Player Battles: Sixto Sanchez vs. Matt Manning

Hot off the heels of a pitching battle last week between two near-major league ready arms, we’re back on the mound, this time with two electric righties that have a little more lead time. Sixto Sanchez got shut down early last season for elbow troubles but in parts of four seasons, the Dominican righty has a 2.48 ERA, a 1.7 BB/9 and recently has began approaching a strikeout an inning. He’s been a staple in the top half of Top 100 lists for the last two years. Matt Manning is a little newer to the scene, breaking out in 2018, climbing from the Midwest League to the Eastern League and posting a 3.29 ERA, 11.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9, all as a 20-year-old. Let’s see where the crew stands between these two advanced righties.

Previous Battles:

Ronald Acuña vs. Juan Soto

Royce Lewis vs. Fernando Tatis Jr.

Cristian Pache vs. Taylor Trammell

Carter Kieboom vs. Brendan Rodgers

Alex Kirilloff vs. Kyle Tucker

Luis Patiño vs. Brusdar Graterol

Ronny Mauricio vs. George Valera

Jesus Luzardo vs. Chris Paddack

That these two are facing off is a testament to both Manning’s surging year and growing worries about Sanchez’s health and durability. In my personal top 100 fantasy list, I had these two back to back at 62 and 63, a coin flip. While I had Manning first a few months ago, I’m flipping Sixto above him. The two big knocks against Miami’s right-hander (as a Marlins fan, it felt weird to write that) are size and health. He’s listed at six feet while Manning has a whopping six inches on him. And Sanchez has missed time in two consecutive years with injuries, last year losing playing time to elbow inflammation and later collarbone soreness.

Is it ideal? No. But what I can’t overlook is the precociousness of Sixto, having command of four pitches, one of which is borderline 70 (FB), two that have flashed plus (CB and CH) and an average slider. If it weren’t for the injuries, I’m convinced he’d be starting 2019 in Triple-A and eventually making a major league debut at 21. Manning has a fantastic fastball and curveball combo, and his extension is awesome. But he’s still finding his changeup and he’s still honing his command after posting a season where he was just under 4 BB/9. I also think Sixto has a slightly better shot of becoming a top 10 MLB pitcher because he’s so advanced at this stage. And really, when it comes to pitchers, give me the upside. -Eddy Almaguer

I’ve seen at least four Manning starts and quite a few Sixto starts ranging back to 2017. Both guys are athletic with fluid deliveries and fast arms. Both guys flash a plus breaking pitch and both have big time fastballs. Manning made huge strides with his command last season which has really allowed him to take the next step. Before Sixto’s injury, he had showed the most confidence in his secondaries that I had previously witnessed. Comparing the two, Sixto has more fastball velocity and a better change-up. His walk rate is lower than Manning’s but Manning showed really good command in the zone with his FB/CV sequencing. Overall, despite the fringe change-up, I’m taking Manning. He is one of the best athletes in the minors and I love his delivery and extension. -Jason Woodell (These videos 1,2 should really tell you though that I like both a lot)

Based on our top 100 list ranker breakdown, I am the high man on both Sixto (20) and Manning (37). A bit of a shock, but I’ll embrace it. To me, these are easily two of the more exciting pitching prospects in the game, but they come in very different packages. Sixto is a small stout righty almost in the Johnny Cueto mold, while Manning is a 6’6 monster. Each is a young 20/21 year old right-hander with a pair of plus pitches and a ton of pedigree. That’s where the similarities end.

While each brings an exciting ceiling with a fair amount of relief risk, it’s Sixto’s injury risk that’s the real separator here. Why? Because had Sixto made it through all of 2018 healthy we wouldn’t be having this conversation. While I think Manning is an unbelievable talent with size, projectable stuff, and a number two starter’s ceiling, Sixto has ace upside - and it comes with flair. Sixto is just as athletic as Manning and brings tons of swagger to the mound. His fastball pumps 101 and he was showing more confidence in his breaking stuff early in counts prior to his injury shutdown. Sanchez’s changeup is superior to Manning’s and he shows four pitches with average or better stuff. Give me Sixto by a hair. -Ralph Lifshitz

On my version of the top 100 prospects list I ranked Sixto Sanchez at 30 and Matt Manning at 67. I will admit though, that gap feels larger than it should. I do agree with Ralph though, if Sixto stayed healthy the entire season this isn’t all that close. The arm injury had some pretty serious rumors around it, but the fact that he was traded to the Marlins and passed a physical sticks with me, perhaps more than it should.

Sixto has the health concerns as well as the stigma surrounding small righties. Manning lacks a third pitch but has one of the most athletic deliveries in all of the minor leagues as well as the ideal pitchers frame. In the end, I’ll take Sixto because he has four pitches, three of which have flashed plus, and the higher ceiling. - Matt Thompson

Final Verdict: 3-1 Sixto Sanchez