The Miami Marlins will round out their bullpen with a few other reliever names in 2015. They already committed to a few surprising decisions, including demoting Carter Capps to Triple-A New Orleans. The team has room for four to five other relievers with the top three bullpen spots filled by Steve Cishek, A.J. Ramos, and Mike Dunn. One of those spots will likely be filled by David Phelps or, if Phelps is handed the fifth starting spot, Tom Koehler. That leaves just three to four spots for other relief arms on the roster. Here are the guys most likely to make the final cut.
The Marlins are paying Crow just about $2 million this season after acquiring him in the offseason via trade. Brian Flynn was the cost the get Crow, and the confusing thing at the time was why the Fish sent an extra asset to pay for a guy who may have been non-tendered anyway. That question still remains despite a decent Spring Training campaign in which he has whiffed eight batters and walked three in seven innings.
Crow once upon a time seemed like a good reliever who might be able to contribute at the back end of the pen. However, in the last two years, he seems to have lost a lot of his strikeout mojo, and he began having home run issues as well. This correlated with a sharp decrease in ground balls, down to last year's 43 percent mark. This does not appear to be going away, and the projections do not expect much from him as a result.
Projection: 45 IP, 4.05 ERA, 0 WAR
McKirahan was the Marlins' Rule 5 draft pick coming from the Chicago Cubs organization, and Spring Training was the first time the Fish got a chance to look at him. So far, he has made a decent impression, going seven innings and striking out five while walking three. The Marlins do have a need for a lefty reliever for a potential LOOGY role, so it would not be surprising if they turned to McKirahan for it. Last year, he pitched 65 total innings between High-A and Double-A and posted a combined 2.06 ERA, including a nice 22.4 percent strikeout rate and a 5.5 percent walk rate. If he continues to flash that good control, he might be a nice option to replace Dan Jennings as the second lefty in the pen.
Projection: 40 IP, 3.90 ERA, 0.1 WAR
Last year, Morris was a midseason pickup and surprised the Marlins with some fantastic numbers. After struggling mightily in Pittsburgh, he was acquired by the Marlins for a competitive balance draft pick and immediately put to work in the middle of the pen. There, he flourished, putting up an absurd 0.66 ERA in 40 2/3 innings pitched. Even his FIP was acceptable, though significantly worse, at 3.03. Morris accomplished this by striking out more batters (21.3 percent strikeout rate) while finally figuring out how to avoid home runs with his still-strong 57 percent ground ball rate.
Morris does not appear to have the tools of your average dominant reliever, which makes a repeat sub-1.00 ERA unlikely. However, he also has some sneaky traits that make his ascent a little more believable. He does throw a hard sinker at 94-95 mph, and the pitch gets great ground ball results. However, it also gets great whiff results; hitters whiffed on 25 percent of swings against the fastball last year. The slider is also effective with a 36 percent whiff rate and a surprising 60-plus percent ground ball rate as well. For a guy who does not appear to have strikeout stuff, Morris's 15.4 percent swinging strike rate seems to tell a different story. He still has to find a tool to beat left-handed hitters, however.
Projection: 65 IP, 3.87 ERA, 0.1 WAR
The remaining assorted innings would be filled by guys like Phelps, Koehler, or Hand. The Marlins could garner a few fractions of a win total from those players as well out of the pen. All told, the Marlins' bullpen may be worth three wins to the Marlins next year.