Finally, we are just days away from the 2020 season. It is known that the Marlins will go with Sandy Alcántara as their Opening Day starter. Caleb Smith, José Ureña, and Pablo López will round up the next three spots. But it’s still uncertain who will be the fifth starter for the team in the upcoming regular campaign. That man will come from a group formed by sophomores Jordan Yamamoto and Robert Dugger, prospect Nick Neidert, and Elieser Hernández (all righties).
Making that decision is truly like splitting hairs, so we’re trying to bring some clarity to the situation by showing you facts about each one of them.
- Pure control: The 23-year-old has yet to make his MLB debut, but he’s made an impression in his career in the Minors. Neidert is a control master—in 460 2⁄3 innings as a pro, he’s given up 2.0 walks per nine. He can pound the strike zone regularly and even though he doesn’t have an overwhelming velocity, Neidert can locate his 90-93 MPH fastball wherever he wants.
- A step closer?: During his career, he’s lacked a breaking pitch that combines nicely with his fastball and plus changeup, though his slider was awesome in the Arizona Fall League 2019 action (1.25 ERA, 21 2⁄3 innings). And one of his top priorities for 2020 has been finding consistency with his curveball. If he gets to mix those four pitches properly, prepare for dominance.
- Home run-hitter? Good luck: No matter if you’re Giancarlo Stanton or Pete Alonso, you might not get to show your power against Neidert. Nick owns an impressive 0.8 HR/9 rate in his almost 500 frames in MiLB. His season-worst was 17 long balls allowed at Double-A in 2018 (152.2 IP).
- Believe in him: Last year with the Marlins, you saw Jordan put 4.1 BB/9 and 1.3 HR/9 rates that obviously affected his performance. That shouldn’t be the case in the long term. In his minors career, opponents hit 0.7 home runs off him every nine innings and—it gets better—he gave up 2.6 walks per nine in 463 innings over six years in the minors.
- How about his Opp AVG?: In Yamamoto’s first 78 2⁄3 frames as a major leaguer, opponents have hit for a .191 against him! In 282 at-bats, he allowed only 54 hits, including 13 doubles and 11 four-baggers.
- What a combination: Good things can happen when Jordan mixes well his fastball and his slider. Guess what? The opponent average off his fastball was .171 in 2019, with a .325 slugging percentage. Even better, rivals hit for a .109 average and a .164 slugging percentage (one XBH, 26 SO) against his slider.
- Signs of improvement: During his second year in the Bigs, Hernández showed encouraging numbers in some pitching departments. For example, his K/9 went up from 6.17 to 9.29, his BB/9 went low from 3.70 to 2.84. FanGraphs’ SwSrk% stat put him in a good place as well (from 8.3% to 11.6%). He’s also making rivals chase more often (21.4% to 29.8%).
- Prone to the long ball: What’s killing Hernández is home runs. Last season, the Venezuelan righty gave up 20 in 82 1⁄3 innings (2.19 HR/9). But just like with Yamamoto, there’s reason for optimism because that wasn’t his behavior in the minors (0.6 HR/9 across 451 IP).
- Needs another pitch: I know how frustrating it could be for you when your fastball just doesn’t work. That pitch accounted for 20 of the 31 home runs Elieser has accepted since 2018. Opponents hit for a .581 slugging percentage off the heater last year.
- Impressive Spring Training: Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced to stop baseball activities, Dugger was having an amazing Spring Training showing. In 9 2⁄3 innings across four appearances, he allowed five hits, no runs, gave up four walks and recorded seven strikeouts. That was good for a 0.93 WHIP.
Very good work from Robert Dugger. 2 perfect innings, only 1 ball left the infield, and a punchout of Pete Alonso. pic.twitter.com/Fn37hdDQnV— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) February 22, 2020
- Hostile neighbors: Dugger didn’t have any success when he faced division rivals. He was charged with 14 hits (five home runs), 16 earned runs in 12 episodes (12.00 ERA), with eight bases on balls and 10 punchouts.
- Fewer walks and more strikeouts?: When you compare what he did over his Minors career, you could easily expect fewer walks and more strikeouts out of him. During his time as a member of the Mariners and Marlins affiliates, he registered an 8.7 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9. The Fish are hoping that those peripheral numbers carry over to The Show as well.