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Who will be part of the Marlins nucleus under new ownership? Part III

Starting Pitcher, Jose Urena

Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies
Jose Urena
Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

As we continue to look at the future of the Miami Marlins, I want to focus today on a very sore subject with this team: pitching, or the lack there of.

Depending on how you want to measure it, the Marlins have arguably the worst bullpen in the National League. Their save percentage is dead last at 57 percent, having blown 23 saves so far this year — the most in the NL. Furthermore, their bullpen is tied for third-highest in relief losses at 26.

The starting pitching for the Marlins has not fared much better, as it ranks tied for last with Cincinnati in quality starts with 49. For comparison purposes, the first place Washington Nationals have 92 quality starts so far this year. The Marlins team ERA is fourth-worst in the NL at 4.75 and they have the third-worst ERA+ at 87.

Okay, I’ll stop now, I think you get the picture.

However, as we look down the road, there are certainly some emerging stars in the pitching core that the Marlins can build around for the future. At the top of that list is Jose Urena, the best performing starting pitcher for the team this year.

A Little Background

The 26 year old Urena grew up in the Dominican Republic and signed with the Marlins as a 17 year old in 2009. Urena worked his way through the Marlins minor league system over the course of six years, starting with the DSL Marlins for two years where his ERA was 6.75 in his first year.

Urena steadily improved and by the time he reached Double-A as a 22 year old for Jacksonville in 2014, he was 13-8 with a 3.33 ERA and 1.136 WHIP. He started 25 games for the Suns and logged a career high 162 innings. Urena then made his major league debut on April 13, 2015.

Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images

Miami Marlins

Urena highlights an above average fastball that has increased in average velocity every year since 2015, starting at 93.92 mph to 95.66 today. He relies on his four-seam and two-seam fastball 57% of the time, but also has an effective slider and changeup that he showcases four out of every ten pitches. Urena has been used primarily as a starter by Miami in 2017, having made 30 appearances and starting 24 of those.

The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Urena has been the Marlins most effective pitcher this season and clearly has blossomed in his third MLB season. He sports a 13-6 record, 3.62 ERA, and 1.23 WHIP over 151.2 innings, leading all Marlins starting pitchers. Urena has struck out 104 batters this year and has averaged 6.17 K/9 to go along with 3.32 BB/9.

Urena represents good news for the next four years as the Marlins look to cut costs. He is under team control and cannot become a free agent until 2022. Plus, he currently makes the MLB minimum at $535,000.

However, some national experts have been slow to recognize Urena’s improving success. One recent survey from Bill James Online had Urena ranked number 97 among the top 100 starting pitchers in baseball ahead of such stalwarts as the ageless wonder Bartolo Colon at 99.

As the pitching-deprived Marlins look past 2017 and into the future with their new ownership, they would be wise to secure the services of Urena for as long as possible. The continued upside for this young pitcher could lead him to become the staff ace, and with it a more expensive price tag for the Marlins down the road.