Feb. 17 update: Well, that dek aged poorly. The Marlins opened spring training by placing Brigham on the 60-day injured list, pushing back his 2021 season debut to mid-April at the absolute earliest.
RHP Jeff Brigham
Opening Day age: 29 | Bats: right | Throws: right | Listed at 6-0, 200 lbs.
Acquired by Marlins via trade from Dodgers (July 30, 2015)
Very little has changed about Jeff Brigham’s status since his 2020 season preview article. That’s because he has seldom been available to play.
Brigham did not make an appearance during the Grapefruit League last year due to a mild biceps injury. Had the regular season begun as scheduled, he would’ve landed on the injured list. The hard-throwing right-hander recovered fully for the summer and earned a spot on the extra-large Opening Day pitching staff (17 arms).
One inning. One run allowed. Twenty-two pitches. That was Brigham’s complete 2020 stat line. After testing positive for COVID-19 during the Marlins’ infamous outbreak, he never returned to the active roster.
I am surprised that Brigham is still with the organization. Over the offseason, the Marlins added three veteran relievers and two youngsters with Rule 5 draft restrictions to a cramped 40-man roster. Brigham’s roots with the Jeffrey Loria-owned Marlins, his age, his limited role and his constant lack of availability—IL stints in every season since 2016—all seemingly worked against him when it came time for DFA decisions. And yet here we are.
Brigham induces elite, two-plane movement on his slider, and making the conversion to the bullpen full time boosted his fastball velocity. If his pure stuff is still just as nasty and he can frequently put himself in favorable counts (two big ifs), then he’ll be poised for a career year.
2021 ZiPS projection: 3.89 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 1.34 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR
2021 PECOTA projection (50th percentile): 4.16 ERA, 4.82 FIP, 1.28 WHIP, 0.1 WARP
Perhaps Brigham’s biggest issue so far as a major leaguer has been the variety of contact he allows. Fun fact: his 26.9% career ground ball rate is second-lowest among all active pitchers (min. 50 IP). You’ll notice former teammate Caleb Smith right next to him at 27.0%, but Smith induces twice as many infield pop-ups; Brigham, on the other hand, isn’t getting those cheap outs.
Following the Dylan Floro trade, there are only one or two Marlins bullpen spots that Brigham can realistically compete for during spring training. Coming up short wouldn’t be the end of the world—he has two minor league options remaining. But he ain’t getting any younger.
Over/Under 20 innings pitched for Jeff Brigham with the Marlins this season?
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