Sterling Sharp Sees Sunnier 2020

Righthander Sterling Sharp didn’t have it easy trying to play baseball in suburban Detroit.

“We couldn’t start practicing until mid-March, and, even then, there was still snow on the ground. Forty degrees was a good day for us,” said Sharp, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound righthander. “Most days, we’d practice in our gym, when it wasn’t occupied with volleyball or basketball.

“But it was tough to see the ball because the walls of our gym were white and tan.”

From those humble beginnings, Sharp is now on the verge of potentially making his major league debut this spring with the Marlins, where he would enjoy considerably more sunshine.

The Marlins selected the 24-year-old in December’s Rule 5 draft from the Nationals.

Growing up, Sharp’s favorite athlete was Derek Jeter, who was also raised in Michigan. Jeter is now the Marlins’ CEO.

If all goes well, Sharp will be the second pitcher the Marlins have “discovered” from Division II Drury (Mo.) in the past three years, joining righthander Trevor Richards in 2018.

But while Richards went undrafted and fought his way up through independent leagues, Sharp was drafted twice.

Rather than sign as a Braves 30th-rounder out of high school in 2013, Sharp attended Eastern Michigan. But the coaching staff—including pitching guru Eric Peterson—was dismissed after Sharp’s freshman year. Sharp spent his sophomore year at a junior college before landing at Drury, where Peterson had been hired.

Drury coach Scott Nasby said Sharp battled dead arm issues for most of that 2016 season, which helps explain his 5.90 ERA in a team high 18 appearances. But the Nationals still liked Sharp enough to draft him in the 22nd round.

“Scouts saw what I saw,” Nasby said. “Flashes of greatness.”

Sharp pitched 148 innings and reached Double-A in 2018. In 2019 he missed more than two months with his first serious injury, an oblique strain, but he returned to post a 1.50 ERA in six Arizona Fall League starts.

Sharp throws a heavy sinker and is an extreme groundball pitcher. He allowed only one home run in 18 starts in 2019.

Shark said he throws his one-seam sinker 92 mph and his two-seamer up to 94.

“The closer it gets to the plate, hitters will perceive it to be lower than what it is, and they hit the top half,” Sharp said. “I get early contact with sinkers, but the changeup is my favorite. The way it comes off my hand, I get more swings and misses.”

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