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2021 Marlins Season Preview: James Hoyt

After a brilliant 2020 with the Fish, Hoyt is one of the few survivors of the Marlins’ bullpen makeover. His slider will be his biggest weapon once again.

2021 Miami Marlins Photo Day Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

RHP James Hoyt

Opening Day age: 34 | Bats: right | Throws: right | Listed at 6-6, 230 lbs.

Purchased by Marlins from Indians (August 1, 2020).

James Hoyt was a pretty rare find for the Marlins.

His career has not been typical at all. Hoyt made a late debut in 2016 at 29 years old and he was never much of a standout performer at any point from 2016 to 2019. Through his first two seasons in the Majors, he pitched 71 13 innings of 4.42 ERA and 3.80 FIP for Houston, but had only nine appearances between 2018 to 2019 with Houston and Cleveland.

Hoyt has circled the globe, playing in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and México in addition to many minor league affiliates.

The Marlins acquired Hoyt out of desperation, needing warm bodies to fill out their bullpen in the aftermath of a COVID-19 outbreak. What they got out of him during the shortened 2020 season was unbelievable.

The righty made 24 appearances and totaled 14 23 innings for the Fish. He allowed only nine hits and two earned runs, with eight bases on balls and 20 strikeouts. Hoyt won two games, didn’t lose, and recorded a 1.23 ERA. Righties hit for a .135 average against him. He earned Don Mattingly’s trust, frequently inheriting messy situations with runners on base.

What’s impressive about Hoyt is that he struck out 12.3 per nine and had a 35.3 whiff% despite suffering a major drop in his velocity, as his sinker went from 94.0 MPH the previous year to 88.9 MPH.

Hoyt’s main pitch was his marvelous slider that gave him excellent results. His 80.5 MPH slider—which he used more than ever in 2020 (67.2%)—helped him struck out 20 hitters. Opponents posted a .205 batting average (9-for-44) off that pitch and whiffed on 42.4 percent of their swings.

What’s next?

2021 ZiPS projection: 3.74 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 1.32 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

2021 PECOTA projection (50th percentile): 3.49 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, 0.5 WARP

Has Hoyt already secured spot in the Marlins’ bullpen for the upcoming season? Obviously, his 2020 success makes a strong case for him, but the Miami Herald reports that he’s still in a competition for one of the final spots. So far in the Grapefruit League, he has allowed nine baserunners in 4 13 innings plus two wild pitches, and he hasn’t recovered his velocity from years ago. Keep in mind that the Fish can option him to the minors if necessary.

Hoyt will be slider-reliant again. However, that weapon can only work for him if he has control of it. When he locates his best pitch down and away to righties, it should remain unhittable. The same happens with his fastball.

Just like other low-velo pitchers, Hoyt is asking for trouble by leaving candy in the middle of the zone...

In 2021, Hoyt will be tested again. Last year, he came through in high-leverage situations such as those with RISP. This time, with a more talented team, he has a bigger shot, maybe the most important of his career.