As we conclude our season preview of the Marlins pitching staff, we are happy to report that pitchers and catchers are only 3 days from being required to report to spring training. That being said, many are already down there getting an early start on what hopes to be a promising season. One of the big questions that will be answered during spring training revolves around who the Marlins will place as their 5th starter. They have a few options that they can choose from, and today we will outline a few of those options.
I am going to begin with the 5th starter for most of last year, Tom Koehler. In my opinion, the job is Koehler’s to lose. When compared to the rest of the Marlins pitching staff, he certainly struggled, but the reality is that very few 5th starters are going to post sub 4 ERA’s. Koehler’s 4.41 wasn’t good, but wasn’t exactly a disaster either.
Koehler needs to cut down on the walks, which will help him keep the scoring down. We are hearing that Koehler, who has been working with Marlins instructors for a few weeks now, is looking really good this offseason. Hopefully that can continue and Koehler will give Miami a solid option for a 5th starter.
Another pitcher that Miami may look at to enter the rotation is Andrew Heaney. Heaney is the Marlins top pitching prospect, but he hasn’t thrown above double A. It will be interesting to see how Miami chooses to play this with Heaney. Prior to last year, I would have said there is no chance for Miami to bring up Heaney after spring training. After the success that Jose Fernandez had, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.
Heaney has been solid in each of his starts, and if the Marlins feel that he is ready to face big league pitching, they may choose to chase another Rookie of the Year trophy with him. I anticipate that he will start in double A at least for the time being, unless Miami has to deal with early injuries. That could be a game changer. Don’t count on it though.
I think Koehler’s main competition will come from Brian Flynn. Flynn received a call-up late last year, and while he struggled some, he brings some things to the table that are missing in the Marlins current rotation, mainly a left-handed arm. Right now the Marlins are dispatching 4 right-handed pitchers, but they have a stockpile of lefties in the minor’s, Flynn might get the first shot out of all of them.
In a very small sample size, Flynn, really struggled with control last year. Some of that may be nerves, but spring training will be the biggest test for the 23-year-old. If he outpitches Koehler, he could grab that spot.
Another lefty that could claim the 5th spot is Brad Hand. In limited work last year, Hand posted a 3.05 ERA in 2o innings pitched. If Hand pitches well during spring training, he might be able to claim that spot. If not, Hand will be in triple A New Orleans waiting for a possible injury to get a call-up.
One long shot that is worth mentioning is Kevin Slowey. I normally wouldn’t even bother, except he was in a similar position last year when he pitched his way into the Marlins rotation, before injuries derailed his season. He is in a similar situation this year, and if the Marlins decide that they want to keep the young pitchers in the minor’s and place Koehler in the bullpen, Slowey is a possible option.
A lot will be determined on the spring training performances of these pitchers. Stay with us as we give you steady updates throughout the spring on performances and who has the inside edge to crack the Marlins rotation.