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2020 Marlins Season Preview: Robert Dugger

The young righty could be an impactful arm for the Fish entering 2020, even if he begins in Triple-A.

MLB: Miami Marlins-Workouts Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

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 received RHP Robert Dugger, along with RHP Nick Neidert and SS Christopher Torres from the Mariners in exchange for Dee Gordon and international bonus slot money, in December 2017.

2019 Performance

5.77 ERA | 5.95 FIP | 6.17 xFIP | 1.46 WHIP | -0.1 fWAR | 34.1 IP (MLB)

5.15 ERA | 22.6 K% | 1.36 WHIP | 124.0 IP (MiLB)

Dugger began his 2019 season as a member of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Double-A). In his first four appearances, he had an ugly 6.60 ERA and a .792 opponent OPS over 15.0 innings. But that was a small sample, because just a bit later, he would turn things around.

From April 27 to June 10, across nine starts, the 24-year-old was dealing. He went 6-2, with a 2.43 ERA and a not-so-high-anymore OPS of .588. Striking out 57 while allowing only three home runs over those 55 23 frames helped him earn a promotion to Triple-A and then to the Major Leagues, despite not performing well in just seven games for the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

On August 5, he made his MLB debut but was rocked by the Mets. Dugger lasted five innings but ended up allowing five hits (2 HR) and six earned runs. The righty went back to Triple-A, though he was called up again before the end of the month.

His second MLB appearance was more successful than the first. Dugger dazzled at home against Cincinnati and six days later did the same at Pittsburgh. Before the end of the regular season, he lost three out of four vs. Brewers, Nationals, and (again) the Mets. Had he not faced the Mets twice, Robert would have finished with a nice 3.29 ERA across 27.1 IP, but New York pounded him with 12 ER (7.0 IP).

Off The Field

There are two things Dugger loves the most: baseball and, of course, his girlfriend Hayley, to whom he recently got engaged.

He’s not the type of player that posts every single day on his account, but when he does, Robert shows his unconditional love for Hayley and the game. He enjoys being a Marlin and every experience he can have.

You can keep in touch with the young pitcher by following on Instagram and Twitter.

2020 Expectations

The Marlins haven’t made any specific announcements about their starting rotation, yet it appears that there might not be room for Dugger. Health permitting, Sandy Alcántara, Caleb Smith and Pablo López all have their spots assured, with José Ureña, Jordan Yamamoto, and Eliéser Hernández trying to filling out the back end, offering more MLB experience than Dugger has. Even the Opening Day bullpen could be an awkward fit.

Most likely, the 24-year-old is on his way to repeating what he did in 2019, but this time with an assignment at Triple-A that leaves him just a phone call away whenever manager Don Mattingly is in need of an emergency starter.

Based on his numbers as a minor leaguer, Dugger should be capable of striking more guys out and walking fewer. To do that, he needs to trust his secondary pitches more. The slider, for example, was his best weapon as a Marlin (.206 AVG, .235 SLG), far superior to his four-seam and sinking fastballs (.270 AVG, .581 SLG).

One other variable to keep in mind: Dugger worked specifically during the offseason on boosting his velocity. Maintaining that into meaningful games is critical to upsetting a batter’s timing and increasing his whiffs. So far, so good—the Texan pitched two perfect innings in his 2020 Grapefruit League debut on Saturday, including a strikeout of reigning NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso. His fastball sat in the 92-93 mph range.

Maybe Dugger isn’t a frontline starter, but he could end up being a nice long reliever and emergency starter that can give Mattingly five or six innings from time to time.

2020 Steamer projection

4.93 ERA | 5.03 FIP | 5.30 xFIP | 1.40 WHIP | 0.1 fWAR | 51.0 IP