clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Marlins don’t have an ace, but they do have José Ureña

The promising young right-hander will be a key piece to the rotation moving forward.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Urena (62) throws to the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins have a pitching problem.

They lack a couple of bullpen pieces and have had a mixed bag of starting pitchers over the past two years. While the Marlins haven’t resolved the gaping hole in their rotation following the tragic death of ace José Fernández, they do have a promising pitcher who is coming into his own.

Meet José Ureña, a pitcher on the cusp of a career breakthrough. Ureña, 26, has shown major improvement in his third year in the Major Leagues. While consistency plagues the young righty, his ability is promising. His velocity, command and break on his pitches are impressive.

Ureña has overcome odds this season after not making the Marlins’ rotation out of spring training. He entered this season with a 4-13 record and a 5.33 ERA in 21 previous starts.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Miami Marlins
Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena (62) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s getting deeper in games, his pitch count is staying lower – for the most part where he’s not throwing 100 pitches in five innings – so it’s getting to be something that you can count on,” said manager Don Mattingly. “His stuff is consistent. You see some guys where their stuff varies from time-to-time…Jose’s stuff is pretty much the same every time he walks out there,” he told Andre C. Fernandez of the Miami Herald.

Ureña’s ability to throw electric two-seam and four-seam fastballs consistently around 95 mph is what he’s known for, but it’s the command of his changeup and slider that have kept hitters guessing.

How effective has he been this season? His record is 13-6 — good enough for 10th in the National League — with an ERA of 3.61 in 147 innings pitched. He also has shown the ability to strike hitters out with 101 Ks on the season, which averages 6.2 per nine innings. Ureña has limited runners to an on-base percentage of .311, which is a testimony to his 7.78 hits-per-nine-innings (9.79 last year).

“We know the power’s there. He’s using his changeup. He’s using his slider. It at least makes you think as a hitter,” said Mattingly.

But, Ureña must improve other aspects to his game if he is to breakthrough as a top of the rotation starter. Homeruns have troubled the right-hander, but his agonizing lack of consistency has been career crippling.

In May, he posted a 3.23 ERA with about 30 innings pitched and 22 hits surrendered, which was Ureña’s best statistical month of the season.

Despite his excellent stats in May, his numbers for June hit a small decline before free-falling in July, when he pitched to a 4.78 ERA with 13 walks and a season-high six home runs in 32 innings. He only struck out 17 batters for the entire month of August, but it’s worth noting that his batting average on balls in play is at .245 — a very respectable number.

However, a top of the rotation or No. 2 starter needs to put the team on his back and pitch deep into games. Ureña has only eclipsed six innings twice all season — something the Marlins will need more of if they are to count on him to keep them in close games. It can’t be five or six innings of great pitching and then a bullpen battle the rest of the way every fifth day.

Ureña has the ability and potential to be a fantastic pitcher for Miami, and has taken significant strides toward polishing his game this year. He’s not an ace or an all-star, but he may become one if he can bury his inconsistency demons.

He does have one thing you can’t teach, though: nasty stuff.