better in a 162-game season, instead of this shortened season where is potential might not fully be understood just yet.