Marlins Minors: Projecting Wichita’s Opening Day Rotation

It’s generally known that the minor leagues are to grow major league talent.

Although it’s debatable which stage is most important to a player’s development, the most important immediate impact to the major league club, in this case the Marlins, comes in the form of the Triple-A starting rotation.

Say the Marlins begin the 2020 campaign with Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez, Jordan Yamamoto, and Elieser Hernandez. José Ureña will likely be working out of the pen and available for emergency starts and long relief. Who are the next five starters in the chute?

The Wichita Wind Surge Opening Day Rotation

Marlins

CLEVELAND, OHIO – JULY 07: Alec Bohm #23 celebrates with pitcher Sixto Sanchez #45. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Sixto Sanchez

Sixto Sanchez is the Marlins top overall prospect, and the number 22 in all of baseball according to the MLB Pipeline. As a 20-year-old at the Double-A level with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp last season in the Southern League, Sanchez posted an 8-4 record over 18 starts. He racked up a 2.53 ERA and struck out 97 in 103 frames while walking only 19.

Reliant on a three-pitch mix, Sanchez’ plus-plus fastball touches three digits often, although it lives around the 95 MPH mark. Whether he gets called up early or late, Sanchez will make a major league impact in the 2020 season.

Edward Cabrera

Number six Marlins prospect is also in the top 100, slipping in at number 99 overall. Edward Cabrera has been in the Marlins organizations for all four seasons of his minor league career to this point. Last season between the Shrimp and the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads in the Florida State League, he was a combined 9-4 with a 2.23 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings. He held his WHIP to a sub-1 mark, at 0.993, and surrendered only 6.1 hits per nine innings.

Marlins

JUPITER, FL – FEBRUARY 22: Nick Neidert #87 of the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Nick Neidert

Nick Neidert is Miami’s 11th rated prospect. Gained from the Seattle Mariners system  in the Dee Gordon trade after the 2017 season, he was named the Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018 after going 12-7 for the Shrimp. He also whiffed over a batter per inning, finishing with 154 in 152 2/3 frames.

Neidert’s 2019 campaign was injury riddled, and saw him make only nine starts with the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes in the Pacific Coast League. He was 3-4 with a 5.05 ERA in 41 innings, with a disconcerting 1.634 WHIP. In the post-season Arizona Fall League, he addressed some of these issues with a 0.831 WHIP in 21 2/3 innings against near-major-league talent. Neidert could also possibly make the Opening Day roster as the number five starter.

Jorge Guzman

Jorge Guzman clocks in as the Marlins #16 prospect. He joined the system from the New York Yankees in the deal that made Giancarlo Stanton a Bomber, and went 0-9 for the Hammerheads in 2018. Still, his talent was evident despite a high-ish 1.542 WHIP, with 101 K’s in 96 innings.

Guzman graduated up a level to the Shrimp in 2019, and quelled some of those fears by dropping his metrics in those important stats. He was 7-11 with a 3.50 ERA, a 1.204 WHIP, and 127 K’s in 139 2/3 innings in 24 starts (and one relief appearance). Guzman is notable as the organizational pitcher with the highest velocity now that Tayron Guerrero has moved on, occasionally touching 103 on the radar gun.

Regardless of that, many “in the know” have Guzman pegged as a major league closer in the near future. We may see either of these possibilities come to pass, or another entirely.

Robert Dugger

Robert Dugger, ranked 24th on the Marlins, is the lone major league veteran likely to start in Wichita. Still just 24, he started seven contests for Miami in 2019, going 0-4 with a 5.77 ERA. This after he was 2-4 with a 7.59 ERA in 10 starts for the Baby Cakes. Only at the Double-A level did Dugger really shine last year, with a .219 oppBA, a 3.31 ERA, and 73 K’s in 70 2/3 innings.

Dugger, like Neidert an addition to the team in the Gordon deal, was far better in 2018 between the Shrimp and the Sharks. 10-7 with a 3.40 ERA, he posted a 1.215 WHIP and 141 K’s in 150 1/3 innings. He’s still likely to be the first called up early in the season, due to his prior experience.

Other Possibilities

If injury strikes, or players ranked ahead of them are waived or traded, the Marlins have options deep into the minors. Dustin Beggs, Cody Poteet, and Kolton Mahoney stand out as the three that could take their turns in Wichita, in addition to the five above.

What do you think? Did I get it right? Let me know in the comments, and keep checking in here with Marlin Maniac throughout the year to keep up with the Miami Marlins.

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