The annual tradition has returned. Leading up to Opening Day, Fish Stripes will be previewing the 2020 Marlins season, one player at a time. Find every article of the series here.
Where Did He Come From? Right-hander Johan Quezada became a minor league free agent after the 2019 season and signed with the Marlins on Dec. 18.
3.44 ERA | 3.59 FIP | 3.83 xFIP | 1.49 WHIP | 52.1 IP (High-A)
During his seventh season pitching professionally in the Twins organization, Quezada established new career highs in terms of both innings pitched and appearances.
Early in 2019, Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs ranked him as Minnesota’s No. 37 prospect:
Quezada creates extreme downhill plane on his fastball and vertical action on his slider...He’s understandably behind due to his limited pro workload, but he’s a candidate for quick promotion before he breaks again, and seems like a potential set-up type if the slider improves now that Quezada is finally pitching and developing again.
The Dominican right-hander’s signature pitch is his fastball. Quezada has been clocked as high as 100 miles per hour, according to Baseball America, though he generally sits in the 94-98 mph range. The FanGraphs report cited above assigned his heater a 60 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale; during the season, they adjusted that to a 70 grade. That is because of Quezada’s combination of velocity and spin rate—his 2,450 RPM fastball spin tops every key Marlins pitching prospect aside from Trevor Rogers and even compares favorably to major leaguer Caleb Smith.
However, at least against Florida State League competition, Quezada has usable secondary pitches, too. Here he is striking out a batter with only his slider and split-change:
Strikeout sequence from new Marlins RHP Johan Quezada. Everybody expects high heat from the 6-foot-9 guy, so he gets this K with all secondary pitches instead pic.twitter.com/BsdAJzGDEx— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) January 21, 2020
There was some bad luck working against Quezada in 2019. He maintained a lifetime .268 batting average on balls in play from 2013 through 2018, but that spiked to a .314 BABIP last season. He suffered a left ankle sprain in late July, which clearly affected his performance down the stretch (only one strikeout versus final 29 batters faced).
Meanwhile, there are also legitimate red flags that should not be ignored. Quezada was older than 94.4% of his opponents while with High-A Fort Myers (turned 25 at end of the regular season). He threw 11 wild pitches in his 52 1⁄3 innings; the only Marlins prospects with more than that—George Soriano, Tanner Andrews and Alberto Guerrero—were starters with at least doubled Quezada’s workload.
Although not to the same extreme as Sterling Sharp or Stephen Tarpley, Quezada induces lots of ground balls (career 57.3 GB%). Even better, he’s capable of fielding his position!
Here he is next to Nelson Cruz pic.twitter.com/X6ylNePWcG— Bryce H. Dixon (@brycehdixon) January 21, 2020
This winter, the Marlins cut ties with 6-foot-8 fireballer Tayron Guerrero (now with the White Sox). Quezada, who is listed at 6-foot-9, will inevitably draws comparisons to him.
Despite his Guerrero-like wildness, it’s possible for Quezada to overcome that and contribute thanks to his knack for keeping the ball in the infield and away from the bleachers (career in minors: 4 HR in 180.0 IP).
Quezada was not included in the latest round of Spring Training non-roster invitees. Even with all the question marks regarding the 2020 Marlins bullpen, he isn’t a candidate for the Opening Day roster.
The most likely assignment for Johan Quezada is Double-A Jacksonville. With good health and some veteran reliever departures prior to the trade deadline, he could get earn a call-up to Miami during August or September.