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2020 Marlins Season Preview: Nick Neidert

Acquisitions and an abbreviated 2019 season have pushed Neidert down organizational hierarchy, but he nonetheless enters 2020 poised to seize a big league opportunity

Surprise Saguaros v. Salt River Rafters Photo by Buck Davidson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

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? The Marlins acquired Nick Neidert, along with Robert Dugger and Christopher Torres, in a trade with Seattle for Dee Gordon in December 2017.

2019 Performance (Triple-A and Rehab) 54 IP | 57 H | 30 R (28 ER) | 27 BB | 46 K | 5 HR | 4.67 ERA

Entering 2019, Neidert was viewed as the #2 pitching prospect in the Miami system behind Sixto Sánchez following an outstanding 2018 campaign in which he struck out 154 batters with a 3.24 ERA in 152 23 Double-A frames. With continued momentum, there was a chance for Neidert to make some big league starts last season, but unfortunately his ascent was delayed by injury trouble, which ended up limiting him to just 54 innings. The culprit was a meniscus tear, which steadily worsened during the early season before eventually shelving him from mid-April into July, and had some lingering effects until very late in the season.

His overall numbers on the 2019 campaign were mediocre, but given the combination of ill effects from the knee injury and the absurd offensive environment in Triple-A, they are no cause for alarm. By the time he was back to full strength late in the season, Neidert showed all the traits that made him a top 5 name in the system previously, culminating in a rock solid five-start run in August, during which he struck out 29 in 28 13 innings with a 2.54 ERA.

To make up for some lost time, the Marlins rewarded Neidert’s late season efforts with an Arizona Fall League invitation, and the young righty used it to put an exclamation point on his 2019 campaign. In five starts for Salt River, facing off against a variety of top prospect competition, Neidert fired off five stellar starts. In 21 23 innings, he allowed just three earned runs while striking out 19 against a pair of walks, good for a 1.25 ERA. That outstanding AFL performance should allay any fears about the knee going forward, and give him some additional confidence as he gears up for 2020.

While velocity has never been a part of Neidert’s game, he has consistently impressed evaluators with his command and offspeed arsenal, which includes a plus changeup and a pair of effective breaking balls with heavy movement. His 90-93 MPH fastball isn’t his primary weapon, but he locates it and the rest of his arsenal at a high level, effectively working it to both sides of the plate. His changeup is his best offering, showing sharp two-plane movement that contrasts with his breaking stuff. Despite only having one pitch that is consistently above-average by big league standards in the change, when he’s working well Neidert’s pitchability allows him to miss plenty of bats despite a lack of high end velocity or spin, reminiscent of someone like Shaun Marcum.

Off the Field

Neidert can be found on both Twitter (@NickNeidert) and Instagram (@nick_elite2). If you follow him you’ll quickly find that, in addition to an obvious love of sport, Neidert’s faith is a huge part of his life. In this piece from the Miami Herald, Nick details his experience taking mission trips to Guatemala, and also discusses how his faith helped him through his injury trouble in 2019.

2020 Expectations

Due to the limited work last season, Neidert is unlikely to be given much consideration for a rotation slot out of Spring Training (particularly after the acquisition of Sterling Sharp in the Rule 5 Draft). However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility and he’ll likely be the first man up at the Triple-A level when the Marlins need starting pitching reinforcements. Despite the significant time on the shelf, Neidert isn’t a serious injury risk going forward—he doesn’t have the cleanest arm action of all time, but he’s been free of arm issues to date and appeared to be full go late in the 2019 season.

Long term, Neidert profiles as a #4 or #5 starter, and faces competition from Sharp and Robert Dugger, among others, for those roles. Most evaluators, including myself, would forecast Neidert as the best pitcher of that bunch, and he appears poised to establish himself as a rotation fixture for Miami in the long term as soon as mid-2020. While Neidert’s stock within the organization has fallen off a tad since this time last year, that’s more a product of big steps forward from teammates and a flurry of prospect acquisitions than it is Neidert’s play.

With the pesky meniscus injury now firmly in the rearview after his late season charge, fans should be keeping a close eye on him in the early going for Triple-A Wichita. He may not be on the farm for much longer.