The Miami Marlins' position players each have numbers of interest that we went over yesterday, and today it is time to discuss the numbers of most importance for each pitcher on the roster. The team's pitching staff houses one extraordinary talent with health questions and two potentially ace relievers, but in between those aspects are plenty of question marks.
Jose Fernandez: 180
This is the expected innings limit that the Marlins will agree to enforce on Fernandez for the 2016 season. The starter is coming off of Tommy John surgery performed in 2014 and suffered a biceps strain last season in addition to all of this, triggering continued concerns about his health and durability. The Marlins have involved agent Scott Boras among other parties in the discussion of just how many innings Fernandez will go this season, so it sounds as though all parties will eventually be on board once a hard number is reached. At the same time, there is no guarantee Fernandez even stays healthy enough to reach 180 innings, as this is a mark he has never reached in his professional career. The Fish will need all 180 innings if they are going to compete in 2016.
Wei-Yin Chen: 0.42
That is the difference between Chen's career ERA and FIP, and it favors his ERA. He has done this in a variety of different ways, but most notably by being the anti-Ricky Nolasco. Chen owns a career 3.40 FIP with runners in scoring position while his FIP is up at 4.35 with the bases empty. For whatever reason, Chen's work comes best when the runners are on, particularly with regards to his home run performance. Chen also induces a high number of pop-ups, helping to even out some of his batted ball values. Here's hoping the moved-in fences do not severely affect his otherwise-strong fit in Miami.
Jarred Cosart: 10.8
Cosart's low strikeout rates and high ground ball propensity points to the type of control pitcher who works on avoiding bad outcomes rather than actively forcing good ones. However, the problem is his career 10.8 percent walk rate that was not helped by a terrible season plagued by vertigo issues in 2015. Cosart is presumably healthy this year and will get a chance at the rotation again, but he seems far from being the passably effective pitcher he was when the Fish first acquired him. He has a lot to prove, especially in terms of control.
Tom Koehler: 189 1/3
A few years ago, Koehler was asked to step into the rotation, and he responded with one good 2014 season and and two bookended bad seasons. However, Koehler has at least promised innings, as he has averaged 189 1/3 innings in the past two years and made at least 31 starts in the last two seasons. Koehler is nothing if not durable, but durability for the Marlins is only as good if he can afford them good innings. In 2014, that happened. In 2015, it did not. But with the Fish out of good rotation options from the minors, it is expected Koehler will fill that role again this season.
Adam Conley: 5-1
Conley is the team's best choice for fifth starter as of right now. He was a former top pitching prospect for the Marlins and a borderline top-100 prospect before getting hurt in 2014, and last year finally found him returning to form. He spent 67 innings in the bigs last year and had a great run in September with a 2.62 ERA and 3.08 FIP and strong strikeout and walk numbers. The team has always wanted a left-hander to help out the roster, and so far Conley has been better than fellow lefty prospect Justin Nicolino. With a decent spring, you have to suspect he will be the leading candidate for the rotation.
David Phelps, Justin Nicolino, Jose Urena, Edwin Jackson: 5
These are the prime contenders for the fifth spot along with Conley, and the race should be an interesting one to watch. Phelps would have held the lead had he stayed healthy all of last year, as he was pitching decently until his final month of the season. Jackson was a free agent signing from the Chicago Cubs who has a shot at the rotation, but the team is much more likely to let him serve in the role he did passably last year, which was the bullpen. Nicolino and Urena soured their chances of a rotation spot with their performances last season, though Nicolino has the better odds of the two.
A.J. Ramos: 12.5
That number is the one Ramos has to fight in order to be a successful back-end reliever. His stuff is not the sort of back-pen high-end heat one would expect from a closer, but his changeup may be one of the least hittable pitches in baseball. His slider is also an effective pitch, giving Ramos the rare three-pitch relief arsenal that makes him uniquely effective versus both sides of the ball without a blow-out fastball. Ramos now can throw that elite changeup against both lefties and righties, and versatility against both sides of the plate is the key to the back of the bullpen. But none of this will matter if Ramos cannot limit the walks similar to how he did last year in the first half of the campaign. His performance slipped in the second half thanks to a 12.5 percent walk rate, the exact rate that he has held up for his entire career save for one stellar first half.
Carter Capps: 101.74
Thanks to Capps's odd delivery from the mound, he was able to throw an already high-heat fastball even harder at players. Batters had a "perceived" fastball velocity of 101.7 mph, the fastest in baseball, thanks in large part to the hop-step delivery Capps uses. That funky motion essentially has him releasing the ball closer to the batter than almost anyone else in the game, and it made his fastball a monster to deal with. If it were just his fastball, it would not be as much of an issue, but Capps also has a wipeout slider that boasted a 41 percent swinging strike rate. He is going to be fascinating to watch this year if he stays healthy.
Mike Dunn (07/31): Dunn is in the final year of his contract, and if the Marlins can find themselves any lefty to help them divulge themselves of him, you have to figure he'll be dealt before the July 31 deadline.
Bryan Morris (16.7): That kind of strikeout rate just is not good enough for a reliever, even one with Morris's 59.4 percent ground ball rate. Even Zach Britton had to reach a 75 percent grounder rate and a strikeout rate above 20 percent to be an elite reliever.
Kyle Barraclough (18.4): That is Barraclough's walk rate from last year. Very few pitchers are successful walking that many guys. Like Ramos, he'll have to find some control.
Brian Ellington (96.9): Ellington's velocity is what brought him to the big dance despite minimal chances at Triple-A just yet. Whether he can convert that to strikeouts is a different story.
Brad Hand (288 2/3): How has the typically terrible Hand somehow thrown this many innings for the Marlins, but Derek Dietrich can't get any plate appearances?