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2021 Marlins Season Preview: Plenty of Power Pitching

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The 2021 Marlins season preview will include a starting rotation filled with young arms backed up by battle-hardened veterans in the bullpen. Pitching Coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr is an experienced coach with the leadership to get his staff through a 162 games scheduled.

Ng’s recent move involved signing Miami’s own Gio González to a minor league deal with spring training invitation. At 35, González provides experienced depth for the Marlins’ talented young rotation. The projected Nos. 1-4 in the rotation of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sánchez are 25 and younger with 121 Major League starts. The way of baseball has teams adding pitching depth to sustain the 162-game schedule.

My colleague noted in his article, “Gio Gonzalez has been around MLB for 13 years. He has been used both as a starter and a reliever over his career, and his versatility has made him an attractive option to several teams.”

2021 Marlins Season Preview: Sixto Sanchez

In 2020, the 22-year-old Dominican lived up to the hype, posting a 3.46 ERA and 3.50 FIP in his seven regular-season starts for the Fish. Sánchez also started two more times in the postseason, including tossing five scoreless innings against the Cubs in the clinching game of the NL Wild Card Series. He enters the new season as a likely member of Miami’s Opening Day rotation.

In the interest of managing his workload, the Marlins could get creative with Sánchez. Heading into camp, there were zero expectations that he would have 32 starts and 200 innings in the 2021 season. Sanchez will likely start Opening Day. Mel Stottlemyre said Sixto Sanchez will be on an innings limit in 2021.

“We’re gonna have to put an inning cap on his workload,” Stottlemyre said. “We’ve sat down and we have a plan for that.”

Stottlemyre provided further detail, “You might see some things that we do every month where they skip starts and try not to do all of that on the back end.” Furthermore, Stottlemyre said. “The other thing we don’t know is that guys get hurt, maybe they don’t reach their inning totals because they’re not efficient. We have an idea — we think we know — what those numbers are gonna look like at the end. There is some sort of planning going into it.”

Sánchez wore uniform No. 73 last year, but his reverence for Hall of Famer Pedro Martínez has been well-documented. For 2021, the Marlins permitted him to switch to Martínez’s iconic No. 45. It shows a culture that cares.

“Sixto came as advertised,” Mattingly said. “There really wasn’t anything not to like.”

Despite Sanchez’s delayed arrival, he’ll have no problem being ready in time for Opening Day. On average, Sanchez has been selected just outside the top-40 starting pitchers in fantasy drafts this month.

Pitching Philosophy

Per the league trend, it is anticipated the Marlins will be using all of their top starters — Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez, Trevor Rogers, Nick Neidert, Braxton Garrett, Daniel Castano, Sanchez, Gio Gonzalez, and potentially Edward Cabrera (personally, my favorite pitching prospect).

The Marlins have the starting pitching to lead them back to a World Series Title. Previous Miami winners have had strong starting pitching. The 2003 Marlins had the rotation included Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, A.J. Burnett, and Ryan Dempster.

Alcantara, Lopez, and Gonzalez are the only three pitchers from that group who have thrown more than 100 innings in a given season. Gonzalez is the veteran among those three. He is the type of guy coaches like having in the clubhouse and around the young guys.

“We hang our hat on pitching,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We feel like that is going to be our thing. Every time we put a starter out there, you feel like you’ve got a guy who can keep you in the game.”

In the same zoom interview, Mel mentions “You have to look at their workload in the past and look at those innings and if they’ve ever gotten to a point where they’ve pitched a bunch of innings”. “With our young guys and their progressions, some of them are still trying to get there.” The organization’s long-term view allows for this development strategy.

Stottlemyre said, “Sixto Sanchez will be on an innings limit in 2021.”

Source: @MiamiHerald Mel Stootlemyre zoom interview.

To the delight of Marlin’s management, Elieser Hernandez is progressing as a complete pitcher. This offseason he has been developing his changeup. Noted in earlier articles, Miami has a clear and consistent theme; pitch selection and pitch mix.

Hernandez has already been guaranteed a spot in the Marlins’ Opening Day rotation by manager Don Mattingly after compiling a sparkling 3.16 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 34/5 K/BB ratio over 25 2/3 innings (six starts) last year.

Elieser Hernandez 2019 season stats: 5.03 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 85 K in 82.1 IP Produced by Fish Stripes, SB Nation’s Miami Marlins community. More coverage on the main site! @elysusman

Again, per league trend, he was rarely asked to face opposing lineups for the third time and never faced more than 21 batters in a single outing during the pandemic-shortened season. Hernandez has relied almost exclusively on his fastball and slider in the past, so an uptick in changeup usage could enable him to work deeper into outings moving forward. He’s an intriguing late-round target for fantasy managers in deeper mixed leagues this spring.

Pitching Depth

The other prospect battling for a spot is Nick Neidert. Neidert made four appearances out of the pen. in 2020. Additionally, injury trouble in 2019 provided few opportunities for evaluation. Neidert posted a 3.48 FIP and 9.08 K/9 in 26 starts at the AA level in 2018. That is a LONG TIME AGO now.

Neidert, the organization’s former Minor League Pitcher of the Year, has the pedigree and pitch philosophy to fit well within the staff. Scouts have described superlative changeup has yielded consistent reverse platoon splits overall, so he’s a left-hander in spirit, mitigating any concerns about this group’s homogeneity.

Ace Potential

For fantasy players, the value of 200 innings is well-known. In the last full season, 2019, only 15 pitchers had more than 200 innings. For context, 157 pitchers made starts in 2019 and threw more than 80 innings on the season. The rare combination of high skills and high volume are fantasy aces. Think Justin Verlander.

“We have arms that are able to shut any lineup down,” López said. “Electric arms. It’s a very exciting rotation.”

The Marlins have stockpiled the young pitchers as a foundation for CEO Derek Jeter’s rebuilding project, now entering Season 4. One of Jeter’s first moves was to acquire Alcantara in the 2017 trade that sent outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals. The 6-foot-5 Alcantara made his first major league start the following year. In 2019 he became an All-Star and pitched two shutouts, most in the majors.

Miami anticipates the continuing development of a strong rotation. The talented 25-year-old, Sandy Alcantara, projects to be the Miami Marlins’ #2 in 2021. Alcantara has four years under his belt with less than 300 innings and has a career record of 11-19. The Miami front office is confident in Alcantara’s talent and continued development to lead this lot of talented young starting pitchers. The Marlins consider their rotation the team’s strength.

Alcantara was sidelined early last season by the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak but returned and finish with a 3.00 ERA in seven starts, and then beat the Cubs in his playoff debut. Mattingly said of Alcanata, “His stuff can be as good as anybody’s, and he wants to be great.”

Pablo Lopez recorded a 2.59 ERA over 55 2/3 innings in 10 starts. The 11th start came against the Braves on Sept. 9, the day Atlanta put up 29 runs in a rout. He lasted 1 2/3 innings, giving up seven earned runs. López has been an artful pitcher. In a league where everyone is trying to throw 100 mph, Lopez was able to excel by keeping the ball around the edges of the strike zone in 2020. Most notably, the right-hander’s edge rate was 46.2%, up nearly four percentage points from 2019. It helped López increase his whiff rate on pitches in the strike zone from 16.7% to 23.8%, which put him in an elite company.

According to the data, against balls in play, López was able to avoid damaging contact, yielding a lowly 4.3% barrel rate (84th percentile) and a 32.3% hard-hit rate (79th percentile).

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1 comment

  • TJ Horrego says:

    CORRECTION****
    In the interest of managing his workload, the Marlins could get creative with Sánchez. Heading into camp there are zero expectations for him to have 32 starts and 200 innings in the 2021 season. *******

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