What a difference a year makes. At this time in 2017, Marlins fans were enjoying perhaps the greatest offensive lineup ever produced by the organization. Now, with the star-studded outfield and spark plug Dee Gordon excelling in other cities, Marlins fans are naturally still nursing the hangover that was the past offseason.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
I can understand why even the most die-hard Miami Marlins fans would want to put a negative spin on the events of the past year. Derek Jeter and Co.’s approach to transitioning the organization in their mold, and a host of other wounds that will naturally take time to heal. If you look beyond those obvious headlines, there is more to see, and it is pretty exciting. The Marlins organization is quietly building one of the deepest potential pitching staffs around.
IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE TEARS A UCL
Now, it is pitching we are talking about. Pitching at the major league level. And that means injuries. Caleb Smith is the most recent casualty, as the young emerging front-line starter for the Fish has lost his season to a pitching arm injury. But this makes my point even more clear: the “old” Marlins could not afford injuries to their pitching staff since there was no depth behind whatever they cobbled together at the top level. That goes for both the rotation and for the bullpen. That’s changing, and faster than even I, a Marlins Optimist, expected.
What has changed is an organizational priority that emphasizes internal competition. You can see it in the short leash given to pitchers that don’t perform at the MLB level, except for those with hefty, payroll-killing contracts. But as the smoke clears from this season’s transition, and the failed big money signings of the past few years roll off the books, what remains is pretty darn exciting: a long list of gradually emerging arms.
Having a strong pitching staff is a numbers game. That is, you need at least 15 quality arms to get through a season, thanks to injuries and disappointments. The fact that so many of the hurlers acquired in trades over the past year show signs of being quality players at the top level means that Marlins Park will showcase a long list of pitchers who are already competitive, or at least close to being so. In a season like this one (and probably next season too) where the team’s won-lost record does not matter much, the process of developing, promoting and controlling some high-ceiling young arms is perhaps the first big long-term “win” for the new ownership group…even if only some of us notice.
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We all have easy access to stats, level of play (Major League or Minor League team a player currently plays for), and how they organization acquired them. I will close this chapter of the “Meet the Marlins” pitching depth discussion by simply listing the pitchers that I think can contribute meaningfully to the Miami Marlins between now and the end of next season. Note that many of the players on this list who have yet to reach the Major Leagues are under 25 years of age, and under contract to the Marlins for several years.
In the MLB now, and likely here next year:
Jose Urena (26)
Sandy Alcantara (22) DL
Caleb Smith (26) DL
Pablo Lopez (22)
Elieser Hernandez (23)
Drew Steckenrider (27)
Kyle Barraclough (28)
Tayron Guerrero (27)
Adam Conley (28)
Brett Graves (25)
Trevor Richards (25)
Ben Meyer (25)
Nearly there (or battling for a position from AAA or AA):
Zac Gallen (22)
Jarlin Garcia (25)
Nick Wittgren (27)
Chris O’Grady (28) DL
Dillon Peters (25)
Merandy Gonzalez (22)
Nick Neidert (21)
A year or so away, but worth the wait:
Jorge Guzman (22)
Robert Dugger (22)
Jordan Yamamoto (22)
Colton Hock (22)
Braxton Garrett (20)
Others with a chance (been in MLB before, or interesting long-shots):
Odrisamer Despaigne (31)
Javy Guerra (32)
Chris Mazza (28)
Jeff Kinley (26)
Tyler Kinley (27)
Tyler Kolek (22) Former 1st round draft pick, injuries galore, but still in the system
Here now, likely gone by end of next season (if not sooner)
Brad Ziegler (38) Contract up this season, trade to contender possible
Wei-Yin Chen (32) Another 1 1/2 years at a big price, unless they can package him in a trade.
Dan Straily (29) Could be a rotation stalwart, but more likely to be dealt.
The list is long and that means that by 2020, the Marlins stand an excellent chance to field a most competitive pitching staff. And in baseball, pitching wins championships.
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