The Miami Marlins rotation opened the season with a deceptively good chance to turn some heads.
Three months into the 2019 campaign, the formerly unknown bunch is starting to gain some well-deserved notoriety. That, despite 60 percent of the Miami Marlins rotation getting replaced in the past few weeks due to an assortment of injuries.
Pablo Lopez (5-5, 4.23), Jose Urena (4-7, 4.70), and Caleb Smith (3-4, 3.41) were all putting together solid, and at times spectacular campaigns at the time of their respective injuries. The turn of events left rookie Sandy Alcantara (4-6, 3.51) and second-year player Trevor Richards (3-8, 3.94) as the lone holdovers from the opening day rotation.
In Smith’s place, enter Elieser Hernandez. The Venezuelan native made his major league debut last season for the Miami Marlins with zero fanfare, and struck out 45 in 65 2/3 innings. He was 2-7 with a 5.21 ERA spread across six starts and 26 relief appearances, and his 1.447 WHIP and 5.29 FIP weren’t exactly pinging on anyones radar.
Hernandez’ 2019 triple-A figures, with the Baby Cakes, were worlds more encouraging. In nine starts, he posted a 3-1 record and held opponents to a 1.13 ERA, a 1.021 WHIP, and 69 strikeouts in 48 innings, a 12.9 K/9 rate.
That increased effectiveness has translated to the majors for Hernandez, despite his 0-2 record. He’s struck out 19 while holding major league hitters to a 1.179 WHIP in 18 2/3 innings.
For Urena, the Miami Marlins brought up Jordan Yamamoto from the double-A ranks in Jacksonville. One of four promising prospects gained from the Milwaukee Brewers system in exchange for reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich, Yamamoto has allowed seven hits and struck out 19 in 19 innings, going 3-0 in his first three starts.
Yamamoto, who is the Miami Marlins 17th ranked prospect according to the Pipeline, has a 0.95 ERA and a WHIP of 0.789. Still though, small sample size. Although these numbers are likely unsustainable, Yamamoto has shown the stuff he’ll need to stick in the major leagues.
Formerly 45-graded fastball Zac Gallen added a few ticks to his heater sometime during the offseason, and now looks like a possible future star. The Prospect Pipeline over at MLB.COM has him pegged as a number-four starter, but after winning the PCL player of the week three times over the first nine weeks of the season, it’s possible he’s got a higher ceiling than previously expected.
While playing in New Orleans, Gallen led the entire minor league system (comprised of 16 leagues, by the way) in most pitching categories. He was 9-1 with a 1.77 ERA, with 112 whiffs in 91 1/3 innings. He did that while walking only 17 batters, and giving up 48 hits for a 0.712 WHIP in a not-small sample size. At the time of his promotion, opponents were connecting at a rate of .155.
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After joining the Miami Marlins, Gallen has not disappointed. With 14 whiffs in his first 10 innings, Gallen has been respectable, though not exactly overpowering. The learning curve involved with the biggest promotion of his career has proved steep. After five one-hit innings in the Marlins loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, Gallen was quickly touched for three hits without retiring a batter to begin the sixth. Still, his progress is unmistakeable.
The Miami Marlins rotation currently has five, but with Smith’s return impending, one of these three will need to get sent back to the minors. Lopez will return soon after, leaving only one of these three in the order. The Marlins have several options remaining on Gallen and Yamamoto, which leads me to believe that Hernandez will be the last one standing.
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