2020 Opening Day: Who Will be the Miami Marlins Fifth Starter?

The Marlins rotation is set in spots one through four.

Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez, and Jordan Yamamoto are pretty generally accepted as 80 percent of the Marlins rotation going into 2020 Spring Training. Where we run into questions is when we try to identify Miami’s number five starter.

Last season, the Marlins went:

  1. Jose Urena
  2. Trevor Richards
  3. Pablo Lopez
  4. Sandy Alcantara
  5. Caleb Smith

Richards lasted until the trade deadline, when he was swapped to the Tampa Bay Rays with Nick Anderson for Ryne Stanek and Jesus Sanchez. Urena lasted through the entire season as part of the club, but left the rotation for the bullpen and a tryout as closer.


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

That means that year-over-year, the Marlins are returning three-of-five. When I posed the question to Twitter, 38 percent of respondents returned Nick Neidert as the eventual number five starter.

Nick Neidert

Neidert was the Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018, when he was 12-7 with a 3.24 ERA for the Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in the Southern League. He struggled through injuries last season to a 5.05 ERA over 41 innings for the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes in the Pacific Coast League. After that, it seemed he answered some of that with a dominant performance at the Arizona Fall League. In five starts, he was 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA, 19 K’s in 21 2/3 innings, and only two walks issued for a 0.831 WHIP.

But Neidert is hardly the only option available to the Marlins for their 2020 rotation. Two of the other three choices in the poll also received plenty of support.


MIAMI, FL – AUGUST 14: Elieser Hernandez #57 of the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Elieser Hernandez

Elieser Hernandez got thirty-two percent of the vote for number five starter, and he’s also the guy that I’ve previously noted has the inside track to begin the season there. In 148 innings over two seasons, Hernandez has struck out 130. From 2018 to 2019, he increased his ERA+ from 74 to 84, still well below average, but on the right path at least.

Hernandez allows fewer hits as a starter and fewer home runs as a relief pitcher. This results in a wide .115 swath between his opposing ISO in either role.

  • SP – .242/.313/.511 3.34 K/BB, 1.204 WHIP
  • RP – .282/.361/.436 1.38 K/BB, 1.593 WHIP

MIAMI, FL – JUNE 07: Jose Urena #62 of the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Jose Urena

Coming in with 24 percent of the vote was last season’s Opening Day starter, Jose Urena. Mostly a starter over the two seasons prior, Urena remained part of the rotation until a mid-June injury took him out. He returned as part of the bullpen, with a shot at the role of closer, but blew two saves in five opportunities. Over his now-five major league seasons, he’s totaled 0.9 WAR, showing himself to be, essentially, a replacement level player.


MIAMI, FLORIDA – AUGUST 29: Robert Dugger #64 of the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Robert Dugger

Way back in fourth place was Dugger, who was 0-4 over seven starts for Miami late last-season. Dugger allowed 5.77 ERA and struck out 25 while walking 17 in 34 1/3 innings.

As part of the Jumbo Shrimp rotation last season, Dugger showed he’s capable of putting up decent numbers. He was 6-6 with a 3.31 ERA and 73 whiffs in 70 2/3 innings. He walked 21 and limited the opposition to 1.104 WHIP. Now if only he can get that to translate on the larger stage afforded by Major League Baseball.

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