Right-hander Anthony Bender will become the fourth player this season to make his major league debut for the Marlins. The club selected his contract on Tuesday—as first reported by Craig Mish—filling a void on the pitching staff in the aftermath of Paul Campbell’s PED suspension.
The 26-year-old was very much under the radar a few short months ago.
With no Minor League Baseball in 2020, Bender joined the Milwaukee Milkmen of the American Association where he had mixed results (5.48 ERA, 1.64 ERA, 25 K in 21.1 IP). His highest level of MiLB competition to date has been Double-A—he spent the final week of the 2019 season with the Brewers’ Biloxi affiliate. Expectations were low when the Marlins scooped him up last November on a minor league deal.
However, Bender showed premium stuff earlier this year in the Grapefruit League. His sinker averaged 97.4 mph in appearances that were tracked by Statcast and his slider averaged 86.2 mph with a very high spin rate. He had good control of both pitches and frequently prevented balls in play from getting in the air, culminating in 8 1⁄3 scoreless innings.
Bender was one of four finalists for our February/March 2021 Marlin of the Month award.
I inadvertently started a #BenderMania movement on Twitter when drawing attention to his team-leading velocity. No reason to stop using it now!
My educated guess is that the Marlins see Bender as an eventual candidate to fill Jordan Holloway’s shoes. Although Holloway has thrived in the bullpen so far this season, the organization ideally would like to continue developing him as a starting pitcher at Double-A or Triple-A. In the short term, they will co-exist.