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2015 Miami Marlins Season Preview: The other starters

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The Miami Marlins have a couple of other starters on hand who could be important players in the 2015 season.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins are excited to start out the 2015 season, but they need a few names to contribute in the early part of the season for this to work. Miami has gathered enough names for the fifth starter spot during Jose Fernandez's half-year absence at the beginning of the season, and it would like one of those names to step up to the plate and pitch a good half year before Fernandez returns. Which one of Tom Koehler, Brad Hand, or David Phelps can be expected to perform best this season?

Photo by Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports

Tom Koehler

Koehler is the likely winner of the competition early in the season on the basis of being the incumbent. He has thrown 334 innings in the last two seasons, spending most of his time in the starting rotation. He also pitched pretty passably last season, going nearly 200 innings (second on the team behind Nathan Eovaldi) and putting up an acceptable 3.81 ERA and 3.84 FIP. Koehler's home run numbers are somehow dropping as we move forward, which does not make sense given his league average ground ball rates. However, he has also increased his strikeouts and has bought into the Marlins' zone-pounding theory. If he can avoid the disastrous Koehler sixth inning, he may be a useful part for another half year. The projections, however, seem to think otherwise. He defied them last year, though, so is it possible he can keep last year's strong strikeout numbers?

Projection: 75 Starter IP, 4.25 ERA, 0.5 WAR

Brad Hand

Hand developed one interesting tool that kept him from being a complete non-factor last season despite a good second-half ERA. He apparently found a sinker, and one that was highly effective. Prior to his return from injury in June, he had never thrown a sinker-style offering, but he debuted the pitch to good results. He still can't strike anyone, but despite his long history of mediocre play with Miami (he debuted with the Marlins in 2010), he is only 25 years old. There may be just enough intrigue with Hand to be worth at least keeping him around in the bullpen and as depth in case Miami runs into injury problems early on in the year.

Projection: 45 Starter IP, 4.10 ERA, 0.4 WAR

Photo by Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports

David Phelps

Phelps was brought in from the New York Yankees as part of the Nathan Eovaldi - Martin Prado deal, and he even earned an arbitration salary as a Super Two player. He has done an adequate job as a swingman for the last few years for the Yankees, and he seems like a strong fit in Miami as a fly ball-heavy pitcher in a deep, deep stadium. He does nothing particularly well, nor does he do anything particularly poorly. He is essentially Tom Koehler without any velocity, but the projection systems seem to think decently of him after spending good years in New York. He may get a prime role as a reliever in Miami along with picking up spare starts.

Projection; 42 2/3 Starting IP, 3.90 ERA, 0.5 WAR

In total, the Marlins' three backup starters are expected to put up about 1.4 wins for the Fish while they fill in for various other pitchers. The Marlins' starting rotation as a group is projected for 13 wins for the team next year. This is more than what Miami provided last year, with 9 wins above placement according to FanGraphs. The Fish rotation is better this year thanks to the additions of Mat Latos and Dan Haren, but can Jarred Cosart continue his decent play from last year and will the trio of Phelps, Koehler, and Hand deliver while Jose Fernandez is away? These questions are most relevant for the Marlins in 2015.