Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

Sixto Sánchez is now the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball


Sixto Sanchez and the Marlins won a postseason series. (Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

Sixto Sánchez spent enough time at the major league level in 2020 that he won’t be eligible to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2021, but the Miami Marlins righty still remains, at least technically, a prospect.

And the former top Phillies prospect is now the top-rated pitching prospect in the sport, according to Baseball America. In their new top 100 prospects, Sánchez is the No. 6 overall prospect in baseball, making him the highest-ranked player not only in the National League East, but the entire National League.

The Phillies traded Sánchez to the Marlins in February of 2019 as the headliner in the J.T. Realmuto trade. Realmuto was an All-Star and won a Gold Glove Award in 2019, which led many to believe that the Phillies would win the trade because Sánchez, still at Double-A, was out of sight and out of mind to many.

However, in 2020, Sánchez was dominant at times in his first seven major league starts, posting a 3.46 ERA and 3.50 FIP in seven starts, while flashing a Hall of Fame-caliber repertoire. In one of those seven games, Sánchez tossed a seven-inning complete game against the Phillies, limiting them to just three hits. Though injury concerns could eventually rear their head again, Sánchez did help the Marlins sneak into an expanded postseason field and win their first playoff series since 2003, all while the Phillies sat at home for the ninth consecutive October.

To make matters worse, Realmuto reached free agency after the 2020 season, and there initially was quite a bit of pessimism about whether the Phillies would be able to re-sign the two-time All-Star. Managing partner John Middleton admitted to Phillies Nation in October that he wasn’t on board with trading Sánchez without immediately signing an extension with Realmuto, but the team’s “baseball people” convinced him a deal would ultimately get done. Lately, it appears that such a projection may prove to be accurate, though the idea of losing Realmuto still exists until he signs a deal, and would be an especially difficult pill for Phillies fans to swallow given the success that Sánchez had in 2020.

That said, even if the Phillies are ultimately able to re-sign Realmuto, that doesn’t mean that the trade that landed him will be an even deal. To this point, both sides have to be happy with the production they’ve gotten out of the deal, but if Sánchez does turn out to be a frontline starter, the scales would have to tilt towards the Marlins in the deal. You don’t trade frontline pitching, especially if you’re a franchise that has struggled to develop from within.

Speaking of pitchers that the Phillies have developed, Spencer Howard is the highest-rated Phillies prospect by Baseball America, checking in at No. 27. Howard struggled in his first experience at the major league level, posting a 5.92 ERA and 5.86 FIP in 24 1/3 innings at the major league level. Though the Phillies are still hopeful for what the 24-year-old can be in the long run, Phillies Nation‘s Ty Daubert has cautioned that the organization shouldn’t bank on a starter that’s had arm injuries in back-to-back years playing a major role in 2021.

With Alec Bohm having played enough at the major league level in 2021 to no longer be considered a prospect, the only other Phillie in Baseball America‘s top 100 is 2020 first-round pick Mick Abel, who checked in at No. 99.

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