Heading into the 2015 season, most Miami Marlins fans knew Justin Nicolino as Miami's top left-handed pitcher nearly ready for the major leagues. As a result, many people were left surprised by how promising Adam Conley's performances were over the second half of the season.
After a strong start to the season in AAA where he posted a 9-3 record and 2.52 ERA over 107 innings, Conley was promoted to the big leagues in light of all the injuries and trades which depleted Miami's rotation. Down the stretch, Conley pitched to a 3.76 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP and 59 strikeouts across 67 innings.
Although the 1.28 WHIP was a little higher than what you would want from a pitcher, the experience Adam Conley gained from his rookie season will, potentially, make him a valuable asset to the Fish this coming season. As Spring Training begins, Conley will be in the mix for the fifth rotation spot with the Marlins.
As it stands, David Phelps, Edwin Jackson, Justin Nicolino, and Conley, appear to be the front-runners to round out the rotation behind Jose Fernandez, Wei-Yin Chen, Tom Koehler and Jarred Cosart. Phelps was a starter and long-reliever for Miami last year, but multiple injuries, which resulted in him being shut down last season in the end, will have led to doubts about his durability.
Jackson was brought in this winter on a one-year contract to provide veteran pitching depth, but he doesn't possess the best track record. After spending last season in the bullpen, it is difficult to see him making the necessary adjustments to return to the level of a big league starter, even though the new VP of Pitching Development, Jim Benedict, has faith in him.
Justin Nicolino is a promising player with above-average command, but his low strikeout numbers (2.8 K/9 over 74 innings with Miami in 2015) are of major concern to the organization. His minor league numbers are fairly impressive, more impressive than Conley's in fact, but the club may feel that he still needs to develop in the minors.
This just leaves Conley. One good season, with successful outings in both Triple-A and the majors, is not enough to earn a spot in the rotation, especially considering Conley endured a rough 2014 in the minor leagues. However, if he can reduce the number of walks he allows though, he will be much better built to pitch every five days with the Fish.
Adam Conley has the ability to be a bright spot for the Miami Marlins in 2016. He went from under-the-radar to the casual fan to solid MLB contributor last season, and showed definite flashes of promise. Whether he earns a spot on the Opening Day roster or not largely depends on his Spring Training performances, but Conley certainly has just as many tools as the other candidates, which gives him a good shot at picking up where he left off in 2015.