What Will the Miami Marlins Opening Day Bullpen Look Like?

MIAMI, FL - JULY 24: Drew Steckenrider #71 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on July 24, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 24: Drew Steckenrider #71 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on July 24, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

After a flurry of moves on Tuesday, we’re now only slightly closer to figuring out what the Opening Day roster is going to look like.

After DFAing four players, picking up two minor leaguers, protecting seven, and trading one away, the Miami Marlins 40-man roster is set for the rule 5 draft early next month. There are 24 pitchers and 16 position players now protected.

The only thing we know for sure is that we really can’t be sure of anything. The rotation will feature, in order of descending probability:

Jose Urena, Caleb Smith, Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Wei-Yin Chen, Dan StrailyJeff Brigham, and Jordan Yamamoto. Out of these nine, five will make it. Urena and Richards are too good to leave out, Smith, Alcantara, and Lopez too promising, and Chen too expensive. Straily, a survivor, will find a way to get there. I think Brigham won’t really ever be ready, and although Yamamoto is very good, he’ll probably start the season with the triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes due to lack of room.

The Miami Marlins will carry a five-man rotation and a 12-man position-player-corps. That leaves room for an eight-man bullpen that 15 men will be vying for.

Locked In

Drew Steckenrider was more dominant in 2017 than he was last season, but his 1.268 WHIP and his 10.3 whiff-rate merits inclusion in the “locked” category.

Nick Anderson spent the 2018 season with the triple-A Rochester Red Wings in the International League, and put up a 1.133 WHIP. That and his solid 3.30 ERA and 13.2 K/9 rate are highly correlative with future major league success.

What hasn’t already been said about Adam Conley‘s transition to the pen? In three seasons as a starter, he posted a 4.60 ERA and a 1.416 WHIP. In his one season as a reliever, those numbers drop to 4.09 and 1.086. According to Statcast, he’s added six MPH to each of his pitches. Going into Spring Training, he’s a solid candidate for the coveted closer’s role.

Tayron Guerrero finished the season with -1.2 Wins Above Replacement, but his B/R projection has him dropping his metrics to more acceptable levels. Besides, the Miami Marlins are too enamored of his jaw dropping 104 MPH velocity to not include him here.

Over the last five seasons, Jose Quijada has excelled at every level of minor league ball that the Miami Marlins have to offer (except for Batavia). A 2.79 ERA, a 1.082 WHIP, and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Last season between double- and triple-A, he allowed opposing batters a .171/.269/.273 slashline.


Jarlin Garcia‘s 6.37 FIP in 2018 is too abhorrent to not mention, and that includes his record-setting start as a major league starter. You’ll remember that he didn’t allow a hit for over 10 innings after he joined the rotation in April. After that, things took a sharp turn for the worst, and Garcia spent a lot of the season with the Baby Cakes.

Merandy Gonzalez did not excel in his first look with the Miami Marlins, with a 65 ERA+ and a 1.773 WHIP. Despite that, his 4.89 FIP suggests that he’s capable of better things. That, and his 2017 figures of 1.66 ERA and 0.974 WHIP in the mid-minors.

After appearing in 48 games out of the bullpen in 2016, Nick Wittgren has appeared in fewer and fewer contests at the major league level since. He doesn’t blow guys away like a lot of the players on this list, but his 8.2 career K/9 isn’t embarrassing by any means. That and his 2018 125 ERA+ would have led the Miami Marlins if he had pitched a few more innings.

Kyle Keller rose like a shot through the Miami Marlins minor league system in 2018. He ended 2017 at low-A, then started 2018 with the high-A Jupiter Hammerheads. He quickly moved up through the double-A Jumbo Shrimp before closing the year at triple-A in New Orleans. A 3.08 ERA, a 1.101 WHIP, and a 13.3 K/9 rate were the yield of his efforts.

On the Fence

Brett Graves hasn’t excelled at any level of minor league ball. His best seasonal WHIP was 1.348, with the Oakland Athletics high-A club in 2016. Last season with the Miami Marlins, he was touched for a 1.590 WHIP and a 5.40 ERA, while striking out only 21 in 33 1/3 innings and registering a 68 ERA+.

Elieser Hernandez played in 32 games for the Marlins last season, starting six times. His metrics are decidedly slightly below average, with a 70 ERA+, a 1.447 WHIP, and a 5.21 ERA.

Tyler Kinley pitched to a 12.37 ERA in the majors last season, but was better after rejoining the Miami Marlins.

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Long Shot

Nothing wrong with Julian Fernandez, but he’s never pitched above high-A, and spent last season rehabilitating an injury to his pitching arm. Look for him in 2020.

Jorge Guzman has the makeup and the stuff to be a shutdown closer in the future, but the future is not now. He’ll probably spend the year with the Jumbo Shrimp.

Jordan Holloway is not close, and just spent most of 2018 rehabbing an injury. He’s never appeared above the low-A Grasshoppers, and that was two years ago. Look for him probably in 2021.

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