The Miami Marlins made headlines yesterday with the acquisitions of Jesús Aguilar and Jonathan Villar.
But a major question mark remains unaddressed and that’s: Who will be the Marlins’ closer in 2020?
Miami has a few internal options on their updated 40-man roster. Those players will be considered perhaps before the front-office turns to free agency, despite the relievers available on the open market.
Closer Option No. 1: Adam Conley
Adam Conley has been a part of the Marlins bullpen for two seasons now and the results have been mixed, to say the least. Conley, who was recently tendered a contract by the Marlins, struggled throughout the 2019 campaign.
The 6’3″ hard-throwing lefty finished with a 2-11 record on the season. He posted a 6.53 ERA and 1.73 WHIP in 60 2/3 innings pitched. He was 2-of-4 in save opportunities, but did manage six holds. He issued 29 walks, and surrendered 17 doubles and 10 home runs. All in all, Conley finished 18 games for the Fish this season.
Conley sports a four pitch repertoire, including a 4-seam fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. That variety might give the 29-year-old an advantage, but he relies heavily on the 4-seamer. Conley will need to overcome his inconsistency and avoid giving up the big hits if he’s going to be the next closer for the Marlins.
Closer Option No. 2: Jarlin Garcia
Jarlin Garcia has spent the majority of the last three seasons pitching out of the Marlins bullpen. While he’s primarily been used in middle relief, Garcia has the stuff to be a potential closer for Don Mattingly and the Fish in 2020.
Garcia set a franchise record in 2019 with the longest consecutive scoreless innings streak for a left-handed reliever. Garcia went 21 straight innings without giving up a run, besting the mark previously held by Felix Heredia (16 IP in 1997). According to MLB.com, the overall consecutive scoreless inning mark for a reliever still belongs to Luis Aquino, who tossed 26.1 straight scoreless innings in 1994.
Garcia finished 2019 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 50.2 innings pitched. He issued 16 walks and blew his only save opportunity. One improvement Garcia made was with the home run ball, surrounding only four after giving up 16 in 2018.
Garcia has three pitches in his arsenal, and relies heavily on both his 4-seam fastball and his slider. He’ll mix in a changeup occasionally. His performance in 2019 as a reliable reliever might get him a look as the closer in 2020.
Closer Option No. 3: Ryne Stanek
Ryne Stanek came to the Miami Marlins midway through the 2019 season. On July 31st, Miami Marlins traded Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards to the Tampa Bay Rays for Stanek and outfield prospect Jesus Sanchez. Stanek was the occasional opener in Tampa Bay, but never played that role for the Marlins.
Instead, Stanek was one of the relievers tasked to fill the void left by closer Sergio Romo after he was dealt to the Minnesota Twins. Stanek received five save opportunities with the Marlins but was only able to covert one of them. Jose Ureña was the other reliever with at least five save opportunities (he converted three).
Stanek struggled with the Marlins in 2019. He finished 0-2 with a 5.48 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 21 1/3 innings pitched for the Fish. He issued 19 walks and surrendered 13 doubles and 11 home runs. He finished nine games for Miami last season.
Stanek has a three-pitch stock that features a plus 4-seam fastball. He also throws a split finger and a slider. If Stanek is going to close in 2020, he’ll need to cut way down on walks and big hits.
Closer Option No. 4: Drew Steckenrider
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Drew Steckenrider is returning from a lost 2019 season that saw him shut down after an elbow procedure in August. Steckenrider only pitched 14 1/3 innings in 2019 before elbow soreness landed him on the injured list in May. With the Marlins in 2019, he finished 0-2 with a 6.28 ERA and blew his only save opportunity.
Steckenrider was transferred to the 60-day injured list in mid-May, but did try to make a comeback in August. However, after a single inning stint in Jupiter, Steckenrider’s season was over after the soreness returned.
For his career, Steckenrider sports a 5-7 record with 3.72 ERA. He is 6-for-12 in save opportunities. He throws two pitches, a 4-seam fastball, which averages 94.7 MPH, and a slider. Assuming he’s healthy, Steckenrider could get a look as the closer this spring, or perhaps a set-up man.