Like most major league baseball teams, the Miami Marlins have five rotation spots to award going into the regular season.
Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Caleb Smith, and Jordan Yamamoto are the likely frontrunners for four of the Miami Marlins rotation slots. The fifth spot is up for grabs, and could conceivably be won by Jose Urena, Elieser Hernandez, Nick Neidert, Edward Cabrera, Sixto Sanchez, or Robert Dugger.
Dugger is a six-foot-two, 180 lb. right-handed pitcher from Tuscon, AZ. Born the day before Independence Day, 1995, he was initially a Texas Tech Red Raider when the Seattle Mariners chose him in the 18th round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Entry Draft, 537th overall.
In Dugger’s third year of college eligibility, his only of Division 1 ball, he went 6-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 30 relief appearances, with 54 K’s in 60 2/3 innings of work. After the draft, Dugger quickly worked his way from the rookie level to short-season-A to single-A to high-A. As part of the 2017 Clinton Lumberkings, then still a Mariners affiliate, Dugger held opponents to a 0.99 WHIP and a 2.00 ERA, with 69 whiffs in 72 innings.
The Mariners promoted Dugger then to high-A and made him a starter, where he was 2-5 with a 3.94 ERA for the Modesto Nuts. On December 7th, the Mariners sent him with Neidert and Christopher Torres to the Miami Marlins for Dee Gordon and international bonus pool money.
In seven starts for the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads to start out 2018, Dugger was 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 34 K’s in 41 innings and a 1.14 WHIP. Quickly pushed up to the Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Dugger was 7-6 with a 3.79 ERA the rest of the season at the higher level, with a still pretty-good 1.24 WHIP.
Dugger is mostly reliant on a four-pitch mix, led by a 91 MPH four-seam fastball he threw 34 percent of the time last year. The velocity on that offering has inched upwards to around 95 this offseason with a lot of hard work. He also throws a sinker (25 percent), a slider (24 percent) and a curveball (13 percent). Once in a while, Dugger will also mix in a change, but only on about three percent of his offerings.
Last season, Dugger spent most of the year in the Marlins’ high minors, between the Shrimp and the New Orleans Baby Cakes in Triple-A. On August 5th, he joined the Marlins as the “26th man” in preparation for a scheduled double-header against the New York Mets. In game one, Dugger made his debut and surrendered six earned runs on five hits and four walks, striking out three, giving up two homers, and hitting two batters over five innings.
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Hardly an ideal debut, but Dugger rebounded in his second appearance three weeks later against the Cincinnati Reds. He struck out seven in seven innings, allowing just a walk and three hits for two unearned runs. Miami kept him in the rotation through the conclusion of the season.
Dugger produced an 0-4 record with a 5.77 ERA through the remainder of the campaign for the Marlins, with a 1.456 WHIP. This spring, he’s surrendered three hits in 4 2/3 innings in total, with five strikeouts, one walk, and zero runs allowed. Although billed as a starter, there’s no reason Dugger couldn’t at some point end up in the Marlins bullpen this season.
Dugger is likely bound for Wichita and the Triple-A Wind Surge to begin the 2020 campaign, where he’ll be available for a callup to the majors.