The 2021 MLB season is just a few days away. The new campaign is set to get underway on April 1st with all 32 teams in action for a regular Opening Day, unlike last year’s coronavirus fiasco. Meanwhile, the question marks before the 2021 Miami Marlins are gradually getting their answers. An important example of that process is the battle for the fifth spot of the rotation that transpired throughout Spring Training.
The top part of Miami’s starting pitching staff has been known and determined for a while now. Sandy Alcantara remains the ace and the Opening Day starter for the intra-state showdown against the Tampa Bay Rays. Furthermore, Pablo Lopez will be looking to improve upon his sensational 2020 performance, this time over a much more demanding 30-plus-start campaign. Sixto Sanchez and Elieser Hernandez round up one of the most solid starting units in the National League.
The fifth spot of that group is not quite in the same boat. The availability of that opening was confirmed when the Marlins designated Jose Urena, formerly the ace of the rotation on multiple occasions, for assignment, making him a free agent. That opened the door for what promised to be a very close race for the last berth with more than two candidates.
As Spring Training approached in early March, there were three serious contenders for the job. Those were Trevor Rogers, Daniel Castano, each of whom made at least six starts last summer, as well as Nick Neidert. The latter of those names has yet to start a game on the Major League Baseball level.
All three of them have their noticeable flaws but their upside is just as avid. In fact, it might outweigh the risk, at least as far as the former two names are concerned. However, there was no question during the preseason period what choice manager Don Mattingly has quietly made. Trevor Rogers started more ST games by a mile than his two young colleagues, actually making more starts than any pitcher except Alcantara.
Apparently, the New Mexico native, who was on the verge of competing for that post last year, is the frontrunner for the fifth spot in the rotation in a dominant fashion. Trevor Rogers could be due for a breakthrough campaign and his 2021 display will greatly impact the 2021 Miami Marlins’ results.
2021 Miami Marlins: The Case for Trevor Rogers
Trevor Rogers got many chances to prove himself during his rookie year in 2020. In his inaugural campaign, Rogers provided a performance that left mixed feelings within the organization. His limited and short track record could be a reason for worries in particular areas.
However, it is fair to say that this is a different discussion because the Marlins don’t have many versatile and quality options. As already noted, Rogers and two other contenders for that role headed into Spring Training to settle that battle before the beginning of the 2021 Miami Marlins season. Not only did Rogers receive the biggest carte blanche from the coaching staff but he turned in a steady performance in a bigger workload than any other starter, setting him up perfectly for the upcoming season.
As already mentioned, Rogers pitched 19 innings across five starts, trailing Sandy Alcantara by a hair in both departments. For comparison, Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sanchez recorded eight innings pitched while Pablo Lopez had just 13 IP. Moreover, Daniel Castano was placed as virtually his only piece of competition, pitching ten innings across two starts and two appearances in relief. It is very clear that, while giving the race between Rogers and Castano a full run, the plan was to prepare Rogers for a 2021 Miami Marlins campaign as a starter by letting him pitch more regularly over the preseason.
Not only did Rogers comfortably defeat Daniel Castano but he also managed to stand the test that was put on his path by Mattingly’s staff. Across those nineteen innings on the mound in Jupiter and elsewhere, Rogers posted an impressive K/9 figure of 13.7, leading both the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues with 29 total strikeouts. At the same time, the youngster also put on a very liability-free display in the control and big-ball department. Trevor Rogers allowed just 2.4 walks per nine while only conceding half a homerun every nine innings.
Obviously, Spring Training performances barely ever serve as an indication of any kind as regards the real outlook of a player come April. However, it does a very good job settling competition ahead of a season – Rogers looked flawless almost all the time.
Rogers’s Track Record and 2020 Potential
Now that it is known that Trevor Rogers will almost certainly be the No.5 starter for the 2021 Miami Marlins, there are better places than his 2021 Spring Training numbers to look for evidence of his capabilities or red flags on the major-league level.
Firstly, Rogers had a very brief tenure with Miami in his first campaign. Yet, this short-lived period as a member of that rotation, which saw him pitch just seven starts, spoke loudly of his strengths and weaknesses at the time, and likely going forward.
Regarding his strikeout domination, it was subject to no concerns. During the 2021 season, Rogers struck out an average of 12.5 batters per nine. That turned out to be the best figure amongst all pitchers that registered at least one start on the mound for the 2020 Miami Marlins. This was not without its issues, though, because Rogers was anything but reliable in terms of putting on clean pitching performances.
Out of starters with more than five appearances, Trevor Rogers led the Marlins in bases on balls per nine innings with a figure of 4.2, the only number over the 4.0 mark. Also, he allowed slightly more than 1.5 HR/9. Both of those components of his game still stand as prime concerns in Rogers’s resume, plugging a huge question mark over the promising, mostly highlight-based, hopes.
On the other hand, Rogers was far closer to his Spring Training self, as well as his ceiling, during the two-year span that marked his minor-league tenure. In two seasons between Single-A and Double-A, he surrendered less than a big fly and a BB/9 figure lower than 3.0 in Greensboro, Jacksonville, and Jupiter.
As long as his minor-league numbers are in the middle of the discussion, Rogers is set to have a very solid early portion of his MLB career. On the other hand, the up-and-down 2020 showing could point to him needing more time to build consistency. Another problem could be the marginally worse caliber of competition between A/AA and MLB, as well as the missed Triple-A experience and the difference of his control and home run numbers between the two sets of levels.
All in all, the Marlins should get a very good yet barely consistent rookie-caliber campaign by their second-best young starter. Therefore, the club might have to be more careful. Furthermore, they have to be ready to alter who is in charge of that fifth spot depending on how Rogers pitches in the early stage of the 2021 Miami Marlins season.
The State of the Rotation
The starting rotation has been the cornerstone of the Miami Marlins for quite some time. Despite the continued success, the road ahead is as bright as it could get.
The core of the only over-average group in Miami’s ranks returns with virtually no departures. Better yet – given the woeful but still time-consuming display by players like Urena and Jordan Yamamoto, a full season of the 2021 Miami Marlins’ strongest throwers, and only them, could amount to an even more productive campaign than the past two years.
Last summer, the third-place NL East club posted a starter ERA of 4.31. That was the 14th-best in all of Major League Baseball. Moreover, it placed seventh amongst fifteen NL teams. That figure also marked a substantial improvement over the 2019 season, when the rotation registered a 4.59 ERA.
The rotation back then was sharply contrasting and the 2020 MLB season remains more deceptive than any other in the last thirty years. However, the statements made by Pablo Lopez, who was on the 2019 staff, and the incoming prospect who was Sixto Sanchez were very indicative that they can provide the Marlins stability.
The risks before the 2021 Miami Marlins rotation aren’t of giant proportions so retaining the past satisfying level, or even posting a memorable upgrade, is not an impossible mission. Miami has a great opportunity to use their best weapons more often than last year (as a portion of the games throughout the campaign), leading to better results on the mound.
There are two notable potential liabilities in the current projected rotation that is likely to open the 2021 season. Alcantara, Lopez, and Hernandez already have both success and experience (subsequently, also workload to give credibility to the numbers). Therefore, the players that are still subject to proving their short-term position within the staff, or even the whole organization, during the 2021 Miami Marlins season are Sixto Sanchez and Trevor Rogers.
Sanchez clearly earned more leverage in his brief stint last year than Rogers, who showed flaws and lack of balance. However, their numbers are still discredited due to a lack of enough innings and experience on the mound. That could prompt a regression to the mean for both of them. That is another reason to pump the breaks on the high assessments, especially for the 23-year-old Carlsbad native.
Classifying them as good starters would be an overstatement. For now, both Rogers and Sanchez are just good prospects with little top-flight “playing time”. However, more importantly, they are by far the best the club has going into the 2021 Miami Marlins season at these two posts.
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