Miami Marlins 2014 Preview Part 2: The Pitchers

By Nicholas Rossoletti (Lead Baseball Columnist):

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Earlier in the month, we touched on the Miami Marlins and their offense going into the 2014 season here

The Miami offense has talent, but I believe it will be a frustrating lineup to follow due in large part to the team’s tendency to strike out a lot.  The pitching staff has the potential to also be a frustrating unit to follow during the season. 

While there is an elite player at the top of this rotation, the body of the staff lacks another stopper or really anyone to put any real faith in as a legit No. 2 or 3 starter at this point.

Just two years ago, Marlins SP Jose Fernandez was pitching for Alonso HS in Tampa, Florida.  His story of how he came to the United States is absolutely astonishing and incredible as he defected from Cuba via boat , and then ultimately was part of a rescue effort in the water to save his mom's life, when she fell overboard in 2008 as a teenager.  He is 21 years old now, and one of the premier Starting Pitchers in the NL

Just three years ago, Marlins SP Jose Fernandez was pitching for Alonso HS in Tampa, Florida. His story of how he came to the United States is absolutely astonishing and incredible as he defected from Cuba via boat , and then ultimately was part of a rescue effort in the water to save his mom’s life, when she fell overboard in 2008 as a teenager. He is 21 years old now, and one of the premier Starting Pitchers in the NL.

Any conversation of the Miami Marlins’ pitching staff begins (and probably ends, in most cases) with Jose Fernandez.  The Marlins’ ace was seen as maybe a year or two away from the big leagues at this time last season. 

In desperate need of an extra guy in the rotation due to injuries, the team decided to bring Fernandez with the team at the start of the 2013 season.

With little regard for service time or concerns over Fernandez’s development, the club rolled the dice and came up winners. 

Fernandez flat out dominated major league batters.

His strike out rate of 27.5% lead to a top five finish as a K artist in the Major Leagues in 2013, and his 2.19 ERA was good enough for second in the big leagues behind Clayton Kershaw (both set of stats were based on a minimum of 150 IP).

Fernandez’s ERA may be in line for a slight regression based on a FIP of 2.73, but I doubt we will hear anyone on the planet complaining about a slight regression in a sub-3.00 ERA.  At least, no sane person will be complaining about it. 

Obviously, as a second year player, there may be some room for adjustment as major league hitters see more of Fernandez, but he is still a safe bet to be an ace level contributor for the Marlins.

After Fernandez, the rotation gets very, very shaky.

Throughout the off-season, I’ve done pieces for my other gig at Fantistics.com (shameless plug) relating to the pitchers on the team not named Jose Fernandez so if you consistently read my stuff some of this is going to be rinse and repeat.

Henderson Alvarez finished on a strong note, having thrown a no - hitter in his last start.  It was only one of 2 no - hitters in the MLB during the 2013 year.  As part of the Miami and Toronto 7 man deal in 2012, Alvarez looks to improve on a mediocre 2013.  (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Henderson Alvarez finished on a strong note, having thrown a no – hitter in his last start. It was only one of 2 no – hitters in the MLB during the 2013 year. As part of the Miami and Toronto 7 man deal in 2012, Alvarez looks to improve on a decent 2013 – where he was 5 – 6, with a 3.59 ERA spanning 17 Game Starts . (AP Photo/Alan Diaz).

The second in command in the Miami rotation is almost certainly going to be Henderson Alvarez.  The RHP has some interesting peripherals, but overall, he hasn’t justified a position at the top of a major league rotation at this point.

The trend you will notice with most of the Marlins is that (besides Fernandez) they just don’t get guys to strike out at reasonable levels historically.

Alvarez’s 13.6% K Rate is fairly atrocious for a big league pitcher who is expected to be an anchor in the rotation.

The 23 Year Old survives with such a low K Rate better than some of his rotation mates for a couple of reasons.  First, he doesn’t put a lot of men on base with the free pass.  His 6.5% BB rate is very strong.

This helps mitigate the fact that he doesn’t really strike people out as he is forcing batters to put the ball in play to get on base.  Forcing batters to put the ball in play favors Alvarez.

As I pointed out in my previous piece – he has a history of elite Ground Ball rates. Alvarez has posted Ground Rates of 53.5%, 57% and 53.5% over the course of his three partial seasons in the big leagues.

These are terrific rates and add credence to Alvarez’s validity as a presence in the Marlins rotation.  

If he could get the K Rate to increase even slightly, he is a fairly nice back-end of the rotation starter particularly in the team’s  pitcher friendly ball park.  

The problem is he is almost assuredly the No. 2 starter on this team in talent, and he should be the No. 4 or No. 5 on a real contender based on his historical data.

Nate Eovaldi had a 3.39 ERA for the Marlins in 18 Game Starts. during last year.  He has flamethrower stuff - and may turn out to be a nice middle of the rotation starter.  Eovaldi was picked up in the Hanley Ramirez trade in 2012.  Eovaldi's biggest strength last season was his fastball velocity, which sat at 96.1 MPH.  I don't want to understate how important fastball velocity can be, but it is not necessarily a sole determining factor in a player's success.

Nate Eovaldi had a 3.39 ERA for the Marlins in 18 Game Starts. during last year. He has flamethrower stuff – and may turn out to be a nice middle of the rotation starter. He was picked up in the Hanley Ramirez trade in 2012. Eovaldi’s biggest strength last season was his fastball velocity, which sat at 96.1 MPH. I don’t want to understate how important fastball velocity can be, but it is not necessarily a sole determining factor in a player’s success.

The No. 3 in the rotation in my mind is Nathan Eovaldi. The right hander has some traits that are favorable, but he hasn’t translated those into what appears to be sustainable success.

Eovaldi finished 2013 with a 3.39 ERA, but his FIP of 3.59 and a xFIP of 4.15 seem to indicate there is room for negative regression in that number.

Again, as with the majority of this rotation, his inability to consistently strike out batters doesn’t support consistent success at the major league level.

 His 17.3% K Rate from 2013 is a three year high and was a significant jump from 2012.  While this number is still really low, Eovaldi’s age is in his favor.  

At 24 years old with a strong fastball, it is not completely ridiculous to assume another spike could occur in strike outs this year, but it is always tough to predict a jump of two or more percentage points in K Rate especially when the last legitimate data to suggest Eovaldi is a strike-out pitcher was in 2011 at Double-A.

The problem is that while we wait and hope for him to develop his strike out rate, he is walking batters at a fairly high rate. His BB Rate is an unfavorable 8.9% for the second consecutive year.

This isn’t a great trait given his batted ball data. The man originally from Houston TX,  tends to give up a fair amount of line drives (25.5%, 23.2% and 22.0% over three years).

The combination of walking a significant number of batters and giving up average to above average amounts of line drives is bad.

The good news is the Line Drive Rate appears to be decreasing as he ages, which hopefully signals that batters aren’t squaring him up as well as his fastball continues to improve.

As long as Eovaldi continues to see gains, he can manage a spot in the Marlins rotation in no small part thanks to his 6% or so HR/FB ratio.

The hope here is that development of secondary pitches and the continued fastball gains will allow him to develop into an option that is more statistically consistent than we have seen.  

Again, the issue here is that Eovaldi is a solid No. 4 or No 5 project for a team, but he is going to be asked to do a lot more than that if Miami has any hopes of competing in 2014.

Jacob Turner was the key player brought back in the Anibal Sanchez trade with Detroit.   He has some serious growing to do, but will be afforded every opportunity in Miami

Jacob Turner was the key player brought back in the Anibal Sanchez trade with Detroit. He has some serious growing to do, but will be afforded every opportunity in Miami.

The fourth man in the rotation is former Tigers prospect, Jacob Turner.

This 9th overall pick from the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, statistically has never lived up to the hype that caused him to be a key piece in the Omar Infante/Anibal Sanchez deal in 2012.

His 15% K Rate continues the trend we have been discussing with the meat of the Marlins rotation.  

It is tough to succeed as an organization when you strike out a lot on offense and your pitchers don’t strike out anyone on the opposing offense.

Turner doesn’t just lack the ability to put guys away with a strikeout.  He also walks opposing batters far too often.  

His 10% BB rate is terrible. He finished 2013 with a 3.74 ERA, and for the second time in this analysis we see a player whose ERA is slated to regress as his FIP was 4.43 and his xFIP was 4.71.

Turner’s positives are few, but one is that he managed to keep the ball inside the park in 2013 although this is a three year outlier as he was home run prone in both 2011 and 2012.  

The other positive is that Turner won’t turn 23 until May.  

With a 1991 birthday, he has pitched in the majors a lot earlier than some, and there is always the chance that as he develops as a pitcher and grows into his body that we can see drastic changes.  

This is of course not supported by his statistics, but its pretty much what the Marlins have to hope for.

Overall, the clubs starting rotation needs some help to get to the point of consistently competing in the NL East.  

Whether that help will come from the development of their young starters or the promotion of more youth like star prospect Andrew Heaney, it has to come if the team wishes to be competitive in 201 4 and beyond.

For right now, Tom Koehler is the 5th guy in the rotation, and he has had a decent Spring, with a 1.50 ERA – in 4 Game Starts, amidst his 18 IP worth of work.

The Marlins Bullpen will be head up by Closer Steve Cishek.

This guy was highly effective in 2013, with an NL leading 64 Games Finished, authored 34 Saves, held a 2.33 ERA and a 1.077 WHIP.

These are fantastic numbers, however lets see if he can duplicate the feat in 2014.

Cishek’s primary setup man was Mike Dunn. who also fared well in 2013, with a 2.67 ERA in 67.2 IP worth of work during his 75 Game Appearances.

After the top two the choices become slim.

Carlos Marmol is slated in the 3rd slot on the Depth Chart. He of the 1.50+ WHIP over the last few years, and has never been able to curb his Walks.

At least he is a veteran presence of 117 Saves, and could be called upon Strike guys out in any given spot.

A.J. Ramos, Dan Jennings, along with Swing guys/potential Starters Brad Hand and Kevin Slowey – will round out the relief core for now.

Overall the late innings guys are not looking too bad. It won’t make or break the club, but it may keep them in ball games this year.

The Marlins pitching kept them in many games during the 2013 seasons, and for portion in the middle of the year, the team played near a .500 clip.  If the staff can see enough internal improvement this season, the club may inch closer towards winning as many as losing for 2014,

The Marlins pitching kept them in many games during the 2013 seasons, and for portion in the middle of the year, the team played near a .500 clip. If the staff can see enough internal improvement this season, the club may inch closer towards winning as many as losing for 2014,

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***

‘Chief Writer’ Hunter contributed to this article.

For all of the Rosters, Depth Charts, State of the Unions and Salaries Posts that we do, please visit our dedicated page link here.

A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Lead Baseball Columnist’ Nicholas Rossoletti for preparing today’s featured article.

Nicholas is a young professional living in downtown Miami. He is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid Yankee supporter.

Having grown up during the last two decades, he counts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as his favorite ball players of all time.

He believes in sabermetrics and that new stats have already changed the way the baseball industry sees players.

He was for Trout over Cabrera, he thinks RBIs tell you a lot more about a team than a player and that defense and pitching, ultimately, win championships.

Rational thought and introspective analysis over the narrative is how we come to understand the game we love.

The narrative is just a way to keep those who don’t really love the game watching.

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“There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.” ~ Al Gallagher, 1971

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Posted on March 30, 2014, in MLB Teams State Of the Unions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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