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Marlins’ rotation propelled them into postseason

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No longer bottom feeders, this Marlins rotation is legit

Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Something happened on the way to this postseason. Young pitchers joined the rotation and became a force. They stopped walking the park. They started to display their arsenal and their control. But enough about the Braves’ rotation. The Marlins prospects have emerged to put together one of the most formidable, if not top-heavy, young rotation.

I hear you laughing, “yeah didn’t we hang 29 on them once?” Yes that definitely happened. The Braves have slashed an absurd .280/.363/.489 line versus Miami, averaging 6.8 runs a game. However, without the 29-run outburst, that number is 4.3 runs a game. The .851 OPS versus the Marlins is smaller than the OPS versus aging Nationals, the oft-injured Mets, and the crazy-money-spending Phillies.

The projected starters

Sandy Alcantara is the projected Game 1 starter. Like the Braves last year, they do not have their best pitcher by FIP starting the series. Alcantara throws a 96 MPH four-seam fastball and a 96 MPH sinker. He tempers that with a 86 MPH slider and 89 MPH change. He will throw the occasional curveball. He used to spread out his usage more, but now works first sinker, then four-seam, then slider. The change and curve are shown primarily to lefties. Here he is striking out Giancarlo Stanton for a second time in a game.

He sports a 3.00/3.72/4.04 (ERA/FIP/xFIP) line for the year, which works out well for us. I’m not sure that his 1.04 xFIP/ERA gap will hold versus the power-hungry Braves. He has not faced this lineup yet, and I’m not convinced of the home run suppression. Although he will be a very tough opening starter.

Sixto Sanchez projects as Game 2 starter. He started the year as MLB Pipeline’s #19 best prospect in baseball. He had not pitched above AA Jacksonville, sporting a 2.53 ERA in 103 IP last year. But he has burst onto the scene with Florida, putting up 1.0 WAR in just 7 starts. He features a 99 MPH four-seam fastball, a 97 MPH sinker, and a 89 MPH slider and change. He splits his arsenal almost into four, as no pitch is used less than 20% and none more than 30%.

He has a 3.46/3.50/4.08 line for the year, league-adjusted at 81/81/92. He too outstrips in xFIP, so maybe there is an opportunity there. He shutout the Braves over six innings on Sept. 8th, but was tagged with 4 runs over 3 innings on the 23rd. However, the hype is real and he is a legit #1 starter in the future, if not already. My only issue is that his number is 73, not 62, and I feel a marketing campaign is going to waste.

Likely next up is Pablo Lopez. He was not well-regarded as a prospect, but has been solid previously and this year been quite good. His ERA and FIP have been in the 4.50 range, but good home run suppression and higher strikeout rate have brought those both numbers down a run. Lopez works off a 94 MPH four-seam fastball and a 93 MPH sinker. He adds a 87 MPH change and a 79 MPH curve. Lefties sees the change more and the sinker less.

Pablo has a 3.61/3.09/3.73 line this year. His strikeouts are up, primarily getting them from the four-seam and change. The Braves scored 2 runs over 6 innings on August 14th versus Lopez, scored 7 runs over 1.2 innings on Sept. 9 (the 29-9 massacre), and were shutout by Lopez over 5 innings on Sept. 24th.

After this formidable top three, the quality takes a big step down. Those three combined for 3.5 WAR this year, but the rest of the staff has a combined -1.3 which includes an injured Elieser Hernandez's 0.5 WAR. The best candidates are rookies Trevor Rogers (6.11/4.33/3.67) and Daniel Castano (3.86/5.16/5.56). The sinkerballer Rogers gets lots of strikeouts (30.0% rate) while walking 10.0%, and has a 50 FV rating by MLB Pipeline. However, the home run ball has plagued him. The good guys scored 5 in 4 innings against him in a 5-4 Sept. 21st Braves win. Daniel Castano held the Braves to 1 run over 6 innings on August 15th in a game Adam Duvall won with a late home run.

Bullpen

The Marlins’ closer is Brandon Kintzler. Kintzler has accumulated 2.9 WAR since 2010 and played for 5 teams, briefly for the Nationals. Kintzler has a sinker-slider combo which roll in at 93 and 85 MPH. He has 12 saves on the year, despite a hairraising 2.22/5.00/4.98 line. His career numbers are more tame at 3.31/3.80/3.85.

The next best is Yimi Garcia, who features a four-seam/slider mix at 94 and 85 MPH. He will throw the occasional curve with some changeups to lefties. Yimi is a generic reliever with career 0.7 WAR any year other than this one. He is dazzling with a 0.60/1.66/3.20 line.

Richard Bleier looks to be the only lefty reliever to make the roster, unless Braxton Garrett stays around for the NLCS. Bleier has bounced around 4 organizations in 5 years. He has a career line of 2.97/3.69/4.07. He throws a sinker-cutter mix with the occasional slider. Braxton Garrett relies on a four-seam/curve pairing with changeups to righties. He has a 5.87/8.15/4.57 and is presumably around for mop-up.

James Hoyt featured a 93 MPH four-seam and a 84 MPH slider, but as pointed out, his 2020 shows a dip in velocity at 88 at fastball and 80 at slider. He is primarily a slider pitcher now. He is another generic relief type who spent 2 years in the Braves organization. He has a 3.71/3.81/3.31 career line over 94.2 innings. However, he is outplaying his peripherals with a 1.23/3.19/4.15 line this season.

Brad Boxberger has a career 3.56/4.13/3.84 and 0.1 WAR over 5 teams in 9 years. He gave 3 hits and 2 runs without getting an out in a Sept.24 Braves win. Ryne Stanek had a great year in 2018 with the Rays, but a 7.20/7.29/6.28 line this season, However, he has four scoreless innings versus the Braves. Stephen Tarpley has a 9.00/6.56/5.94 line. The lefty was a former Yankees prospect before landing with the Marlins.

The Marlins altogether have a 4.86/5.02/4.90 for the season. Many of their better pitchers are outrunning their expected FIP by home run suppression. The key will be to outlast the starters and tear into the weaker bullpen, and of course, hit home runs.