The 2018 Miami Marlins starting rotation is impossible to predict

MIAMI, FL - JULY 16: Chris O'Grady
MIAMI, FL - JULY 16: Chris O'Grady /

Big changes are coming to the Miami Marlins starting rotation in 2018, that much is certain. But that’s where the certainty ends.

For all of the talk of a super-bullpen that had Miami Marlins fans believing a winning season was likely, it turns out starting pitching is still very important. Miami has struggled without it the entire season. It goes without saying that the group is due for a makeover next year.

Exactly what that makeover will look like is nearly impossible to predict, though. Things started to crystallize after the trade deadline, with the team deciding to retain Dan Straily. There appeared to be a solid core heading into next season. That all came apart on Tuesday.

With so many moving parts, it’s nearly impossible to know what the 2018 rotation will look like.

Starting at the top, news of Edinson Volquez needing Tommy John surgery changes things significantly. The veteran righty is likely out for the rest of 2018, at which point his contract will expire. The Miami Marlins won’t retain him.

There are at least two spots that the Miami Marlins will have to fill on the rotation next season. Everything is tentative. How they approach the offseason will be determined by the performance of Chris O’Grady the rest of the season, and September call ups.

Ideally, Dan Straily would slot into the number three position in the rotation. If Miami has two pitchers that are legitimately better than Straily in the rotation, it bodes well for the talent the team would have brought in.

New additions at the top two spots, followed by Straily, Urena, and Conley. Personally, I’m a big fan of O’Grady and believe he can be a viable fifth starter in the Major Leagues. He struggled against the Nationals on Tuesday, but has exceeded expectations on the whole this season.

Dream vs. reality

Realistically, though, the Miami Marlins aren’t going to be big spenders this winter. Volquez remains on the books, and is owed $13.5 million while he rehabs his arm. Wei-Yin Chen is supposed to be ready to go, but the team would do well not to rely on a full season from him.

It appears that Dan Straily is going to be the opening day starter for the Miami Marlins in 2018. Most of the answers to the issues with the starting rotation are going to come in-house.

Miami could end up having three left-handers in the rotation next year. Straily isn’t a legitimate ace-of-staff, but he’ll slot in that position. Urena is a likely no. 2, followed by Adam Conley, Dillon Peters, and Chris O’Grady.

Straily is a known commodity and it’s fairly easy to predict what he’ll give you for the year. Urena has had a breakout season, and if that carries over to next season, he is a legitimate piece in the rotation.

The unknown’s in the rotation are Conley, Peters, and O’Grady.

Rotation wildcards

Dillon Peters is the the biggest unknown heading into 2018. The 24-year old left-hander has been a touted prospect in the Miami Marlins system for several years, but injuries have kept him off the mound. He finally made his return this season, and has pitched well in AA.

He’ll likely be called up to the Major Leagues as part of September roster expansion. If he pitches well there, and in his invitation to spring training, he could win a job in the rotation for 2018. He possesses all the tools and abilities you’d want in a Major League Baseball pitcher.

Adam Conley has shown flashes of being able to dominate any lineup in professional baseball. The former second round selection has both dazzled with his abilities, and frustrated with his lack of consistency. A mid-season demotion in 2017 appears to have done him well though.

Since returning to the highest level, Conley has an average game score of 61, and an ERA of 1.74 with only 4 walks and 15 strikeouts. If he can keep up that kind of pace, he’ll find himself as part of the rotation again next year.

Chris O’Grady has a low-cieling, but a high floor. He has number five starter written all over him. Think Mark Redmond, but with years of team control  and only 27-years old.

Moves in free agency

To put it plainly, don’t expect many. There will be no shortage of arms hitting the market this year, but the team won’t be big spenders.

But with a lot of money committed to pitchers that might not be able to be on the mound, don’t expect them to make a strong push for Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish.

Justin Nicolino will be given another chance to make the rotation at some point, but don’t count on much from him.

Next: Miami Marlins wisely resist trading Dan Straily

The Miami Marlins 2018 starting rotation is nearly impossible to project. For the rest of the 2017 season, players will be competing for one of the five spots, with Dan Straily and Jose Urena considered shoo in’s.

Don’t expect any huge splashes in free agency. Most of their personnel challenges will be handled in-house.