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2019 Marlins Season Preview: Austin Brice

Everything you should know about Austin Brice and his return to the Marlins organization. He might not be here for long (read, then vote below).

Brice had a cup of coffee with the 2016 Marlins
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Brice is arguably the most successful pitcher that the Marlins signed from the 2010 MLB Draft, which—no offense to him—should help you understand why they’re in this mess in the first place. A J.T. Realmuto trade would leave Brice as the only member of that draft class who’s still in the organization.

Unless the club pursues upgrades in free agency, the large right-hander looks like a real candidate to crack the Opening Day roster as a middle reliever. But he must improve on previous major league results in order to stick in that role throughout 2019 and beyond.

How did he get here? Claimed off waivers by the Marlins from the Orioles on Monday

2018 MiLB Stats: 2.31 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 1.07 WHIP, 24 K in 23.1 IP

2018 MLB Stats: 5.79 ERA, 5.87 FIP, 1.39 WHIP, 32 K in 37.1 IP

2019 ZiPS Projection: 4.85 ERA, 4.84 FIP, 1.43 WHIP, 49 K in 59.1 IP (projected with Orioles before trade)

Pitching out of the bullpen is still relatively new to Brice. He had been groomed as a starter by the Marlins from 2010 through the first half of 2016 at Double-A Jacksonville. But then, following his worst outing of the season (4.0 IP, 7 ER, 18 Game Score on June 12), he made the transition.

MLB Pipeline thought it was the appropriate decision:

Brice’s inability to repeat his delivery was largely the source of his control problems and he struggled with consistent gains in that area as a starter. He showed great strides in 2016 with his walk rate, and pinpoint command isn’t a necessity should he stay in the bullpen. His fastball-breaking ball combination is ready to get big league hitters out in that kind of role right now.

Unfortunately, the “get big league hitters out” part of that has not come together yet. Brice posted a 7.07 earned run average during his initial cup of coffee in Miami, then continued to perform below replacement level after being shipped to the Reds in 2017’s Dan Straily trade. Only a few dozen pitchers appeared in each of the past three MLB seasons and own both an ERA and FIP above 5.00 during that span, most of whom offer some versatility as a spot starter (unlike Brice). That puts him in the same company as J.J. Hoover and Kevin Quackenbush, who I swear are real people, though I don’t blame you for not recognizing them.

The main culprit has been the long ball. Brice surrendered nine in just 37 13 innings last summer, and 17 in his 84 career innings. Home games at Marlins Park instead of Great American Band Box Ball Park should help with that.

Listed at 235 pounds, Brice will be the heaviest pitcher reporting to Spring Training for the Marlins next week, so despite those struggles, he is impossible to ignore.

The 26-year-old utilizes four different pitches consistently (also mixing in a changeup once every few games).

The slider has been his most effective weapon. It accounts for 25 of his 72 MLB strikeouts. Brice leans on it more heavily against right-handed batters, but can also catch lefties by surprise:

Pitcher List

His sinker averaged 93.9 miles per hour last season, yielding four of those homers and a .345 batting average against.

Pitcher List

The curve was Brice’s primary breaking ball in 2018.

Pitcher List

He achieves peak velocity with a four-seam fastball.

Pitcher List

Before the Marlins scooped him up, Brice had been bouncing around on waivers. The Angels claimed him from the Reds in November, then the Orioles did the same in January. He’s out of minor league options and could potentially be on the move again before Opening Day if he fails to distinguish himself in the bullpen competition.

Through it all, Brice maintains a nice sense of humor.

You think he makes the cut?

Poll

Does Austin Brice make the Marlins Opening Day roster?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Yes
    (22 votes)
  • 45%
    No
    (18 votes)
40 votes total Vote Now