Sixto Makes Spring Debut

After being delayed by a visa issue in the DR and by a false positive COVID test, Sixto Sanchez made his debut today in West Palm against the Astros. Sixto threw 31 pitches in 1.2 innings. He allowed two hits but induced two double plays. He didn’t strike out any and allowed one walk.

“I don’t feel like I’m behind,” Sixto said through a translator regarding his current state. “I’m pretty much there, same as everybody else; I just can’t throw as many innings right now.”

As high as Sixto is ranked and as electric as his stuff is, including today, Sixto made his first appearance in game 13 of the 25 game spring schedule. The Marlins do not need a fifth starter until mid-April. A guy that has already undergone major throwing arm injuries and surgery, it would be risky of the Marlins to rush Sixto who at best stands to get two more in-game appearances.

According to Mattingly, Sixto will only pitch in big league games when the team believes he is ready.

As things stand, we think the Marlins will err on the side of caution with Sixto starting at the ATS to round his preseason program out. After Sanchez’s late start, at this point, we expect the name of a swing man such as Daniel Castano or rule 5 pick Paul Campbell to be announced during introductions on April 1st.

Second Base Battle Update

Coming in to spring training, all the talk was around the Marlins open competition at second base between Isan Diaz and Jazz Chisholm. Evaluators, fans and even the Marlins themselves thought this contest was going to be red hot all camp. A game over halfway in to the 25 game spring ledger, the competition has been pretty one sided.

While the stat lines don’t do either player justice, one guy has been well ahead of the other in terms of quality of at bats and quality of contact made. Isan Diaz has just two hits in his first 16 spring ABs but those two hits were a double and a triple. On March 7th, the same day of his triple, raked what should have been his first spring homer halfway up the berm at Clover Park, but a whipping wind barely pushed the ball foul. In terms of quality of contact, Isan’s average exit velo on nine balls put in play is 92.3. He’s walked four times to five strikeouts. When it comes to length of ABs, Isan has seen 73 pitches in 19 plate appearances or an average of about four per PA. These numbers are slightly convoluted due to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches not incorporating Statcast. Thus, all strikeouts and walks are three and four pitches respectively and each hit is one pitch. Adding in accurate data from his four ABs at BPPB, it’s easy to assume Isan is in actuality at or above five pitches per PA. His two today in Palm Beach consisted of eight and four pitches respectively. He’s also looked better defensively.

According to Diaz, who went from opting out of the season at the height of the COVID outbreak last year to trying to return for the playoff run only to suffer an injury his first game back, this spring has been about getting back to where he was in AAA in 2019 where he hit .305/.395/.478.

“That’s what I’m kind of aiming for,” Diaz said, “to get that vibe, to put those good ABs together and do damage with runners in scoring position.”

Don Mattingly has liked what he’s seen of Isan so far.

“He’s starting to get in a little bit of a rhythm,” Mattingly said after the aforementioned game in St. Lucie where Diaz tripled and nearly homered. “He looks good right now.”

On the other side of this battle, you have the Marlins’ fourth ranked prospect 23-year-old Jazz Chisholm, the return product of the Zac Gallen trade at the 2019 deadline.

Jazz started off his spring about as good as possible: leading off in the Marlins’ first game, he homered on the second pitch.

But leading in to Monday’s game back in West Palm, site of the aforementioned bomb, Chisholm had been struggling. In his next 16 ABs, Jazz recorded just one hit while striking out seven times. He has yet to walk. This Monday’s game proved to be better for Jazz. Against Jose Urquidy, he battled out a seven pitch AB and beat out an infield single. In the top of the 5th, Chisholm singled in a full count on the seventh pitch of his AB and proceeded to steal second base, his first bag of this spring.

“He looked better today,” Mattingly said after Monday’s game. “I think he’s been a little bit all over. I’m not sure if he’s pressing or not. We just need to keep Jazz steady in what he works on.”

Mattingly also stated the team is working with Jazz on his consistency, encouraging him not to change his approach in the midst of a dry spell.

“Like a lot of young guys, they don’t get a hit and start messing around and tinkering instead of just staying with what they’re doing,” Mattingly said. “Working through it and allowing it to become consistent. We’re keeping an eye on Jazz in that way.”

Mattingly and the Marlins hope this is the turning of the corner for Jazz who has seen just 55~ pitches in 20 ABs. To take our Statcast-less park into account, his only AB at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches before today was a groundout.

While the completion is still open, we believe it is going to take Jazz having a great second half of spring to claim the job over Diaz. That said, no matter if he starts with the Marlins or at the ATS/in AAA, you will see Jazz Chisholm back in a Marlins uniform sometime this season.

Braxton Garrett, Jose Devers Others Demoted

Before Monday’s game, the Marlins announced a number of roster moves: LHP Braxton Garrett was optioned to AAA and C Will Banfield, IF Luis Marte, RHP Alexander Guillen, RHP Luis Madero and SS Nasim Nunez were reassigned to Minor League camp.

Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Marlins optioned IF Jose Devers and OF Jerar Encarnacion to AAA and reassigned Cody Poteet and RHP Shawn Morimando.

While these moves were all expected, it’s worth recognizing a couple of these prospects and how they performed this spring:

First, Braxton Garrett, the Marlins’ first rounder in 2016 and our 10th ranked prospect. Not long after being drafted, Braxton underwent Tommy John in 2018 missing an entire year of development then was relegated mostly to the ATS in lieu of the lost MiLB season in 2020. Despite the lack of in game reps, Garrett showed up to his second big league camp healthy, throwing the hardest we’ve seen him throw (velo ticked up from 90 to as high as 93). His biggest crutch in past years, his command, was off in his first outing but looked much better his second time out.

 “He’s been really good this spring,” Mattingly said after Garrett’s most recent spring outing, a two inning one hit, two K performance. “He has a little bit of a different body, a little more pop in his fastball. His breaking ball has always been good but it’s even tighter this year.”

Mattingly also stated Garrett is working on developing his pitch repertoire but that his success will depend on consistently being able to place the heater for strikes early in counts then pitch off of it.

“He’s adding a slider and he has the changeup he’s working on. All of a sudden you’re going to see a four pitch mix as he continues to develop,” Mattingly said. “He’s just going to get better and better. The main thing is he needs to get ahead in counts with his fastball and be able to locate it.”

With success developing his arsenal and with gaining consistent command at the ATS and in Jacksonville, Garrett will be a candidate to come back up to the majors over the course of 162 games this season. He has a back end starter floor and 2-3 rotational ceiling.

Secondly, we give a nod to Jose Devers who impressed the entire coaching staff, including hitting coach Eric Duncan.

“A guy who really stood out. He doesn’t seem fazed. … It doesn’t really matter the situation,” Duncan said “He has a really slow heartbeat and is able to put quality at-bats together. He’s been one that’s been tremendous to watch.”

Devers was leading the Florida State League in batting before going down with an injury in 2019. After showing up to camp a bit bulkier, the 21-year-old wowed with his glove (including at third base, a position he’s never played during in game action) while also showing good patience, the ability to make consistent contact and put the ball in play and while putting his above average speed to use on the basepaths. Devers went 2-9 with a triple, two RBIs, five walks to just two strikeouts and two stolen bases.

One of the youngest kids in big league camp, Devers really opened some eyes. After the ATS and minor league camp, should get the promotion to start the 2021. He should be considered at or near the head of the class among all of the Marlins’ young middle infield talent. ETA 2022/23.