Barring any health-related setback, was Jarred Cosart's place in the Miami Marlins rotation every really in jeopardy? The Marlins suggested that it was earlier this spring by declaring that there were three starting spots were up for grabs, but Cosart has quickly shown that he is skilled enough to occupy the role of one of Miami's starters.
The 25 year-old looked nothing like the pitcher we saw, intermittently, last season when he went toe-to-toe with the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom, on Monday. He fired 3 2/3 innings of shutout baseball to match deGrom and allow the Fish to go on and win 2-1. Now, Spring Training stats should be taken with a grain of salt due to the minuscule sample size, but Cosart now has nine and two-third innings under his belt and still sports a perfect ERA.
In fact, he has fared much better than Tom Koehler, who is also competing for a starting job to kick-off 2016. Koehler, 29, has finished in the top two in innings pitched with Miami for the past three years, but was less than stellar last season and currently holds a 5.40 ERA and 1.68 WHIP during spring ball. The likes of Adam Conley and Justin Nicolino have also impressed, but their relative lack of experience in the big leagues will probably result in one of them rounding off the rotation. Thus, the argument could be made that Cosart is the Marlins' third-best starting option.
An inner-ear infection and resulting symptoms of vertigo caused Cosart to miss much of the 2015 season. However, he has come back strong this spring under the guidance of new pitching coach Juan Nieves, who has helped the right-hander tweak his delivery to get more sink on his fastball.
While continuously putting up zeros is a positive sign, and Spring Training is a time for trying news things regarding pitching mechanics, one thing to note is that Cosart struggled with his location on Monday, only throwing strikes 54% of the time. This, predictably, resulted in walks, two of them to be precise. Cosart averages just over four walks a game, and owns a career 1.37 WHIP.
These are not the numbers of a superstar, but there is something to be said for being able to pitch out of trouble; it demonstrates maturity and composure, which is what this rotation will need if the Fish are playing important games down the stretch.
Jarred Cosart is not an All-Star, and he needs to greatly improve his command if he wants to move to the next level. Nevertheless, he is one of Miami's five best starting pitchers, and possibly the third-best. Therefore, he should be on the Opening Day roster. We will have to wait for the season to get going to see how much of an effect Juan Nieves has had on Cosart, but the results have been largely positive so far.
If he remains healthy, Cosart can become a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. If he is able to be consistent in his performances and pitch at least six innings regularly, then Miami's chances of reaching the playoffs increase that little bit more.