The Miami Marlins are turning to a few other names in the back of their bullpen, with a mix of veterans and potentially a few young players involved in the race for the last few bullpen spots behind A.J. Ramos and the setup men, Bryan Morris and Mike Dunn. Between non-roster invitees to Spring Training and prospects who got looks last season, Miami is trying to find the right mix of players for the 2016 campaign.
Barraclough got an extended look in the bullpen last season when the Marlins acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for reliever Steve Cishek. Cishek was discarded in exchange for a guy heavy on stuff and light on control, a general theme in the Marlins' bullpen. The Fish got 24 decent innings out of him with mixed results. On the one hand, a 2.52 ERA and 3.42 FIP are not the worst things in the world, especially with a guy that comes with a 96 mph fastball and slider from the right side. At the same time, in those 24 innings, Barraclough walked 18 batters, or about 18 percent of them at the time. Barraclough's zone profile was all over the place; he spent only 42 percent of the time in the strike zone, and the profile was all over the place.
He spent a lot of time throwing sliders down and away from righties, but otherwise he did not locate anywhere else in particular. Controlling his absurd walk rate will be the key, just like it was for other Marlins wild hurlers.
Projection: 50 IP, 4.03 ERA, 0.0 WAR
Ellington was the other prospect reliever who got significant time in the majors last season, having thrown 25 innings for the Fish in the second half. In a way, Ellington is similar to Barraclough, in that he too is a hard-throwing right-hander with control issues. The former 16th round draft pick showed decent control in Double-A last year in a short stint, and that convinced the Fish to use him in the bigs. The difference between him and Barraclough is one of a secondary pitch. Whereas Barraclough had a slider that he used to great effect about 39 percent of the time, Ellington is actually missing a secondary pitch. He actually threw his heater even harder with an average velocity of 97 mph, but the heat is backed up by a mediocre curve over which he has little control (3.8 balls-to-called strike ratio) that he does not trust. Ellington had to throw his fastball 77 percent of the time last season, thus depending on putting it in the strike zone in order to stay efficient.
The poor peripherals were the result of that strategy, and it is possible Ellington may just have problems doing just this going forward. Without a strong out pitch, he may just be a one-trick pony.
Projection: 45 IP, 3.99 ERA, 0.0 WAR
Lazo is interesting only because he is a left-hander, and the Marlins are planning on holding onto two lefties for much of the season. Dunn remains one of those players, though if the Marlins struggle, he may be traded before the deadline. Lazo may a get a chance at another spot, especially if the team opts eventually to move on from Brad Hand. Hand figures to be the second left-hander, but if Lazo does make the bigs, he offers a slider and changeup along with a typical low-90's fastball. He has had success at every level in which he has pitched despite two Tommy John surgeries, so he may get a role as a LOOGY at some point in 2016.
Wittgren was optioned to Triple-A, meaning he will definitely not start the 2016 season with the organization, but the team would be hard-pressed to not pitch him at some point this year. The soon-to-be 25-year-old has shown everything he has had to show in the minors, serving as a closer at each level with great success. The problem is that Wittgren is a right-hander with low velocity who depends on craftiness and strike-pounding rather than swing-and-miss stuff, which makes him seem more like a seventh-inning player despite the fantastic numbers. He should still get an opportunity at least in the second half with the team's lack of depth.
Breslow is a veteran left-hander, and if the Marlins keep him on the roster, they would be making a grave error. Realistically, he has not been an acceptable reliever since 2012, and the last few seasons have been ugly for the Boston Red Sox. He should not have a regular job in 2016 for Miami.
Narveson once maybe had value as a prototypical soft-tossing lefty, but out of the bullpen, he would be out of place throwing 88 mph heaters and mixing up a four-pitch arsenal. If the Fish needed a long reliever, it may have had a slot for him, but the team has both Hand and Edwin Jackson and the club will likely turn to those names first.