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The Marlins turned in a strong 2020 campaign, raising expectations for the immediate future. To compete over a 162-game season, and to deliver a multi-year window of contention, the organization will need several promising young starters to settle in as top-quality rotation pieces.

Compiling a 2021 rotation will be the ultimate responsibility of a new baseball operations leader, but now-entrenched skipper Don Mattingly will likely have a significant say in the matter. Mattingly discussed the outlook for the pitching staff recently, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald covers.

While it stands to reason that high-profile youngster Sixto Sanchez will occupy a major role, Mattingly made clear that a the righty will have to earn a rotation spot. Though Sanchez “showed what he’s capable of,” Mattingly says there’s also “some downside to that and some areas where he needs to grow.”

Sanchez’s rookie showing was impressive by most any measure. Over 39 frames, he limited the long ball and racked up a 58.0% groundball rate to support a sturdy 3.46 ERA. The 22-year-old averaged 99 mph with his four-seam heater.

Despite that effort, Mattingly says Sanchez will enter camp in the same boat as fellow newcomer Trevor Rogers, who posted eyepopping strikeout numbers but carried a 6.11 ERA. Both hurlers will need to “continue to develop,” Mattingly said.

So, who is assured of a rotation job, presuming good health? Mattingly explains that he’s penciling in Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Elieser Hernandez at this early point.

It’d be hard to argue with that assessment. Hernandez has the thinnest track record of the trio, but it’s hard not to be impressed by his compilation of 11.9 K/9 against just 1.8 BB/9 in a six-start run. Mattingly expressed confidence in Hernandez’s health after his season was cut short by a lat injury.

The Fish could have the makings of a strong unit, but plenty of variables remain. Full health can’t be presumed, so there’ll be a need for more arms even if Sanchez ultimately takes a rotation slot. Mattingly also tabbed Nick Neidert and Jose Urena as possibilities, though the former has yet to make a MLB start and the latter seems to be a potential non-tender candidate.

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