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Tanner Scott is the latest test of the Marlins’ bullpen strategy

The 27-year-old lefty is an unexpected acquisition coming off a poor season, but he has interesting potential.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Tanner Scott (66) throws a pitch during the spring training workout at Ed Smith Stadium. Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

For the last couple of years, the Marlins have adopted a new philosophy, at least when it comes to relievers. For them, with rare exceptions, they have built their bullpen using pretty affordable and even unwanted pieces. Call it luck or whatever you want, but many of those pick-ups have had good results—their relievers’ 3.81 ERA was the seventh-best among MLB teams last year.

Just days before the 2022 regular season kicks off, the Marlins struck a deal for two bullpen arms from the Orioles. One of them, lefty Tanner Scott, is a classic low-risk, high-reward bet.

If you look at Scott’s 2021 statistics, you will end up making ugly faces. A 5.17 ERA, a 1.57 WHIP, and a 6.2 BB/9 ratio are not encouraging. But if Don Mattingly and the coaching staff can get the best out of Scott, there’s no reason to doubt he can be the pitcher who looked so much better in 2020.

Unfortunately for Scott, the LOOGY days are behind us because of the three-batter minimum rule. Righties party in the box when they face the 27-year-old.

Take a look at Scott’s career platoon stats:

Tanner Scott’s career platoon splits (2017-2021) Baseball-Reference

That’s a huge performance gap! Focusing only on 2021, we see something similar.

  • vs. RHB: .244/.370/.400/.770, 165 PA, 6 HR
  • vs. LHB: .214/.349/.257/.606, 86 PA, 0 HR

The platoon advantage is critical for Scott. Consider the group of Kyle Seager, Brett Gardner, Juan Soto, Austin Meadows, Yordan Álvarez, Joey Gallo, Rafael Devers, Shohei Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, Brandon Lowe, Kyle Tucker, and Anthony Rizzo. Those are some of the most gifted lefty hitters in the sport.

Last season, their special talent did not matter in 33 combined plate appearances against Scott: 26 AB, 2 H, 2 2B, 6 BB, 10 SO, .076 AVG.

If it worked against them, hopefully it will translate against National League East foes like Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and Matt Olson.

Scott needs to be used in a way that maximizes his left-on-left matchups. With active rosters expanded to 28 spots during the early portion of the 2022 season, the Marlins can carry more relievers than usual and keep guys like him in very specific roles.

If he proves to have more control of his two pitches (slider and four-seam fastball), Scott can be a weapon for the Marlins going forward even when the roster size shrinks back to normal. Thanks to his strikeout abilities (12 K/9 lifetime ratio), the newest lefty in Miami’s bullpen can get out of his own jams without relying on his defense. Entering his sixth MLB season, he is currently earning a $1.05 million salary.

Only time will tell whether the Marlins can get the best out of him.