There are four definite starters in the Miami Marlins rotation for the 2020 season. Who will make it as the fifth arm next season?
The Miami Marlins have a solid starting nucleus to work with in determining their rotation for the 2020 season. It’s determining where they fit that starts a pretty good debate.
There is no question Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith will open the season first and second on the mound when the team takes on the Philadelphia Phillies for the first series of the season starting March 26. After those two, Pablo Lopez and Jordan Yamamoto will battle for the third and fourth spots.
Lopez should be the odds on favorite to pitch third, but Yamamoto, who won his first four games as a pro, should not be counted out. Both had injury issues last season. Lopez was placed on the I.L. for the season time in as many seasons. He needs to stay healthy this year.
After wading through the first four openings, the choice for the fifth spot becomes a little more difficult. Manager Don Mattingly and his coaching staff have plenty of arms to choose from, but no one stands out yet. It’s a problem Mattingly has dealt with in the past, calling on David Phelps and then Jose Urena to help find a competent arm who can hold up through innings and show reliability.
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Robert Dugger and Elieser Hernandez are the two names that jump out at you. They both spent time in the rotation, with Hernandez also taking his place in the bullpen in long relief last season. Don’t be surprised if that happens again as his versatility is a good commodity for Mattingly, especially if the Marlins cannot add veteran bullpen depth this offseason.
Dugger began the season at Double-A Jacksonville and moved on to New Orleans at the Triple-A level before making his MLB debut late last season. While he did not win a game on the parent roster, there is enough of a resume for him to be considered in the conversation. Dugger needs more seasoning in the Bigs, but he could be a nice surprise coming out of camp this spring.
After these arms, it becomes even more crowded as minor league prospects are on the brink of making the jump to the next level. Nick Neidert could win the job in Jupiter or Sixto Sanchez, the organization’s top prospect could blow away the competition. Neidert figures to be the readiest pitcher in the organization.
Edward Cabrera could also turn a few heads, but he and Sanchez do figure to start 2020 in Wichita, the Marlins new Triple-A affiliate.
The one wild card that hasn’t been mentioned by many, but I do believe will be considered is signing a veteran free agent to the roster. Both Clay Buchholz and Felix Hernandez are still on the market and both could hold down the fifth spot in the rotation as the younger arms continue to grown and develop.