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2020 Marlins Season Preview: Adam Conley

After a horrendous 2019, this season could be make-or-break year for the 29-year-old lefty.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins Sam Navarro-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? Adam Conley was selected in the second round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft. This year marks his sixth season pitching in the majors for the Fish.

2019 Performance

6.53 ERA | 5.19 FIP | 5.41 XFIP | 1.73 WHIP | 60.2 IP | -0.4 fWAR

Adam Conley was once a decent starter in the Marlins rotation; he has since become a middle reliever. Whether the situations are high or low leverage, Conley has struggled.

The 2018 season was the first time Conley’s main role was in the bullpen. He put up average numbers with nothing standing out too much. He posted a 4.09 ERA which was just about in line with the MLB average that year.

Conley had an abysmal year in 2019. He struggled all season and stayed above a 5.00 ERA most of the time. The FanGraphs chart below shows that Conley only made strides in the right direction at the start of September. Towards the end of the month, he would go back to struggling.

Courtesy of Fangraphs

There is no “smoking gun” to point to when attempting to explain Conley’s decline last season. His strikeout rate dipped, while his walk and home run rate rose. It seems his confidence was shot.

Courtesy of FanGraphs

Among 158 qualified MLB relievers, Conley posted the worst Win Probability Added (-1.80 WPA).

2020 Expectations

In January, the Marlins avoided arbitration and re-signed Conley to a one-year contract worth $1.525 million. Because he’s out of minor league options and there are plenty of intriguing pitching prospects breathing down his neck, it is hard to imagine him making it through the 2020 season with the same numbers as last year.

Conley will need to deliver this season if he wants to stick around. Unfortunately, the early returns from Spring Training are not promising—he has allowed 14 baserunners through 6 23 innings, failing to get swinging strikes on his high-velocity fastball.

Conley projects to be the weakest link in the Marlins Opening Day bullpen, a middle relief pitcher who will probably be used when trailing by a lot (a la Wei-Yin Chen in 2019).

2020 ZiPS Projection: 4.41 ERA | 4.58 FIP | 1.38 WHIP | 0.0 fWAR | 65.1 IP