It’s been a wild week for prospect pitchers and we had another pair of exciting pitchers making their debuts on Saturday night with Triston Mckenzie going for the Indians and Sixto Sanchez with the Marlins. Make sure to check out Andy Patton’s excellent piece to get a grasp of McKenzie.
With Sanchez, we’ve been waiting a long time for this moment. He was highly touted with the Phillies and the major piece of the February 2019 trade that moved JT Realmuto to the City of Brotherly Love. The quick report was simple: an electric heater with a wipeout slider and a solid changeup. Sixto’s stamina was the biggest question mark as his smaller frame outlines a pitcher who could come out swinging, but fades as he gets past the 50 pitch mark.
This was a call-up rooted in a double-header as the Miami Marlins could see Caleb Smith and Sandy Alcantara return to the team shortly, making me wonder how much we’ll see of Sanchez this season. Nevertheless, I’ve been antsy for a hard-throwing prospect pitcher to wow me on the hill and I struggled to hold back my excitement watching Sanchez.
Here is my GIF Breakdown of Sixto Sanchez’s MLB debut in 31 GIFs.
I’ve been talking about looking for velocity from the very first pitch across these debuts. We’ve seen 94, 95, and maybe 96, but Sixto, well he came out swinging to Trea Turner:
98 mph! That’s what we’re dealing with plus a touch of life. Don’t love that it was targetted away, but hey, 98 mph! Let’s see if that falls to 94/95 by the end or if it sticks.
99 mph! With drop! Located inside! For an out! I made a sound. I hope you did too.
I wonder if that’s something he’ll be able to command as WHAT. He just touched 100 mph to Adam Eaton on a fastball right down the pipe. I’m giddy and he did it a second time, this time with sink to earn another out:
He’s failed to throw a ball so far and tossing cheeeeese that’s generating outs. This is incredibly exciting, though I am wondering if we can see this velocity through the start, let alone when he doesn’t have an MLB debut to fuel his energy.
Sanchez started off Juan Soto with more 100 mph action at the bottom of the zone, followed by the first non-fastball of the game:
Oh hey, that’s legit drop at 91 mph that looks just like his fastball. I’m amazed Soto was able to layoff, though I bet he was anticipating a secondary pitch here. This is absolute filth.
Sixto pumped another 100 mph dart down the middle that Soto tipped into the glove for strike two. Sanchez is a bit amped and slightly overthrew the next pitch to miss low at 100 mph again, followed by another legit changeup that Soto was able to push up over second base for the first hit of the game:
To be honest, if this was the heavy majority of hitters, that’s Sixto’s first strikeout in the majors. For a 2-2 pitch, it earned a swing and landed under the zone, but didn’t have quite as much break as the elite changeups we know. Still, that’s a great pitch and a bit of bad luck for Sanchez.
With a man on first, Sanchez is throwing from the stretch for the first time and fired a 98 mph heater to Anibal Sanchez, fouled off for strikeout.
Then this happened:
What. On. Earth. These two sliders were NASTY as Sanchez earned his first strikeout in the majors.
So let me get this straight. Sanchez is throwing strikes. He’s throwing upper 90s to triple digits. He has a changeup he’s thrown low twice and two perfectly executed sliders that each earned whiffs.
What we just saw was an ace. One inning and as small of a sample size you’ll find, but that pitcher is an ace. Absolutely unreal.
I couldn’t handle myself after that first frame.
I'm writing this Sixto Sanchez GIF breakdown right now.
That was the most dominant first inning I've seen in a MLB debut since I began writing these in 2014.
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) August 23, 2020
I meant that. Thing is, I can hear Shelly Verougstraete’s voice in the back of my head, outlining her concern of Sixto’s stamina and ability to sustain quality as he travels deeper into games. I’m keeping it all in check as we start the second frame.
I had originally written a lot about the first batter of the inning, but let’s just do this. Here’s what Eric Thames had to deal with:
I have to apologize to my neighbors as I made noises watching this entire at-bat. That’s a perfect 88 mph slider at the bottom of the zone. Then 100 mph heat that looks even harder after the great off-speed pitcher prior, and then an unreal 92 mph changeup for strike three. Sanchez is throwing strikes. He’s mixing pitches. He’s making stupid uncomfortable at-bats and carving up this lineup.
And why not, here’s that changeup again in slow-motion:
Be still my beating heart.
What do I like? I like nasty secondary pitches and high heaters. Sixto tried to go upstairs but missed at 99 mph to Josh Harrison, for his first 1-0 count. So he went to an inside heater at 99 mph and got an out. No biggie:
This is stupid good. I talked about it in my Casey Mize GIF Breakdown – pitchers who are able to jam batters slightly off the plate with two-seamers will have a lot of success. Either these pitches will be free strikes as they knock them foul, or they’ll return quick outs as we saw before. That’s a hitter’s count, erased in one pitch completely. The difference between Mize and Sanchez? This is coming in at 99 mph.
So things are cool. Luis Garcia steps in and Sanchez fell behind again, this time on his worst pitch of the night as he tugged a fastball way inside that it went to the backstop. He attempted another fastball away but tugged one again, a borderline ball on the inside corner. At 2-0, Sanchez still relied on heat against the #7 hitter and got himself to close the book on his second MLB inning:
That’s an eight-pitch inning despite three balls as he fell behind the latter two batters. I know I often talk about rise and four-seamers being better than getting sink, but at this velocity paired with two secondary pitches that can get whiffs, I’m perfectly happy with this. It’s allowing him to be efficient while overwhelming many along the way.
So far, Sixto is a legit ace. I didn’t like that we saw a touch of volatility against Harrison and Garcia – and we’ll like see moments when those appear again for some rough innings – but overall, his stuff is just so electric. I’ve been waiting for a start like this.
The biggest question at the moment is still his stamina and we likely won’t see it until the fourth or fifth frame, maybe not even until his second start in the majors as he loses the benefit of adrenaline.
He started off Yan Gomes with 100 mph that fell off the plate but was called a strike for an 0-1 count:
That was a gift. His next pitch missed again and…wasn’t a gift:
I wonder if this will be a thing with Sixto – inconsistent fastball command. He missed terribly on this pitch as they wanted to stay away from Gomes, but the pitch sailed across the zone into Gomes’ wheelhouse. Unlucky for it to be a longball, but it’s not like Sanchez threw a good pitch here.
We pick up next with Victor Robles who gets another mistake fastball from Sanchez that sails across the plate again, but this time far inside for ball one. His next pitch was a pretty one though:
I absolutely love this pitch call. Sanchez hasn’t landed a good spot with his fastball in three straight pitches and a common tactic is to switch to a secondary offering to help get a pitcher’s timing and release re-calibrated. Sanchez got the slider, executed a great one, and is hopefully ready to throw a strong fastball next.
Nope, Sanchez went with a changeup next and he fell aggressively off the mound toward first on release, pulling the pitch far into the opposite batter’s box. He looked down to the mound after as if something tampered his delivery, though his next slider was pulled too far away as well. At 3-1, I wasn’t feeling confident that Sanchez could pull it together, but he did:
It’s the #9 hitter. You have an upper 90s fastball with a good amount of movement. I love that Sanchez could calm his mechanics a touch on this pitch to ensure it landed in the zone and his reward was the first out of the inning. There’s something to be said about having a good enough fastball to slither out of 3-1 counts.
The lineup turned over giving Trea Turner another shot at Sanchez. He was met with Sanchez’s first curveball of the game:
Turner definitely didn’t anticipate this pitch, found himself committed early (possibly thinking this was a slider), and suddenly Sanchez could escape the third without 30 pitches to his name. He’s on pace for a Maddux right now…even if this game is just seven innings long (double-headers, yo).
But let me talk about that curveball. I wasn’t aware he had one and that’s a solid show-me hook. It’s just a sample size of one, but I can see a time when his slider feel isn’t there and his curveball has to step in to take some of the weight off in a given start. This will work and I love that he has yet another weapon in his repertoire. Now just limit those moments when your mechanics get a little too violent and we’re cool. Like really cool.
Now it’s Adam Eaton who has the veteran experience to take the first pitch to prevent yet another quick inning. Sanchez got the call with 100 mph just above the zone and elected to go with a changeup at 0-1:
Look at that fade! The previous changeups we saw came with a ton of depth and while this certainly had that, it started a strike and landed off the plate, forcing a committed Eaton to slap it to third for weak out.
Despite another quick frame, this was Sanchez’s shakiest inning by far. He started with a struggle to get his mechanics in order, including fastballs that weren’t smoothly commanded to where he wanted to put them. Still, the movement is there, his repertoire is still filthy, and I’m trying to stop myself from blushing. Sixto is something else.
He’s just at 30 pitches and I’m wondering how long he’ll actually go in this game – maybe six…maybe a seven-inning complete game?! Regardless of the game depth, I want to see him pushed to test what his pitches look like when he has less fuel in the tank. Hopefully, we get there.
It’s another duel against Juan Soto and he began the at-bat with a lovely 90 mph slider for a strike:
That’s such a lovely pitch. Soto can’t do anything with it and while it’s borderline, I’m happy Sanchez got the call. It’s too beautiful not to get it.
Speaking of beautiful, after missing with a slider too far that Sanchez yanked once again (I hope that isn’t a consistent problem…), Sanchez hit his target at 100 mph:
Like that is it. You can’t put it in a better spot at 1-1 with a heater, save for trying to jam him up-and-in. Unreal.
It was the complete opposite on the next pitch as Sanchez overthrew his changeup, bouncing it far in front of the plate for a wasted ball. Now at 2-2, he tried the changeup again and it worked:
Wild! Sixto lost his glove as he nipped the ball in the air, pushing it toward the shortstop for the out. It wasn’t as good of a changeup that resulted in a hit in the first inning, but I’m glad to see him make the adjustment on the previous pitch and trust the pitch’s movement to earn the out in the field.
Save for the longball from Gomes, these balls in play have all looked like generic outs – even the single from Soto in the first. It’s not easy to hit Sixto.
He started off Asdrubal Cabrera with 99 mph up-and-away followed by another gifted strike as he turned to a backdoor 89 mph slider. At 1-1, we saw another changeup to a left-hander and…
You have to be kidding. That’s another excellent changeup at one strike against a left-hander that deserved to be an out and I still don’t understand how this landed. So it goes.
He started off Thames with a 98 mph fastball that sailed up-and-away for ball one, then got yet another gifted called strike as he floated a changeup up and slightly off the plate away. He made a much better pitch at 1-1, earning a foul ball on a 91 mph changeup that landed down-and-away, just under the strike zone. A fantastic offering, especially since Thames anticipated a fastball after the previous slow ball.
He went up-and-in at 98 mph that returned a foul ball back and I wasn’t surprised to see a slider follow, but Thames fought it off for another foul ball as it wasn’t located far enough down-and-in. A changeup missed too low away and suddenly we have a full count as Sanchez deals with his first tough at-bat.
In the end, Sanchez won:
Another changeup gets Thames, resulting in plenty of angry noises from the dugout well after he whiffed. At 2-2 and watching other secondary stuff prior, he was likely anticipating a heater, got the slow ball and that’s two strikeouts against Thames on the day.
Now facing Josh Harrison again, Sixto started him off with an 86 mph slider:
That’s an excellent first pitch, though at it’s a bit slower than I expected. We’ve seen the pitch as hard as 91 mph and I imagined it would sit at 89 mph. It continued to induce the final out of the inning:
Both are excellent pitches, though now that’s 85 mph from Sanchez on the sweeper. Maybe it’s an indication of his stamina starting to fade as he creeps toward 50 pitches, maybe it’s just Sanchez being a little more methodical with his mechanics.
Regardless, I love those offerings and it was another well-deserved outcome for Sanchez. He’s cruising through this Nationals lineup and I’m crossing my fingers he has three more innings in him.
I’m going to be watching that velocity heavily and he started off Luis Garcia with 98 mph on the outside corner for strike one. Then a perfect slider for strike two. Then a dope changeup for the strikeout.
Then. Then. Then. I’m sorry for the poor writing, he’s putting me into a state. You’ll understand, just watch it:
It’s all so stupid good. That quick pace is hypnotic and while the 98 mph velocity could be an indication of depleting stamina, his command is there and I’ll take 98 mph as the “worse” version.
The villain Yan Gomes stepped into the box, saw an 87 mph slider landing for a strike and slapped it to right for a base hit. Nothing bad here, just your standard first pitch strike that normally gets an 0-1 count, but Gomes was able to get a single. He has a rival!
With a man at first, it’s the bottom of the order with Victor Robles at the plate and Sanchez elected for a fastball in:
That’s…94 mph. I wonder if Sanchez is doing an augmented two-seamer grip here to emphasize the movement (that’s a ton of ride off the plate) at the cost of velocity, but 94?! We haven’t seen 93 or 95 all day from anything. Weird.
Sixto went back up-and-in, this time with a straight fastball at 97 mph. That’s not 94, but it’s not 99 either. He missed and at 2-0 we saw this:
That’s 95 mph without dramatic movement. Is this the velocity drop we were talking about? Or is this a product of being from the stretch? Keep in mind, Sanchez has barely pitched from the stretch all game. I’m getting a little worried now.
At 2-1, Sanchez went with the slider and threw a great two-strike slider that darted off the outside corner, but at 2-1, Robles sat heater and took it for ball three.
So it’s a 3-1 count and Robles is thinking heater. He got one…at 93 mph.
Oh no. Not like this. Not like this. The broadcasters called this a changeup…that’s not a changeup. That’s Sanchez running out of gas at just 56 pitches. It could also be a product of his adrenaline fading and 90 minutes after starting the game and less about the pitch count, for what it’s worth. Either way, that’s very concerning.
Okay, bases are empty now. Maybe this was a stretch-mechanics problem. Here’s Trea Turner and he opened with an 89 mph slider that missed inside. Okay, that’s 89 mph! Maybe he’s alright:
That’s 99 mph inside for strike one. Okay, so this is good and super weird. I can’t remember the last time I saw a six mph gap between two consecutive fastballs, but there it is. Is this just him pushing 100% for a moment and pulling it together? Or was it a product of pitching from the stretch? I’m not sure, but let’s be happy 99 mph is back.
But what on earth is this:
Is that a sinker?! That’s 94 mph after just throwing 98 mph, but it came with much more sink. It’s not his changeup which is dramatic, is that a cutter? The camera angle is a little off and I can fathom that but…I’m incredibly confused. I’m going to guess Sanchez went sinker, added too much pressure to amplifying its sink and it cost more velocity. I don’t like Sanchez doing this.
At 2-1, we saw an 87 mph changeup – the softest we’ve seen all game – fouled off for strike two, then another changeup, but this one at 92 mph. Yes, a changeup with its exaggerated movement. This is such a weird inning.
Gladly, we saw 99 mph again with the next pitch that got the grounder, but Turner is fast as anything:
I’m amazed this returned a ball in play in the first place, but hey, that’s 99 mph. What is going on with Sanchez right now? I’m now starting to think he’s gassed and occasionally pulling from the well to push upper 90s when he wants to. We were warned the stamina would drop and I’m still trying to figure this out.
I started to remember we hadn’t seen the curveball again as Adam Eaton was fed a slider inside followed by 97 mph above the zone for a quick 2-0 count. Sanchez was able to push 98 mph again for another fastball, this one in the zone that returned a can-of-corn into left-center.
I’m still wondering what’s up with that velocity and hoping we’re out of the woods. It’s a dangerous at-bat here with Juan Soto at the plate, Turner on first, and a one-run lead in this seven-inning shortened game. Sanchez turned to this pitch to get the tough out:
First of all, that’s three at-bats with all of them resulting on grounders up the middle. Wild.
Second, what is this? I’d normally say cutter, but I’m inclined to say it’s just a poorly thrown slider as Sanchez hasn’t shown a cutter save for that weird 94 mph before (was that a cutter?). It’s a solid location but not enough movement to return a weaker hit ball and I think Sanchez got a little lucky with it.
So here we are. 66 pitches in and five innings in the books and to the chagrin of my former post-first-inning-self, there’s tension in the air. I’m not sure what to make of Sanchez’s fluctuating velocity and it seems to be a product of the aforementioned low stamina. At first I was hoping he’d get another shot in the sixth, but the Marlins turned to the pen and Sixto Sanchez’s MLB debut came to a close.
His ability is legit. This is the coveted ceiling we talk about when it comes to starts as his stuff is as electric as you’ll find. I’m not sure we’ll see 100 mph with consistency as it was likely a product of his MLB debut, but 98/99 could be a regular sight on the gun as the pitch overwhelms batters galore. His changeup is destined to miss bats, especially when paired with that elite heat, and while his slider wasn’t as consistent as I’d like, it’s a force to be reckoned with as well. It’s hard not to get giddy seeing the pitch fall at the bottom of the zone for strike one at 90 mph – batters are going to shake their head at this pitch plenty.
We only saw one true curveball on the night (maybe two, but I’m inclined the second was a soft slider) and I’m a little surprised. It was a show-me hook that has the potential to be a back-up for his slider and I think it’ll make more a presence in future starts.
The major issue is his velocity and command. The former heavily fluctuated in the fifth frame, jumping as low as 93 mph in his HR to Victor Robles, even if it climbed back to 99 mph on the next pitch. I’m eager to see a second start from Sanchez just to observe how he looks with his pitch count above 70 pitches late in the game and if he can keep his velocity steadily high.
Stamina issues also come in the form of command. His heater had its moments missing intended locations, mainly on the pair of longballs hit by the Nationals’ #8 and #9 batters. While I think his delivery is solid, experience in the majors will help him stay consistent with his mechanics and prevent these egregious mistakes.
Lastly, I should note that a product of his troubles may stem from pitching from the stretch, which seemed to correlate with lower velocity. It may be nothing and it’s something to monitor moving forward.
I hope we get to see more of Sixto soon, as he is a rare talent. His undulating velocity and wavering command could make him a bit frustrating at times, but the future outlook is bright. With enough time in the majors to iron out the kinks, Sanchez has the tools to be among the best arms in the game.
(Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis – @freshmeatcomm on Twitter)