With Jose Fernandez heading to the disabled list with a right elbow strain that could lead to season-ending Tommy John surgery, the Marlins will need to find a new starting pitcher to piece into their rotation. Obviously, no pitcher is going to be able to replace Fernandez as a leader and one of the best pitchers in baseball, but that's not to say that they couldn't provide a spark to this rotation. The Marlins have a plethora of options, so here's a quick glance at some of the moves they could make.
Brian Flynn is one of the more logical options for the Marlins. He has some Major League experience, he's considered a solid prospect, and he has pitched will for Triple-A New Orleans this season. However, he's not an exciting young player that would be able to steal any of Fernandez's buzz and he was awful in his four starts for the Marlins in 2013. Flynn is scheduled to make a start today for New Orleans, so it is unlikely that he will get the nod for Wednesday.
If the Marlins really wanted to shake things up, they'd call up 2012 first round pick Andrew Heaney. Heaney has been outstanding for Double-A Jacksonville this season (one home run, 10 earned runs allowed in 39 innings), and the Marlins have proven before that they aren't afraid to bring up their young arms early. However, Heaney is just starting to get his feet under him at Double-A. Not every pitcher is the same and Heaney definitely shouldn't be treated the same as Fernandez. Furthermore, Heaney will not be ready to be promoted for Fernandez's slotted Wednesday start, as he made his last Double-A start yesterday. Heaney has the chance to make an impact for the Marlins this season, but bringing him up before the All-Star break could be problematic.
The Marlins may turn to another Double-A starting pitcher prospect in former University of Florida pitcher Anthony Desclafani. Desclafani is less prepared than Heaney to take on a starting role, but he has the advantage of being able to begin starting in the majors on Wednesday, thus saving the Fish multiple options and/or personnel moves. Desclafani has put up a 4.21 ERA but with a 3.17 FIP and good strikeout and walk numbers.
Nicolino stands in the same position as Desclafani, with the added benefit of being a better-considered prospect than his Blue Jays trade teammate. But Nicolino, who would be available to start on Wednesday, is struggling to find strikeouts in his second go-around in Double-A
Brad Hand, the 2008 second round pick who has pitched primarily out of the bullpen for Miami this season, is another option for the Marlins. Hand has struggled this season (5.38 FIP in 18.1 innings), but he could bring an interesting left-handed arm to the rotation and the Marlins wouldn't have to reach down into the minors. He worked 1 1/3 innings last night in the Marlins' loss to the Dodgers. Overall, I think it wouldn't be in the Marlins best interest to call upon Hand to replace Fernandez.
Putting Kevin Slowey into the rotation would make a lot of sense. Slowey started 14 games last season and pitched fairly well, he's pitched fine in the bullpen, and he's a veteran that's out of options. Even though he's the most unappealing choice, Slowey makes the most sense for the Marlins among the team's Major League players.