Miami Marlins Opening Day Rotation: What They Should Do

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Starting pitcher Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins throws in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on September 22, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Starting pitcher Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins throws in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on September 22, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images) /

It’s no big secret that the Miami Marlins have seven pitchers trying to get into the Opening Day rotation.

The Miami Marlins have frequently used many starting pitchers through their history. Last season, 13 players started games, led by José Ureña‘s 31 all the way down to Odrisamer Despaigne‘s single start in the third game of the season. In the season before that, 12 pitchers started games, led by Dan Straily‘s 33 all the way down to Wei-Yin Chen‘s five. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2012 to find the last time the Marlins as few as 10 pitchers through the campaign.

This Spring Training, we’ve seen “tryouts” for a lot of guys looking to make the rotation. Jordan Yamamoto, Nick Neidert, Zac Gallen, Jordan Holloway, and Robert Dugger all had time with the big boys on the hill this spring. None of them, however, will be amongst the Favored Five to open the season as the “Opening Day Rotation.” Ureña, Caleb Smith, Wei-Yin Chen, Pablo Lopez, Dan Straily, Sandy Alcantara, and Trevor Richards remain possibilities.

Ureña was anointed the Opening Day starter prior even to the open play portion of Spring Training, and nothing he’s done since then has forced the Miami Marlins to reconsider. Others have pitched better, but  aside from Ureña, only Straily has a proven major league track record.

Miami Marlins
ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 14: Pitcher Trevor Richards #63 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on August 14, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images) /

As for number two, I would suggest the Miami Marlins look no further than Richards, who has been solid throughout the entire process. That was even before his six-inning, no-hit, no-walk performance earlier this week. Over 19 1/3 innings, he’s struck out 20, walked only four, and surrendered only eight base hits and four runs. Opponents have hit only .125 against Richards, who seems to have added something to his fastball, maintained his shockingly good changeup, and added a better-than-average curveball.

The Miami Marlins number three starting slot should go to Lopez, who’s also put together a solid showing this spring. In 14 frames, he’s given up eight hits, only two earned runs, struck out 11 and walked only one, with a 0.64 WHIP to boot. Despite only starting in 10 contests for the Marlins last season, Lopez finished third on the underwhelming pitching corps with a 0.5 brWAR.

Miami Marlins
MIAMI, FL – AUGUST 26: Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch during the second inning against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on August 26, 2018 in Miami, Florida. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

If I was in charge here, I’d consider Caleb Smith ready to take on the mantle of “Number Four Miami Marlins Starting Pitcher.” Prior to last season’s injury, he had collected 88 strikeouts in only 77 1/3 innings. Since his return, he’s pitched nine innings, struck out 13, walked zero, and allowed only two hits. Yeah, I’d say he looks pretty good.

And that leaves number five. I believe that Chen’s 9.53 ERA thus far speaks for itself, and he should, at a minimum, be taken out of the rotation and sent down to the bullpen. That’s if the Miami Marlins don’t cut ties with him entirely. They’ve shown a willingness in the recent past to cut bait when things weren’t panning out. Just last season, they released Junichi Tazawa in the second year of a two-year, $16 million contract. Chen’s contract is even more onerous. A five-year, $80 million behemoth when he signed, the Marlins still owe him $42 million over the next two seasons.

Miami Marlins
WEST PALM BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 28: Sandy Alcantara #22 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the second inning against the Houston Astros at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 28, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Alcantara is nearly there, but I believe he should begin the campaign with the New Orleans Baby Cakes in the triple-A Pacific Coast League. He still has some lingering control problems to sort out, with 11 walks issued in 15 1/3 innings. The future ace potential is still there, but a little time out of the spotlight may be just what he needs to “turn the corner.”

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Straily has a proven track record, and should start this season as the Marlins number five. Although he is sporting a 7.15 ERA this spring, he wasn’t really trying to make the team. Unlike most of these guys, he was merely tinkering with his delivery (in my opinion). His six home runs allowed in 11 1/3 innings shouldn’t scare the Marlins management team off too much, and it will give the Baby Cakes time to work with Alcantara while they presumably and aggressively shop Straily for prospects.

What do you think? Disagree? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading. Follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our daily newsletters and like us on Facebook.

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