The Miami Marlins have blessed few who are more-or-less guaranteed a spot in their 2020 opening day rotation.
With five spots available, of course a rotation slot on the major league club is at a premium. José Ureña has staked his claim, while Sandy Alcantara is the lone Miami Marlins All Star from 2019. Caleb Smith is another who came into spring training with little left to prove.
Smith is a six-foot-two, 205 lb. left-handed throwing and right-handed bating pitcher from Huntsville, TX. The now-28-year-old product of Sam Houston State was a 14th round choice of the New York Yankees back in the 2013 MLB Amateur Entry Draft, 434th overall off the board.
In three seasons of Division 1 play for the Bearkats, Smith appeared as a starter in 40 of his 52 overall appearances, and posted a 19-14 record with a 3.29 ERA to his credit. He struck out 204 over 249 innings in total, while surrendering only six homers through his entire collegiate career.
Allowing the long-ball seems to be Smith’s Achilles heel, but it wasn’t always that way, it would seem. In the seven seasons prior to the 2018 campaign, encompassing three years in college and four seasons mostly at the minor league level (with an 18 2/3 inning cup of coffee with the Yankees in 2017), Smith surrendered a total of 36 home runs in 736 innings — which works out to 0.44 HR/9.
After the 2017 season, the Yankees traded Smith along with first baseman/outfielder Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins for minor league pitching prospect Michael King. Since coming over, Smith has surrendered a total of 47 homers. That’s 10 in 77 1/3 innings with the major league club in 2018, four in only 9 1/3 innings for the Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, and a major league “leading” 33 in 153 1/3 innings with the Marlins last season. That rate of home-run-allowance is quadruple what Smith had previously established, or 1.76 HR/9.
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Despite that shortcoming, Smith is also a noted strikeout artist. In 2018 he racked up 88 in 77 1/3 innings, or 10.24 K/9. This past year was similar in Smith’s propensity to make people miss. He struck out 168 for a K/9 of 9.86.
In 44 starts over two major league seasons for the Miami Marlins, Smith has posted a 15-17 record with a 4.42 ERA and a solid 1.23 WHIP. Unfortunately, nearly one-in-four of his hits surrendered end up going over the fence. It’s something that Smith must address by keeping his offerings a little further down in the zone.
Along with Urena, Smith, and Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez, Nick Neidert, Jordan Yamamoto, and Robert Dugger are the five guys with the best chance to fill the final two slots in the Miami Marlins rotation.