The debate continues. Who is the second-best left-handed starting pitcher in Miami Marlins history?
The question of who is the current greatest of all-time starts and stops with Dontrelle Willis. After that, the honor of being second best is a debate worth having and was discussed by Joe Frisaro of MLB.com in another great story about debating which players make up the best at each position around the diamond.
Willis is a sure-fire runaway winner, as was Jose Fernandez in discussing the greatest right-handed starter in team history.
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“For a five-year span, D-Train Mania swept across South Florida every time Willis took the mound. One of the most popular players in franchise history, Willis is the overwhelming choice to be the Marlins’ top left-handed starter,” Frisaro adds.
“With his high leg kick, big smile and passion for playing, Willis was an instant sensation from the time he was promoted from Double-A at the age of 21 in May 2003. Willis sparked the ’03 Marlins, going 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 27 starts, and his enthusiasm was contagious on a championship club.”
For Smith, it is continual growth in what will be his second full season as a starter in the Marlins rotation. His first season was wiped out in the first half due to a lat injury that forced him to the Injured List.
After a 10-win season in 2019 where he threw 168 strikeouts in 153.1 innings, he is definitely the power pitcher the Marlins need in a starting five of young arms. He still has a chance to become the team’s starter on Opening Day and could unseat Sandy Alcantara, who many expect to the No. 1 starter and ace of the staff.
Having Alcantara and Smith pitch back to back give the Miami Marlins two hard-throwing pitchers who could be part of a rotation that is vastly improved in 2020.
“Caleb Smith, when healthy, has shown flashes of being dominant,” writes Frisaro. “In his third season with the Marlins, Smith went 10-11 with a 4.52 ERA and a 9.9 K/9 rate in 2019.”
Smith’s start to the season, 3-0 was impressive. He was considered a late addition to the 2019 rotation after an impressive Spring where his performance pushed Dan Straily off the roster and sent Wei-Yin Chen to the bullpen.
For now, the discussion of Willis is justified. There are other lefties to talk about, including Mark Buehrle and Al Leiter. Smith has some ground to make up. But a strong 2020 campaign (if there is one) will help him make a case as the best of this decade in a Miami Marlins uniform.