With the demotions of Carter Capps and Arquimedes Caminero from the Spring Training roster, the Miami Marlins' bullpen appears set (wish they had informed me before I did my write-up on Capps!). Henry Rodriguez, Kevin Slowey. and Brad Hand are highly expected to make the final roster in the last few roles available, so let's quickly glance at what each player is expected to offer.
Long Relief: Kevin Slowey / Brad Hand
Minor League Options: Arquimedes Caminero, Sam Dyson, Steven Ames, Nick Wittgren
Rodriguez is a nomad reliever who has worked for three different organizations in his short career so far. Throughout his time with primarily the Washington Nationals, he has been known for high strikeout numbers and higher walk rates; he boasts a career 22.2 percent strikeout rate but a 15.1 percent walk rate. His last good year was in 2011, when he threw 65 innings and whiffed 70 batters while walking 45 on the way to a 3.56 ERA and 3.29 FIP (thanks to some home run luck). Since then, he has struck out 43 batters and walked 42 of them in parts of two seasons.
The Marlins are counting on him to provide strikeouts, but they aren't leaning on him for much and will likely have a short leash. The Fish cut Jon Rauch last year after 20 difficult innings despite signing him to a Major League contract; the team will surely not hesitate letting Rodriguez go if he falters. But on the off chance that he has figured out how to stop walking people (three walks in nine innings versus 14 strikeouts in Spring Training), the Marlins could have their Chad Qualls of 2014.
Proejction: 35 IP, 4.33 ERA, -0.1 WAR
Last year, Slowey won the fifth starter job away from Jacob Turner, but the team quickly needed more than just him after injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez forced their hand. Slowey started off well, posting a hot 2.15 ERA and 3.18 FIP in the month of April. thanks to Slowey avoiding his problem with home runs. After that point, the streak of luck did not last, and he allowed nine homers in 45 1/3 innings in the next two months.
At this stage, we have a good idea of who Slowey is. He throws soft stuff, but has excellent control and pounds the strike zone without impunity. The good news is that that leads to decent strikeout numbers and low walk rates. The bad news is that hitters turn on that slow stuff hard on occasion, leading to a huge rate in home runs. Barring an injury, Miami won't be depending much on Slowey, as he will be the team's primary long reliever. Steamer has him projected as a part-timer primarily out of the pen, and his 4.04 projected ERA in that role makes him a replacement-level player. Slowey's work out of the pen indeed should not lead to major improvement, primarily because his game is predicated not on fastball velocity or "all-out" effort, but in pinpoint precision.
Projection: 45 IP, 4.06 ERA, 0.0 WAR
Hand played well enough in Spring Training to earn a starting job, but with Jacob Turner entrenched and Tom Koehler pitching equally as well, Miami had no room for the former pitching prospect. Hand is out of options, so the Fish have to play him on the roster or risk losing him via waivers, but the team has an excellent role for him as a lefty-only reliever. Dan Jennings played this role passably last season, but the club will opt to keep as many pitching options available to them open, so Hand should get the nod.
Hand's game has involved high strikeouts and high walks, but only the walks had been up until this Spring Training. But he just came off a 16-inning stretch during which he whiffed 18 batters with just five walks, which was highly impressive to the Fish. The Marlins need him to do just that, but on a simpler task: versus left-handed hitters out of the bullpen. Last season, Hand pitched similarly to lefties and righties in Triple-A, but he posted a better walk rate (6.8 percent) then against righies (13.9 percent). The Marilins would be happy if he could stay in control against southpaws, but his role at this time will be limited enough that it may not matter. Hand could also step in and spot start or serve as long relief in a pinch.
Projection 50 IP, 4.23 ERA, -0.1 WAR