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Old Friends Roundup: Early 2021 season edition

Do the Marlins have regrets about cutting ties with any of these players?

Pittsburgh Pirates v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

It would have been impossible for the Marlins to retain every member of their 2020 team. Frankly, they probably didn’t have interest in doing so, anyway—many were acquired by necessity rather than a genuine belief in their abilities.

Nearly one month into the new MLB regular season, do the Marlins have any regrets about who they let go? Let’s check around the league—around the world, actually—to see how these familiar faces are doing in new environments.

  • Tigers RHP José Ureña (4.57 ERA, 3.60 FIP in 21.2 IP)—Ureña’s control has been an issue since the beginning of spring training, but at least he’s keeping the ball in the yard. The Dominican right-hander completed seven innings in consecutive starts—April 16 and April 22—for the first time as a big leaguer, tallying a career-high eight strikeouts in the former outing.

  • Diamondbacks LHP Caleb Smith (2.63 ERA, 3.90 FIP in 13.2 IP)—After a sloppy 2021 debut, Smith was recast as a reliever. He’s been great since then! The 29-year-old has even demonstrated the versatility to pitch on back-to-back days. Over the course of a long season, odds are Smith will eventually get another shot at earning a rotation spot.
  • Mariners RHP Drew Steckenrider (4.66 ERA, 2.99 FIP in 9.2 IP)—Like with Ureña, the nicest thing you can say about Steckenrider is that he’s preventing home runs. Coming off a serious elbow injury, his fastball velocity has dropped from the mid-90s to 92 miles per hour. The former Marlins draft pick is being used in various situations, entering as early as the first inning and as late as the ninth.
  • Phillies RHP Brandon Kintzler (7.50 ERA, 6.10 FIP in 6.0 IP)—Kintzler has already surrendered nearly as many earned runs (five) as he did for the Fish last season (six). He is constantly falling behind in the count, then getting clobbered once he finds the zone. The Phillies are hiding the veteran in low-leverage situations until he rounds into form.
  • Brewers RHP Brad Boxberger (3.00 ERA, 4.10 FIP in 6.0 IP)—The Brew Crew didn’t have room for Box on their Opening Day roster, but they remedied that soon after. His velocity has ticked up even higher than it was with the Marlins and he is experimenting with a career-high slider usage.
  • Astros RHP Ryne Stanek (2.61 ERA, 3.97 FIP in 10.1 IP)—Don’t be bitter: Stanek was a classic change-of-scenery candidate. Houston’s communication style is bringing the best out of him. The hard-throwing right-hander leads all Astros relievers in strikeouts, and outside of a couple home runs, he has been literally unhittable.
  • Mets INF Jonathan Villar (.242/.286/.394, 91 wRC+ in 35 PA)—Villar hasn’t been especially good or bad. He’s just...different. Due to the Mets’ surplus of veteran position players, he has only started seven of their first 17 games. Notoriously aggressive on the basepaths, he did not attempt a stolen base for the first time until Sunday (and that attempt was unsuccessful).
  • Phillies OF Matt Joyce (.200/.400/.267, 105 wRC+ in 20 PA)—Joyce’s role is even smaller (four starts in 2021). His Statcast data is slightly better than last year, but the 36-year-old does not look like a power threat with only one batted ball of at least 300 feet.
  • Mets LHP Stephen Tarpley (inf ERA, inf FIP in 0.0 IP)—The lefty reliever was humiliated in his Mets debut on Saturday, allowing two walks, a single and a hit by pitch, failing to record any outs.
  • Dodgers LHP Alex Vesia—Vesia was recalled by the reigning World Series champs on April 17, but didn’t appear in a game and has since returned to their alternate training site (ATS).
  • Mets RHP Jordan Yamamoto, Indians OF Harold Ramirez and Cardinals RHP Johan Quezada—These three have 40-man roster spots, waiting for call-up opportunities to present themselves. They’re doing what they can to stay ready. Yamamoto is making the most noise in ATS competition.
  • Indians C Ryan Lavarnway, Rays LHP Brian Moran, Nationals RHP Sterling Sharp, Rockies RHP Jesús Tinoco and Rangers RHP Nick Vincent—These non-40-man roster players are expected to be assigned to Triple-A affiliates in the coming days to begin the Minor League Baseball season. Health permitting, they are likely to contribute in the majors at some point this year.
  • RHP Josh A. Smith—It’s unclear what comes next for the bearded right-hander. He made two starts for the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization (10.0 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 1 HR) before being placed on waivers April 15.
  • Rakuten Eagles LHP Adam Conley—Nippon Professional Baseball’s COVID-19 protocols have seemingly delayed Conley’s progression to the major league roster. The initial expectation was that he would contend for one of Rakuten’s starting rotation spots. Rest assured, Fish Stripes will provide an update on him as soon as possible.