The Miami Marlins have their work cut out for them in terms of pitching, as the team not only has some sketchy names at starter but a number of unproven names in the bullpen. In addition, the few names that are "proven" are not exactly "good" either, so the Fish may be looking at another makeshift bullpen in 2013. Given that the team is not going very far this season, however, this move by the Marlins is a good thing and a return to the team's fundamentals after last year's splurge on free agent reliever Heath Bell.
Closer: Steve Cishek
Setup Man: Jon Rauch
Setup Man: Mike Dunn
Seventh Inning: Ryan Webb
Seventh Inning: A.J. Ramos
Seventh Inning: Jose Ceda
Seventh Inning: Chad Qualls
The Marlins acquired Rauch late in the offseason on a one-year, $1 million contract. The deal was made in part because the Fish wanted to spend a few more dollars this offseason on a reliever, but Rauch is not exactly the sort of impact player who will make a difference in the back of the pen. His stuff is not overpowering and he does not strike out or walk many guys; in those respects, he is mostly average. His problem lies in allowing too many home runs thanks to a paltry 34 percent career ground ball rate. Marlins Park may help with that problem, but it does not mean Rauch will necessarily excel with the team.
Projection: 65 IP, 3.90 ERA, 0.3 WAR
The Marlins may not have acquired much in the Dan Uggla trade, but now all they have left to their name from that deal is Mike Dunn. No Marlins fan can be happy about that fact, as Dunn has been a walking disaster for the team. He has a 4.04 ERA and a 4.10 FIP with the team, and that does not begin to describe the heartache he has caused in pitching in the later innings of a game. He is a traditional fireballing reliever, but he lacks the elite strikeouts (25.2 percent career strikeout rate) to match his awful walk rate (14.1 percent career), and he has not shown any signs of changing despite a supposed "breakthrough" last season following his first Triple-A demotion. Unfortunately, the Fish will be depending on him often, as he projects as the team's only lefty reliever.
Projection: 60 IP, 3.85 ERA, 0.3 WAR
As the Marlins' only other significantly paid reliever, one would believe that Webb would be a solid addition to the pen. But after being acquired as part of the two-reliever trade that sent Cameron Maybin (and his supposed 7.3 Wins Above Replacement over the last two years, according to FanGraphs) to the San Diego Padres, Webb has done very little to fulfill his promise as an elite reliever. Yes, he still has a mid-90s sinker, but he complements the pitch with marginal secondary offerings. This has led to what I call the "Matt Lindstrom Phenomenon," named after another hard-throwing right-hander of the Marlins' past who could not miss bats while he was with the Fish. Webb has only induced swings and misses on 7.7 percent of his pitches for his career, and that has led to low strikeout rates with only average walk rates.
Projection: 60 IP, 3.65 ERA, 0.5 WAR
Finally, an interesting name on the Marlins' bullpen. After being drafted out of Texas Tech University in 2009, Ramos slowly climbed the ranks one level at a time before he was too impressive not to bring up out of Double-A last season. He struck out 89 batters in 68 2/3 innings in Double-A Jacksonville last season, and he also posted his best walk rate yet. He saw 9 1/3 innings of action in the majors in September and put up solid strikeout and walk numbers as well, though he did give up two home runs along the way. His stuff is undeniably present, as his 94 mph fastball and 85 mph bending slider can attest. If he can maintain the control he showed last season, he may be a bullpen star in the making.
Projection: 60 IP, 3.77 ERA, 0.3 WAR
Ceda was the highly-rated prospect version of A.J. Ramos all of those years ago. When the Marlins first acquired him from the Chicago Cubs, the Fish supposedly picked up a steal for the price of Kevin Gregg. But two years later and Ceda has pitched 28 2/3 innings for the Marlins and only 79 minor league innings with the organization thanks to two season-ending injuries. He did not pitch all of last season after being poised to take a bullpen spot, and after a strong spring training this year, it looks like he should make the roster as another seventh inning guy. Hopefully, the stuff that made him a top prospect years ago is still present.
Projection: 55 IP, 3.75 ERA, 0.3 WAR
Qualls has bounced around the majors and minors the last few years. He had an awful final season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays, but had a resurgent campaign with the Padres. He then flopped again in 2012 as part of three different teams. He has had a good enough spring training to make the roster, and the Marlins may use him to work cleanup innings or long stretches. His best attribute is the ground ball, but at this point in his career, that may be his only attribute.
Projection: 45 IP. 4.01 ERA, 0.1 WAR
Assuming essentially replacement-level performance for the rest of the bullpen innings, the Marlins might be expected to see the bullpen provide 2.8 WAR, and that includes Steve Cishek's performance. A value of 2.8 wins is not very large, but it is to be expected when your pen is built in a high-variance fashion like this one. There are few interesting names to watch this season, and that is more than you could say for many Marlins bullpens in the past.