The Miami Marlins have bullpen options new and old in this upcoming 2014 season, and this latest duo of pitchers likely to work primarily in the seventh inning represent relatively new faces and exciting prospects for a possible future closer job. Both A.J. Ramos and Carter Capps* figured they would hold more important roles on the team in 2014, but the signing of Carlos Marmol has forced both back closer to the seventh inning, where they will pitch more often but with less on the line.
*Then Capps gets demoted and ruins my article for me.
Long Relief: Kevin Slowey / Brad Hand
Minor League Options: Arquimedes Caminero, Sam Dyson, Steven Ames, Nick Wittgren
Last season, Ramos put up an impressive line during his rookie season, and on many bullpen-starved teams, that would have led to closer speculation. Typically, a year in which a rookie right-hander puts up a 25.4 percent strikeout rate and throws 80 innings out of the pen with a 3.18 ERA and a supportive 3.24 FIP would earn a pitcher recognition within the team and a promotion in the bullpen order. But for Ramos, the Marlins found a way to force him back down into the seventh inning by signing Marmol. Steve Cishek has earned his job as closer, so there was no chance the Fish would replace him in that position unless he was traded.
So Ramos is rewarded after a successful rookie year with the same heavy-innings, lower-leverage role that he occupied last season. Given his flaws, however, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Ramos is essentially the right-handed version of what Mike Dunn used to be; Ramos's impressive strikeout rate (which still did not beat out Cishek's) was mirrored by an equally-high 12.7 percent walk rate. The reason why the ERA and FIP were so low was because Ramos only allowed four home runs all season despite a heavy fly-ball repertoire (38.7 percent ground ball rate in 2013).
The good news is that, if you account for all of his batted balls (including his low line drive rates), Ramos looks closer toa 3.50 ERA rather than his true marks from last year or his xFIP, which had him at closer to 4.10 based on just his fly ball rate. Ramos still has to figure out how to face left-handed hitting, as he walked 16.2 percent of lefties versus just 9.6 percent of righties. His control is the only issue against them, as his changeup has been ridiculously effective at earning swings-and-misses (56 percent whiff rate versus lefties in 2013). Once he figures that out, Major League hitters better watch out, but until then, Miami will have to use him in a more limited role and let him learn on the job.
Projection: 75 IP, 3.61 ERA, 0.2 WAR