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Player Spotlight: Sandy Alcantara
Player Spotlight: Sandy Alcantara
Jun 18, 2024 10:08 AM

Sandy Alcantara: Elite

There is no doubt in the world that Sandy Alcantara is the ace of the Miami Marlins. Over the course of just a few seasons, Sandy has elevated his game higher and higher with each passing start… and that is not an exaggeration. When looking at every basic and advanced analytic in the book, it is clear that Sandy is evolving at an extremely fast pace. Let’s take a look at what has allowed this progression:

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Changeup Usage

Arguably, the best pitch in Sandy Alcantara’s arsenal is his changeup. Between 2017 and 2020, Alcantara threw a changeup on just 12% of his pitches with it maxing out at 13% in 2018. However, in 2021, Sandy has thrown his changeup on 23% of his pitches. The result? Through his first 2 starts of 2021, Sandy is posting career highs in K%, BB%, xBA, xSLG, and xWOBA. With Sandy being in the top 6% of pitchers this season in three of the stats (xBA, xSLG, xWOBA), Sandy is becoming recognized around the league as a dominant force. His trust and confidence in his changeup has allowed quicker progression as a young starter, posting career lows in ERA, xERA, and WHIP in 2020 and to start 2021.

Pitch Location

For any power pitcher, location becomes the attribute that differentiates between the deGroms and the rest of the pack. In his young career, Sandy has had opponents get the “sweet spot” of the bat on the ball at a relatively higher clip (Sweet Spot % 2017-2019: 69.6, 32.5, 29.9). His growth as a pitcher is most evident in 2020 and the start of 2021, where batters are getting the sweet spot on the ball just 21% of the time. He was transitioned to working out of the zone, being effectively wild. A high proportion of his pitches are thrown out of the zone inside and low to righties and up and into lefties. This shift in approach has created a career high in chase rate over the past two years, putting him in the top percentiles of Major League Baseball.

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Spin Rate

In his 2017 debut season, Sandy’s fastball came out of the gate averaging 98 MPH with a relatively low spin rate for that kind of velocity. In his next few seasons, Sandy lowered his fastball velocity (around 95 MPH in 2018) and focused on raising the spin on his pitches. Now, he has combined an average velocity of 97 MPH (92nd Percentile in 2020) and a spin rate in the 75th Percentile. This change has allowed him to control his elite fastball more effectively, posting dwindling numbers in batters Hard Hit %. With just 28.2% of balls in play hit hard in 2020 and 15.4% in early 2021, these numbers continue to get better as the spin rate and velocity of Sandy’s pitches increase.

Sandy will continue to grow

This growth in such a short amount of time in the baseball world is quite rare. The loss of Jose Fernandez a few years ago was demoralizing, but the Marlins have finally found an elite arm to take up the “Ace” duties. Alcantara should be a dark horse for NL Cy Young this season. Regardless, he will be a mainstay on a dangerous Marlins rotation for years to come. The sky’s the limit.

Shoutout to Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, and Sports Info Solutions for the data.

Follow me on Twitter @chasechrisjr for daily Marlins coverage.

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