RHP Anthony Bass
Opening Day age: 33 | Bats: right | Throws: right | Listed at 6-2, 200 lbs.
Acquired by Marlins via free agency on a two-year, $5MM contract (January 27, 2021).
There’s a distinct before-and-after demarcation in Bass’ MLB career. From 2011 to 2015, he was an ordinary, roughly replacement-level reliever. Then he went to Japan to play with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and everything changed for him. That’s reflected in his numbers.
Since 2018, Bass has pitched well for the Cubs, the Mariners, and the Blue Jays, establishing himself as a pretty solid, underestimated late-inning reliever. In fact, he saved 12 games between 2019 and 2020.
In the following image, you can see a comparison between his pre-Japan and post-Japan stats:
In the last three years, opponents have posted a .192 batting average against Bass when he pitches between innings seven and nine. Owed just one million dollars for the 2021 season, you won’t find too many relievers on the market, especially with the kind of expected stats Bass has.
Bass keeps improving year by year. In 2020, opponents whiffed at a 28.0% rate, a career-high for the veteran righty. Also, he limited chase contact% to a career-low 42.6%. He did, however, struggle with control in the final weeks of the regular season.
As you see, there are several reasons to be excited about Bass’ first year as a Marlin.
2021 ZiPS projection: 4.37 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.31 WHIP, 0.5 fWAR
2021 PECOTA projection (50th percentile): 3.45 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, 0.6 WARP
Although it still depends on what happens in spring training, Bass is likely to begin the season as the closer. After compiling seven saves for the Blue Jays last season, it’d be his first chance to be a full-time ninth-inning guy. Yimi García, who thrived as Miami’s setup man last year, figures to be his main competition.
Bass’ slider is going to be a major weapon for him. This pitch led to a .188 opponent batting average and 13 strikeouts in 32 at-bats during the last campaign, plus a low average exit velocity of 83.1 MPH. Also, the 33-year-old uses this delivery to fool hitters, as it generated a 52.2 Whiff%.
Bass is determined to increase usage of his splitter to make himself more unpredictable. It represented only 6.8% of his total pitches a year ago, but during his Marlins Grapefruit League debut, it accounted for six of his 23 offerings (26.1%).
Without putting crazy strikeout numbers, the Michigan native can punch hitters out consistently, can keep the ball in the park, has the ability to limit baserunners, and induces ground balls (62.9 GB% in 2020). All those tools will come in handy to a Marlins bullpen that needs him to be trustworthy in high-leverage situations.