Sixto Sanchez, the 22-year-old former Phillies prospect, has become a legitimate factor in the 2020 National League playoff race.
He pitched another gem Tuesday night for the Marlins, six scoreless innings in a win in Atlanta against the first-place Braves.
He put five men on base and struck out six.
Miami is 19-18 and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
Sanchez has been brilliant as a rookie, with a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP despite facing three good offenses.
These are how his first four starts have gone:
• Aug. 22 at Nationals: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 4 K, win
• Aug. 28 vs. Rays: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K
• Sept. 2 vs. Blue Jays: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K
• Sept. 8 at Braves: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K
Beyond the results, he's shown ace-like stuff that should lead to so much success if he can stay healthy. He has a 100 mph fastball that he can also sink — he beat several Braves with it Tuesday, including Ronald Acuña Jr. — a plus slider and plus changeup. His command has been excellent from Single A to The Show. In 25 innings, he's struck out 25 and walked two.
Sanchez' next start will come against the Phillies this weekend during the seven-game Phils-Marlins series. It will be the first time he faces his former club.
When the Phillies traded Sanchez and Jorge Alfaro to Miami last February for J.T. Realmuto, it was viewed as a no-brainer that the Phils would extend Realmuto. You don't trade your top pitching prospect for two years of a vet's services — at least not these days. You do it when you're determined to keep that player in the fold long-term.
In a perfect world, Realmuto would have been signed by now. He's not, and as much as the Phillies would deny this, every spectacular start Sanchez makes increases the pressure on them to re-sign Realmuto. If another team swoops in and beats the Phillies' offer for Realmuto in free agency this winter after this fanbase has already gotten a look at Sanchez' present and future ...
... the perception would be incredibly difficult to overcome.
Sixto looks like the real deal, similarly to Alec Bohm looking like the real deal offensively. It's extremely early and we have not yet seen the most promising version of Spencer Howard, who has allowed left-handed hitters a .354/.407/.708 batting line through five starts.