Drew Steckenrider is the odds-on favorite to start the 2019 season as the Miami Marlins closer.
Throughout the 2018/2019 offseason, Marlin Maniac will devote one article each for every player who appeared in the Miami Marlins system for the 2018 season. Every. Single. Player. This is Part 211 of 286.
Andrew Paul Steckenrider is a 6’5″, 215 lb. right-handed batting and throwing reliever from Atlanta, Georgia. He is one of 70 major leaguers to hail from the city, along with Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, and Wally Joyner. He played his high school ball with Greater Atlanta Christian.
Steckenrider was born 28-years-ago today, and played three seasons of college baseball with the University of Tennessee. In 56 games of Division I play, Steckenrider was 6-7 with a 4.45 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 113 innings. The Miami Marlins chose him in the eighth round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Entry Draft, with the 257th overall selection.
10 players chosen 257th in the draft have gone on to major league careers, led by Brady Anderson (1985, Boston Red Sox, 35.0 career WAR), Vince Coleman (1982, St. Louis Cardinals, 12.5 WAR), and former Marlins right fielder Darrell Whitmore (1987, Toronto Blue Jays, -1.8 WAR).
After signing with the Miami Marlins for a $137,900 bonus, Steckenrider reported to the short-season-A Jamestown Jammers. He was 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 10 games, including eight starts during his time there, with 38 K’s in 36 innings.
Over the next two seasons, Steckenrider missed all but six contests due to tendinitis in his throwing arm, eventually leading to Tommy John Surgery. 2015 would see him split his time between the single-A Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League and the high-A Jupiter Hammerheads in the Florida State League. He got into 25 games in total, starting 13 times and going 5-6 with a 3.00 ERA. He struck out 78 in 95 1/3 innings.
In 2016, Steckenrider again pitched at multiple levels, between the Hammerheads, the double-A Jacksonville Suns in the Southern League, and the triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs in the Pacific Coast League. By this point, Steckenrider pitched entirely in relief. He got into 40 games and collected 14 saves, striking out 71 in 51 1/3 innings. Across all three levels, he was 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a .141/.228/.192 opposing slashline. Steckenrider was named to the MILB.COM Marlins organizational All-Star Team following the season.
2017 would see Steckenrider start the campaign as Miami’s number nine prospect, according to the MLB Pipeline:
"A tall and physical right-hander, Steckenrider relies heavily on a 95-98 mph fastball that has a high spin rate, as well as late running action that helps him miss bats inside the zone. He can also generate whiffs with his slider, a hard downer thrown in the mid-80s, and mixes in the occasional changeup. However, it’s his fastball-slider pairing that’s led scouts to project Steckenrider as a potential late-inning asset. – MLB Pipeline"
Steckenrider appeared in 26 games for the renamed New Orleans Baby Cakes in 2017, putting up a 1.62 ERA in 33 innings, with 44 strikeouts and a 0.780 WHIP. Most of his season would see him in Miami, where he played in 37 contests and struck out 54 batters over 34 2/3 innings. Despite the advanced level, Steckenrider’s 14.0 K/9 rate was the best of his career.
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Last season, Steckenrider led the Miami Marlins with 71 games, and struck out 74 in 64 2/3 innings. He saved five games and posted a 1.268 WHIP, with a club-best ERA+ of 94 amongst qualifying pitchers. On April 10th, he struck out the side on 11 pitches in the seventh inning of an 8-6 loss to the New York Mets. It was one of three times that he struck out the side over the course of the season. On June 16th, Steckenrider earned his highest WPA of the season with a .197 in a 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles. He entered the ninth inning with the lead, and after allowing a walk induced a double-play and a flyout to end the game.
Entering 2019 Spring Training, Steckenrider is currently looking like the de facto closer. Other possibilities for the Marlins include Tayron Guerrero, Adam Conley, and longshot Nick Wittgren. Steckenrider is arbitration eligible following the 2021 season, and will hit free agency in 2024.
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