Lost within a frustrating loss to the Mets on Friday night, Dylan Floro looked great. Floro faced the talented top of New York’s lineup in the eighth inning—Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte and Francisco Lindor—and retired them in order. He threw 12 of 16 pitches for strikes (75%).
The Marlins’ incumbent closer entering spring training, Floro missed the first month-plus of the 2022 regular season due to right rotator cuff tendonitis. Throughout his minor league rehab work and upon returning from the injured list, the quality of his stuff was noticeably down from the previous year. The Marlins intended to gradually ease Floro back into high-leverage situations, but that was contingent on him resembling the guy who posted a 2.81 FIP in 2021 and led the club with 33 shutdown appearances, as defined by FanGraphs.
The main concern was Floro’s lack of fastball velocity. In 2021, he averaged 93.7 miles per hour on fastballs (four-seamers and sinkers combined), ranking in the 59th percentile among MLB pitchers, according to Baseball Savant. But prior to Friday, he had not thrown a single pitch that hard in 2022, averaging just 91.6 mph (around the 25th percentile). His body had betrayed him. Floro’s whiff rate on fastballs predictably cratered, from 24.1% to 11.5%—only one of every nine swings against his heater were resulting in swings-and-misses.
Floro has been hiding in plain sight on the Marlins roster. Although 12 of his 14 appearances were scoreless from May 15 to June 21, you would be hard-pressed to remember any that meaningfully shifted the momentum in Miami’s favor. It was difficult to watch even as he threw up zeroes.
Then, when I least expected it, he delivered a vintage Floro outing against the Mets. The slowest of his nine fastballs was 93.2 mph. The other eight established new season highs for his velocity, including a max of 94.5. His average of 93.7 was precisely in line with his pre-injury norms.
Floro had command of his pitches, too. Lots of strikes yet only one anywhere near the heart of the zone. That’s huge.
Can Floro do it again? What about on back-to-back days? It is premature to get overly excited about how he looked in this relatively low-pressure situation. Let’s be patient.
The pipe dream of a 2022 Marlins postseason berth hinges on their fortunes flipping in many different areas. Floro recapturing what used to make him good would certainly help.
My focus is mostly on what this means for the 31-year-old as a trade chip. Earning a $3 million salary this season, he’s under club control for 2023 as well. If he demonstrates between now and the August 2 deadline that he’s a viable setup man again, the Marlins could extract a couple intriguing lottery-ticket prospects in exchange for his services.