The Miami Marlins have two important pitching names in addition to phenom starter Jose Fernandez on whom they are counting for good seasons in 2014. One of those pitchers is the high-ceiling, fireballing Nathan Eovaldi. The other is the ground balling, steady, but unspectacular Henderson Alvarez, who quietly put together a strong season opposite Eovaldi in 2013. That season ended with the fifth no-hitter in Marlins franchise history on the last game of the season. Can Alvarez carry that momentum forward into a solid 2014 campaign?
Depth Chart: Starting Rotation
The Marlins are expecting numbers around the 4.00 ERA mark, and that seems reasonable given the likely regression in home runs. It is important to keep an eye on just how much the strikeouts stick around next season for Alvarez; a drop back into 2012 levels would be disastrous for his chances at a successful campaign, even if Marlins Park does a better job of holding the ball in the stadium than Rogers Centre did. It will also be interesting to see how Alvarez's ground ball numbers, his bread and butter and what is keeping him in the league, trend in this new season. Has he been able to repair the slider that he developed a few years ago into a reasonable strikeout tool, or will he continue to have to pound fastballs at a close-to-80 percent clip to keep hitters grounded?
What do the projection systems expect? The average of the three systems suggest a 3.96 ERA and a 1.6 WAR season in 180 innings. Unlike Eovaldi, Alvarez has already posted a 180-innings-plus season in the majors, so provided he remains healthy and avoids the shoulder problems that held him out for half a season last year, he should be able to tough out another long campaign. If he succeeds, he may be able to turn into the sort of pitcher Chris Volstad was supposed to be, a ground ball expert a la Derek Lowe who keeps hitters off the bases and prevents them from leaving the yard. However, there are still questions that need to be answered, and Alvarez could still turn into what Chris Volstad actually became: a homer-prone ground baller who does not induce enough grounders and has no other tools in his bag of tricks. A full and successful 2014 campaign will go a long way towards disproving the latter.