Assuming the Marlins don’t shop the recently committed Dan Haren before the season starts, the battle for the 5th spot in the Miami Marlins rotation just got exciting in the form of unpredictable.
After showing up at camp on Friday in Jupiter, FL to report for the Marlins pitchers and catchers workout, Dan Haren has made it clear he is here to stay, only fueling the fire with regards to the internal battle to find a 5th starter for the 2015 Marlins opening day rotation. Now that he has voiced his commitment to the team, Dan Haren may not be the one who’s caught up battling for the last spot in the rotation. Rather the battle for the last spot now could come down to watching the kind of numbers Brad Hand, Tom Koehler and David Phelps can put up, in hopes of solidifying the last spot in the rotation. We can assume that Dan Haren will now slide into the 4th spot in the rotation, barring any kind of injury, the Marlins are unlikely to send a much needed savvy veteran down to Triple-A or take his “Man-Card” from him by making him a long reliever, instead of the consistent work horse he has always been. Significance being, that there will be a new internal battle for the 5th spotin the rotation that will take place between Tom Koehler, David Phelps and the only lefty in the bunch Brad Hand.
Tom Koehler: (Leading Right-Handed Candidate)
Koehler is the lead horse in the race for the 5th spot going into the spring. Based on his stat line from last year where he registered a win-loss record of 10-10, while recording a career high in IP (191.1), ERA (3.81) and K/9 (7.20) striking out 153 total batters. All the while, walking just 3.35 batters per nine innings pitched. Although he tends to wear down in the late innings proven last year by Koehler going 7 strong innings just 9 times over 32 games started. However, he did end the season with 17 quality starts out of those 32 games, where he went six or seven innings for the Marlins and gave up just 3 runs or less on those occasions. Meaning, if he can come into the spring with an improved fatigue rate and a better feel for his arsenal of pitches than there will be no questions asked about who will land the 5th spot in the rotation.
Brad Hand: (Lefty Favorite)
Even though Hand doesn’t have the strongest starting resume when compared to the likes of Tom Koehler and David Phelps, he made a case to be looked at this spring by the Marlins organization based on the numbers he was able to put up after returning to an injury riddled Marlins rotation in July of last season. Making just 14 starts done the stretch, 8 of which were quality starts and compiling a 3.80 ERA, while striking out a total of 43 batters in just 83 innings pitched after being recalled from Triple-A New Orleans. Giving him a 4.66 K/9 ratio, but its his .323 BABIP over those 83 innings that is cause for concern going into spring training, proving that he still hasn’t developed a consistent put away pitch at the major league level. Thus, instead of heading into the spring with a solidified spot in the Marlins rotation, Hand will have to prove he has developed an advanced feel for his off-speed offerings to keep hitters at the major league level at bay, if he wants to land that back-end 5th spot in the Marlins Big league rotation.
David Phelps: (The Underdog Righty)
I think by all accounts it’s safe to assume that Phelps will either start the season at Triple-A New Orleans as a starting pitcher or will end up falling into the same profession as he did with the Yankees. Meaning, if he makes the major league roster out of spring, it will likely be as a long reliever with the chance of receiving spot starts here and there as needed. He will, like the others get a chance though at the starting spot based on what he was able to accomplish in his 17 starts last season for the New York Yankees. Only winning 5 decisions of those 17 starts, but posted a 4.28 ERA with a 6.80 K/9 ratio in his 96.2 innings pitched when he toed the rubber as a starter for the Yankees. For Phelps to come out of spring training as the 5th starter in the marlins he will need to show complete control in his repertoire of pitches and come out with an improved mound presence translating to dominance on the mound that will hopefully cast shadows upon Brad Hand and Tom Koehler, allowing Phelps a true chance to complete for the last spot in the rotation.
With everyone final factored into the equation, and assuming the rotation is already preset with Mat Latos, Henderson Alvarez , Jarrod Cosart, and possibly Dan Haren (in no particular order) these final three pitchers listed above will have their work cut out for them when spring training games beginning next month. So make sure to pay extra attention to the screen when these pitchers take the mound for the Marlins, as they will be bringing their best stuff in hopes of earning that final spot in the rotation.