Yes, the Marlins are still in their “rebuilding” phase as an organization, but the 2020 season promises to be far more intriguing than the previous two (COVID-19 drama aside). That’s thanks to the waves of young talent arriving on the shores of the active roster. This is a critical year for potential building blocks of the next great Miami team to make their first impressions against major league competition.
Three prospects got their arms loose and their feet wet during the July 24-26 series versus the Phillies. In case you missed these moments or have a difficult time remembering them in light of the recent chaos that has enshrouded the team, I’ll share some data and observations.
RHP Nick Neidert
Debut age: 23 years, 258 days
Final line: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K (30 pitches)
Average fastball velocity (four-seamers and two-seamers combined): 91.9 mph
More than five years into his professional career, this was Neidert’s first time appearing in a regular season game—at any level—as a reliever. All things considered, he handled the circumstances well.
Neidert did not record any swinging strikes on the 30 pitches he threw. However, he demonstrated the ability to mix speeds and change the hitters’ eye level. The right-hander’s two-seam fastball maxed out at 93.5 miles per hour, according to Baseball Savant, and he created an enormous contrast between that and his curveball (slowest one was 73.0 mph).
Facing nearly every member of the Phillies starting lineup, Neidert allowed one ball out of the infield. Six of the seven total balls in play were grounders.
The lack of changeups was surprising—talent evaluators generally agree that it’s his most important weapon, one that has legitimate plus potential, but Neidert used it only twice. Perhaps he was saving it for a potential second trip through the order?
Fish Stripes had Neidert ranked as our No. 12 Marlins prospect last spring.
LHP Alex Vesia
Debut age: 24 years, 115 days
Final line: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR (14 pitches)
Average fastball velocity: 91.6 mph
Vesia entered the July 25 game immediately after Neidert. Against Didi Gregorius, he showed precisely what made him so effective in the minor leagues, getting the veteran shortstop to chase a high fastball and strike out.
Milestone for Alex Vesia!— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) July 25, 2020
Didi Gregorius is Vesia's first career strikeout victim. Blew it by him pic.twitter.com/UNaS3PYnzk
Vesia threw 12 heaters with a maximum 2,366 RPM spin rate and an average of 2,288, which is more or less the MLB average. Location was an issue—Phil Gosselin blasted what would prove to be the game-winning home run on a mistake over the heart of the plate.
Clearly, the California native did not have his best fastball in this outing. We’ll be able to learn more about him over a larger sample size.
Fish Stripes had Vesia ranked as our No. 22 Marlins prospect last spring. Unfortunately, he’s been confirmed as one of the numerous players who tested positive for COVID-19 (officially placed on the injured list Sunday). There is undoubtedly room for him in Miami’s ‘pen once he returns to full strength.
RHP Jordan Holloway
Debut age: 24 years, 52 days
Average fastball velocity: 96.9 mph
Holloway made the unorthodox leap from the High-A level to the major leagues with only a few Grapefruit League spring training appearances in between to aid the transition. His tantalizing stuff was on full display during the fifth inning of the July 26 contest. The Marlins and Phillies combined to throw 326 pitches that afternoon; the eight highest velocities tracked by Statcast all belonged to Holloway, who peaked at 98.5 miles per hour.
One of the most extraordinary pitches of the entire three-game series was this four-seamer to Bryce Harper at 97, perfectly placed knee-high and on the outside corner.
Holloway’s secondary pitches weren’t sharp. He had several non-competitive misses with his curveball and the lone changeup—his final pitch—hung up for Gregorius who grounded it through the right side of the infield for a single. It’s never satisfying to get yanked from the game and leave behind a bases-loaded mess for your teammates to clean up (which they did in a 11-6 Marlins victory).
Fish Stripes had Holloway ranked as our No. 25 Marlins prospect last spring. Like Vesia, he will be sidelined for the foreseeable future due to a positive COVID-19 test. I hope he’s resting comfortably and wish him a full recovery.
More MLB debuts on deck: OF Monte Harrison, RHP Jorge Guzman, INF Eddy Alvarez