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Projected 2021 Marlins pitching staff

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If the Marlins don’t add any more arms for 2021, who would make their Opening Day roster?

Miami Marlins v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The calendar says that this MLB offseason is nearly over. There are only 24 days to go until Marlins pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training. But these are unusual circumstances—countless players remain available, including free agents and rumored trade candidates. And during a period in which the other NL East teams have been busy making tangible improvements to their major league rosters, Miami should be feeling some pressure to keep pace.

I bet the Marlins will add more veterans for the 2021 campaign, even if it takes deep into February or March to finalize those transactions. However, while the position player group could be tweaked in various ways, the pitching staff is much more well-defined. It would be disappointing if soon-to-be-signed Anthony Bass represented their final acquisition in that department—MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola insists they are “not quite done”—but let’s at least brace for such a scenario. Set some modest expectations.

Assuming a 26-man active roster, the Marlins will most likely carry 13 pitchers. Although a six-man starting rotation could be appropriate as the season wears on, there are sufficient off days in early April for them to open the regular season with a conventional quintet plus eight relievers.

Starting Rotation

RHP Sandy Alcantara, RHP Pablo López, RHP Elieser Hernandez, RHP Sixto Sánchez and RHP Nick Neidert

Alcantara and López are no-brainers.

Hernandez lacks the prototypical size and pitch mix variety for starting duty, and he’s coming off a lat injury that brought his promising 2020 season to an abrupt end. He has since returned to full strength. Fans and media have enjoyed floating him as a trade candidate, with the Marlins potentially selling high on him to address other organizational needs. But there aren’t any recent sourced reports validating that. I will comfortably pencil him in as a ‘21 Marlin.

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins - Game Three Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

In the interest of managing his workload, the Marlins could get creative with Sánchez. No chance he makes 32 starts this year. That being said, the performance, polish and electricity he demonstrated last summer probably will combine to earn him an Opening Day opportunity. Kick the can down the road.

Trevor Rogers, Daniel Castano and Jordan Yamamoto should be among the candidates for the fifth and final spot. Impressive as Rogers was in certain Marlins games in 2020, he had to be rushed into that role due to the canceled Minor League Baseball season. Another month or two of seasoning in the high minors would do him good. Rewarding Castano for his rookie year 3.03 earned run average also shoehorns a left-hander into the rotation. That selection is justifiable. I doubt the Fish are overreacting to Yamamoto’s short-season nightmare as much as the public is—he was a legitimate bright spot as a rookie! Maybe Edward Cabrera crashes the party? Regardless of his major league readiness, the front office will be tempted to manipulate his service time, unfortunately, delaying his debut to ensure extra long-term club control.

I ultimately lean towards Neidert, the organization’s former Minor League Pitcher of the Year. His superlative changeup has yielded consistent reverse platoon splits overall, so he’s a left-hander in spirit, mitigating any concerns about this group’s homogeneity.

Bullpen

RHP Anthony Bass, RHP Yimi García, LHP Richard Bleier, RHP James Hoyt, LHP Ross Detwiler, RHP Adam Cimber, RHP Paul Campbell and RHP Zach Pop* (LHP Alex Vesia)

As Danny Martinez highlighted following the Bass signing, each of these first eight names produced good results in their latest professional seasons. Not very predictive considering the microscopic sample sizes, but that’s obviously preferred to rolling the dice on other arms who’ve been struggling.

Campbell was the Marlins’ Rule 5 draft pick in December, which means he cannot be optioned to the minors (unless they first offer him back to his original team, the Rays). The same restriction applies to Pop—Rule 5 draftee of the Diamondbacks who was subsequently traded to Miami—but notice the asterisk. I put that there because I’d be shocked to see him active for Opening Day. A 2019 Tommy John surgery survivor who has just 80 13 career minor league innings, the Marlins can place Pop on the 60-day injured list during spring training. Then for the final several weeks of that stint, send him on a rehab assignment for some much-needed Triple-A reps before testing him at the highest level. This has been a common practice for the Marlins with recent draftees.

Fish Stripes original GIF

In the meantime, that creates a role for Vesia who the Marlins were extremely high on a year ago. If not him, Jeff Brigham, Jordan Holloway, Jorge Guzman and Tommy Eveld come to mind as potential contributors (though I fear Brigham’s days are numbered). Thinking outside the box, Yamamoto might benefit from working in short relief and exerting extra effort to add several ticks to his fringy fastball.


The Marlins would be better off investing in a veteran starter with a durable track record and a willingness to mentor their talented youngsters, or another reliever who has substantial setup/closing experience. Or both!

But even if cheapness discourages them from following through on that, these current pitchers would give us a fun diversity of styles and the upside to collectively prevent runs at a better-than-average rate.