Heading into 2021, it certainly wasn’t the expectation that Nick Neidert would be a crucial part of the Marlins starting rotation. But the pressure on him mounted quickly following injuries suffered by Sixto Sánchez and Elieser Hernandez within the first week of the regular season.
By game No. 7, Neidert was up with the major league club.
Nick’s control was not as sharp as advertised in his initial rotation stint. After the lowly Baltimore Orioles got to him for 5 runs in 3 innings and inflated his ERA to 6.75, he was off the 26-man roster and back to AAA. He resurfaced in late May, only to suffer a right biceps injury that would sideline him for a full month.
Neidert’s July 21 start in Washington is worthy of closer examination. The Marlins had just lost Pablo López to the IL so he was called up to make the spot start, his 5th of the year.
Already with a runner aboard as Alcides Escobar singled on the first pitch of the game, Trea Turner was the next man up. Turner was disciplined, refusing to swing at balls while Neidert tried to make him a fool with a couple of different looks, before slinging a fastball up and in. Turner wasn’t ready for its extreme downward movement and an unusual armside run and grounded into a double play.
It was a moment of great pitching. Neidert respected Turner’s abilities and set him up perfectly. That low-90’s weapon of his perfectly busts a righty and can snag a strike around the plate. Opponents just aren’t prepared for it.
Neidert completed five innings that night while allowing only one earned run. Keep in mind, 9 days ahead of the deadline, the Marlins still had not yet “sold” to wave the white flag on their season. Even the Atlanta Braves were sporting a losing record.
Although Neidert was effective in a high-pressure spot, he continued an alarming pattern of walking more batters than he strikes out in the majors.
A closer look at his Baseball Savant Plinko:
Neidert adjusts his pitch usage when he’s behind in the count. He abandons his curveball and changeup, limiting his offerings and allowing opposing offenses to focus on fewer pitches. He relied on just the fastball and slider in those instances. That worked for him at AAA Jacksonville (3.67 ERA, 52 SO/21 BB), but major league hitters were wise to his tricks (21 SO/23 BB).
Neidert, at age 24, was years younger than his competition at the major league level. His 104-inning overall workload in 2021 marks a real stepping stone considering the stress of anchoring the MLB team and adapting to a chaotic living situation as a team-controlled pitcher who the Marlins often exploited for roster flexibility. Perhaps it’s just a matter of confidence or a need to further develop his secondary pitches. His Statcast results from 2020 to 2021 show that he has been able to add break and velocity to his fastball and get more consistent results on his slider.
Neidert’s highlights included his 12 swinging strikes against the Mets and when he shut out the Dodgers for 4 innings in relief. He could hold it together against some of the game’s best.
The case of Nick Neidert speaks to the Marlins’ exceptional major league-ready pitching depth. Quality arms like Zach Thompson, Edward Cabrera and Jesús Luzardo are potentially on the outside looking in at the 2022 active roster pending their teammates’ health, and even they seem to have a leg up on Neidert and his lefty counterpart, Braxton Garrett. It’s almost too much to work with—these depth pieces have nothing left to prove at AAA.
With Nick Neidert, you’re looking at someone who can contribute in myriad ways moving forward, whether it be as a starter or swingman. A transition to short relief could also be worth exploring. As the Marlins look to contend in 2022, they shouldn’t take him for granted.