The Marlins’ rotation has a collection of young hurlers with plenty to like. It’s not a group chock full of certainty, but the unit performed reasonably last season and comes with varying degrees of future upside. Four of the team’s starters came up in trade rumors over the offseason, but the Fish elected to hold onto all of them.
Taking a look at the options on hand, a common thread emerges. Most of the Marlins’ hurlers were acquired via trade. Of the club’s projected rotation at Roster Resource, only José Ureña was signed as an amateur. To some extent, that’s expected for an organization that has spent a good portion of the past two decades selling off pieces for future assets. For the most part, though, the club’s starters came over as relatively unheralded trade pieces. Whether because of quality scouting, player development or a mere string of good luck, the Fish have turned a few under-the-radar prospects into decent MLB starters.
Staff leader Sandy Alcantara came over from the Cardinals in the Marcell Ozuna trade. He and Magneuris Sierra co-headlined that deal, but Alcantara’s early career results dwarf those of his outfield counterpart. The 24-year-old has a 3.83 ERA in 239.2 innings. His strikeout and walk numbers are unimpressive, but Alcantara has done well at avoiding hard contact. He’s miscast as a staff ace, but he alone would’ve been a solid return for two years of Ozuna (more on that in a bit).
Caleb Smith and Pablo López were further off the radar at the time of their respective acquisitions. Smith, a former fourteenth-round pick who never ranked among the Yankees’ top thirty prospects at Baseball America, was acquired alongside first baseman Garrett Cooper for pitching prospect Mike King and international bonus pool space in 2017. Smith had performed well in the high minors in the New York system, but it’s doubtful anyone would have foreseen him posting a 25.9% strikeout rate and 12.3% swinging strike rate in his first 249.1 MLB innings. Unlike Alcantara, Smith gives up a lot of authoritative contact, but his swing-and-miss stuff is no doubt intriguing.
López, meanwhile, was a low-level flier acquired from Seattle in 2017 as part of a package for David Phelps. Injuries limited Phelps to just ten appearances as a Mariner, while López looks to be a solid long-term rotation piece in Miami. He throws a ton of strikes, induces a fair amount of grounders, and ran a serviceable 20.3% strikeout rate last season.
Jordan Yamamoto was the fourth piece in the four-player package acquired from the Brewers for Christian Yelich. That deal turned sour quickly, but Yamamoto had a decent fifteen start cameo in 2019. His long-term future’s still up in the air, but he’s an interesting arm to have in the mix. Prospects Nick Neidert and Robert Dugger were acquired from the Mariners for Dee Gordon and are near-ready rotation depth pieces.
The best under-the-radar starter the Marlins have acquired in the last few years is the one they’ve since traded away. Zac Gallen was the third piece of the Ozuna package, but his stock has skyrocketed since. After combining for a 2.93 ERA in 245.1 Triple-A innings, Gallen had a strong seven start MLB debut in Miami. The Marlins flipped him to the D-Backs for shortstop prospect Jazz Chisholm, Baseball America’s #88 overall prospect, last July. However one feels about the Gallen-Chisholm swap, it’s clear the right-hander was a fantastic get as the tertiary piece from St. Louis.
It’s been less than smooth sailing for the Marlins in a number of ways in recent years. But the Miami organization has picked up a few notable starting pitchers from elsewhere along the way. Whether some or all of these young arms will form the core of the Marlins’ next contending club or themselves wind up on the move for future assets remains to be seen.