Miami Marlins Preview: Bullpen

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 16: Drew Steckenrider
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 16: Drew Steckenrider /

Today, in part three of our six-part Marlins preview, we’ll take a look at the bullpen. We’ve already featured the rotation and the starting lineup. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we’ll check out the bench, management, and the top prospects, respectively.

The Bullpen

Brad Ziegler

Understandably, Miami is made up of mostly guys in their 20’s. Expections include Cameron Maybin (31), Martin Prado (34) and Ziegler. Brad is Miami’s oldest player, at 38.

Ziegler, a 6’4″, 200 lb. submarine pitcher from Kansas, was picked in the 20th round in 2003 by the Phillies. Now in his 11th season in the majors, he’s appeared with the Athletics, the Diamondbacks, the Red Sox, and Miami.

Ziegler has made 657 career pitching appearances in the majors, all in relief. He’s 35-32 with a 2.62 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, and 429 strikeouts in 640 2/3 innings. Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly will entrust Ziegler to close this season. This is despite Ziegler allowing career-high’s in ERA (4.79) and WHIP (1.55) last season. Steamer projects him to close out 25 games with a 3-3 record and 65 innings, with a sub-4 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP.

Ziegler’s side-arm motion makes him less effective against left-handers. Southpaws have a career .364 OBP against him, while righties manage just .284. He has never struck many batters out, making him reliant instead on inducing grounders to get out of jams. His 66.1% career ground-ball rate ranks at the top of baseball.

Kyle Barraclough

Barraclough, who is now 27, was a seventh round pick of St. Louis in 2012. The 6’3″, 180 lb. righty is a California native entering his fourth major league season.

Barraclough, commonly called “Bear Claw,” has historically high strikeout and walk rates. He’s whiffed 12.09/9 over his career, and walked 5.52/9. Bear Claw has put up a 14-6 record with a 2.87 ERA in 166 games, with 100 walks and 219 strikeouts in 162 1/3 innings. In 2016 specifically, Barraclough whiffed 113 in 72 1/3 innings for a 14.0 K/9 rate.

Like Ziegler, Steamer has Barraclough at 3-3 in 65 innings of work. He’s projected to earn 11 saves and rack up 75 strikeouts. Some think that Barraclough should get the closer slot, but Ziegler will hold it down for the time being.

Barraclough’s metrics were slightly down in 2017, which is somewhat explained by his mid-season stint on the DL.

Junichi Tazawa

Tazawa, a 5’11”, 180 lb. right-hander from Okinawa, will be playing in his ninth major league season. Before joining the Marlins last season, he had appeared exclusively with the Red Sox.

Tazawa throws his 93 MPH fastball over 75% of the time, relying on a curve and a slider for a change of pace. He’s posted a career 20-25 record with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP, with 346 K’s in 365 innings.

Tazawa is expected to pitch 55 innings and go 2-3 with a K-rate close to 8K/9. He’ll be playing in the second year of his two-year, $12 million.

Drew Steckenrider

Steckenrider is a 6’5″, 213 lb. right-hander from Atlanta. Miami’s eighth round pick in 2012, he’s entering his age 27 season.

Steckenrider pitched in 37 games last season, striking out 54 in just 34 2/3 innings. That’s a 14.02 K/9 rate. He was 1-1 with save, a 2.34 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP, all as a rookie.

Steamer says that Steckenrider will go 3-3 with a 3.37 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 55 innings.

Brian Ellington

Ellington, a 2012 16th round pick for Miami, is a 6’4″ pitcher from Gainesville. Now 27, the right-hander is entering his fourth major league season.

Ellington goes fastball-curveball-change, touching three figures on the gun but averaging 98 MPH. He has struck out 98 in 102.2 innings through his major league career.

Overall, Ellington has gone 7-4 with a 4.65 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP, although those middling figures are influenced heavily by a 2017 campaign gone awry. He put up a 1.86 WHIP and a 7.25 ERA last season.

Steamer doesn’t expect Ellington to remain with the team for longer than 10 innings this season. Currently, O’Grady is listed as day-to-day with right-elbow tendinitis.

Chris O’Grady

Initially, O’Grady was expected to compete this spring training for a rotation spot. Mattingly has gone on record as saying that O’Grady, instead, will be Miami’s swing-man. He’s good for a spot-start, long relief, short-relief, middle-relief, or specialist.

O’Grady’s one of the few pitchers who are blessed with a rubber-arm. That is, he’s able to pitch every day if needed. The 6’4″, 220 lb. lefty from New York was picked by the Angels in the 10th round back in 2012.

O’Grady’s 13-game look with the Marlins last season was his first major league service. He started in six of those games, and racked up a 1.55 WHIP in 33 innings. He also struck out 30, filed a 4.36 ERA, and posted a 2-1 record.

O’Grady relies equally on two fastballs, a conventional one and a cutter. He’s got a good changeup, a middling curveball, and a rarely used slider. With a fastball that tops out at just 88 MPH, he’s got above average off-speed stuff. Steamer expects O’Grady to stick with the team, strike out eight per nine innings, and finish with a sub-4 ERA.

Justin Nicolino

Nicolino was initially a second-round pick of the Blue Jays back in 2010, and boasts the same six-pitch attack as does Odrisamer Despaigne – even down to the 92 MPH fastball.

Nico is 10-13 in his three major league seasons, all with Miami after the last infamous sell-off with Toronto. He has a 4.65 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in the majors, with just 86 whiffs in 201 innings.

The Steamer projection has Nicolino getting into 21 major league games and starting 11 of them. It also says that he’ll go 4-5 with a 5.4K/9 rate and a walk rate just under three per nine.

Thanks for reading today’s preview article. Check back tomorrow for a look at Miami’s bench.