A year after handing out starts to 13 different pitchers throughout the season (bonus points if you can name more than 10), the Miami Marlins made it to game number 65 before having to call up reinforcements from the minor leagues. That’s when ace Caleb Smith was placed on the injured list due to left hip inflammation.
Elieser Hernandez was selected from Triple-A New Orleans to take his place on the mound on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hernandez started six games for Miami in 2018 and had 26 further appearances out of the bullpen, but did not do much to impress in either situation (5.04 ERA as a starter, 5.31 ERA in relief with an overall FIP of 5.29).
The Marlins clearly believed in his abilities to start games, so the Venezuelan opened the season in the Baby Cakes rotation. His promotion was a result of him being absolutely lights out over nine starts in the PCL. A 3-1 record with a 1.13 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 69 strikeouts over 48 innings was among the best stat lines for the entire staff, rivaling the increasingly talked about Zac Gallen.
In his first MLB start of the season, Hernandez was less than perfect, but was only one out away from producing a quality start as he finished with seven whiffs over 5 2⁄3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits.
The Marlins would need another newbie the next night. José Ureña suffered a lower back strain during his usual bullpen session in between starts, so Jordan Yamamoto received the call to toe the rubber for his major league debut.
Given an early lead to work with, Yamamoto was nothing short of stellar, striking out five over seven shutout innings in a much-needed win.
Granted, two starts is an extremely small sample size, but these two examples highlight that the Marlins have some unbelievably talented and young pitching depth up and down the organization, perhaps for the first time since 2006.
First of all, consider that neither Yamamoto (Miami's #17 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline) or Hernandez (no longer eligible) are considered top prospects, and yet they still produced on the biggest stage. Gallen, with his Pacific Coast-leading ERA and superior pure stuff, should be the next to make his debut.
But there is another wave behind him to be optimistic about. Edward Cabrera (Miami's #8 prospect—2.04 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 11.0 K/9) and Jordan Holloway (#13—2.62 ERA, 10.3 K/9, .244 SLG against) have been tearing it up at High-A Jupiter, with teammates Braxton Garrett (#7) and Trevor Rogers (#15) also putting in solid campaigns. Do not forget about Will Stewart (#21) also, who is starting to turn it around after a rough start, rounding out Miami’s most promising starting rotation top-to-bottom in the minors.
Robert Dugger (#22) has been consistent at Double-A Jacksonville, and Jorge Guzman (#9) still has heaps of potential, even if he is still having trouble cutting down the free passes. Then there is top overall prospect Sixto Sánchez, who is getting his rhythm back after missing a lot of time last season. Nick Neidert (#4) has hardly pitched in 2019 due to a knee injury, but he was the team’s minor league pitcher of the year last season.
For the first time in definitely over a decade, the Marlins feel like they have sufficient starting pitching depth to cover any and all injuries that crop up during the long season, even though a lot of the pieces listed above still need a fair amount of time to fully develop. What Miami needs now is to acquire and develop impact hitters, and this year's draft class will go a long way to solving that glaring issue.
In short, talent acquisition element to the rebuild is coming along just nicely.