Braxton Garrett did not begin the 2023 season in the Marlins’ rotation. His first appearance was a three-inning relief outing on April 1. The Fish optioned him two days later but recalled him within a day as Johnny Cueto went on the injured list.
Cueto’s injury opened a spot for Garrett to assume the #5 starting job behind Sandy Alcantara, Jesús Luzardo, Trevor Rogers and Edward Cabrera. The left-hander was a quality depth option, a former #7 overall pick who had turned in a 3.58 ERA over 17 starts in 2022. That the Marlins nevertheless brought in Cueto and began with Garrett sixth on the depth chart suggests the front office had trepidation about his ability to repeat those results.
Once injury pushed Garrett back into the starting mix, he didn’t look back. The 26-year-old made 30 starts from that point forward, ultimately logging 159 2/3 innings. He finished third on the team in workload while allowing 3.66 earned runs per nine. That came with above-average peripherals across the board. Garrett punched out a solid 23.7% of batters faced while keeping the ball on the ground nearly half the time. He walked only 4.4% of opposing hitters, showcasing the plus control which evaluators had praised during his time as a prospect.
It’s not an overpowering profile. He averaged just 90.5 MPH with the sinker that serves as his primary offering. Despite the pedestrian velocity, Garrett has shown the ability to miss bats with his assortment of secondary pitches. He generated above-average whiff rates on each of his slider, cutter and changeup. The well-rounded arsenal allowed him to avoid significant platoon issues. Garrett’s strikeout and walk profile was better than average regardless of the opponent’s handedness. Right-handed hitters made more authoritative contact than southpaws, but neither side produced much overall.
Garrett’s development into a mid-rotation arm has taken on extra importance given other setbacks in the starting staff. Alcantara underwent Tommy John surgery in October, knocking him out of the mix for 2024. Rogers injured his left biceps and right (non-throwing shoulder), limiting him to four starts. Cabrera, a former top pitching prospect, has shown promising stuff but continues to issue plenty of free passes. The Cueto signing didn’t work.
Miami’s rotation was productive overall. Luzardo also took a step forward, while 20-year-old Eury Pérez posted a 3.15 ERA over 19 starts as a rookie. That the Fish turned to Garrett in the second game of their Wild Card series with the Phillies still hints at both the strength of his ’23 campaign and some of the hits Miami took above him on the season-opening depth chart.
Garrett has just under two years of major league service. He’ll surely qualify for early arbitration next offseason as a Super Two player but remains under club control for five additional seasons. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote in late November the Fish were receiving trade interest in their young starters but were likely to consider Garrett off limits. There’s no question of his place in the rotation heading into 2024.
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