Youth Is Served: Can The Miami Marlins Trio Of Young Pitchers Provide Fantasy Value?

by Will Overton

It was an offseason full of wheeling and dealing in Miami. In fact the trading spree really got started last summer after the Marlins famously fell out of the playoff race much sooner than expected.

The baseball experts aren’t exactly raving about what the Marlins have done with this team and they may have a point, the immediate future doesn’t look bright. What the Marlins did do in all of these dealings is build up a young pitching staff which is heavy on promise and a little low on proven numbers.

The Marlins staff will contain three pitchers 22 years old or younger this season, all three of which have been considered rather highly sought after prospects at one point in time or another, and some still are considered that now.

It’s going to be rough going for Miami this season, but these three pitchers are all but guaranteed a shot at starting 30 games each this season. The big question for fantasy owners is which if any of the three are worth their time and worth their pick late in fantasy drafts this spring. Here’s my take on the three guys the Marlins are hoping can turn their franchise back around someday.

Jacob Turner
For a while now we have been hearing about Jacob Turner’s upside and potential. This year he’s going to get a chance to put it on display as an almost guaranteed member of a depleted Marlins rotation this spring. Turner has the upside, but he also has question marks that keep him from being a sure thing, especially in fantasy leagues.

When you look at the minor league numbers for Turner there is a lot to like, including an ERA just a shade over 3.00 in 35 starts between Double-A and Triple-A in his minor league career.  However he has never shown the overpowering strikeout stuff that he has been heralded to have. In 15 starts at Triple-A last season Turner managed just a 5.6 K/9. In the major leagues Turner was slightly better at 5.89 K/9, but it’s still not a lot.

Turner also showed some slight struggles with control at Triple-A last season, but it isn’t something that has been a pattern in his minor league career. And it wasn’t something that plagued him in the majors after being called up either. Control is something to watch, but it’s not something I am overly concerned with.

After being traded from Detroit to Miami and getting a real chance to start every five days in the big leagues he did show some solid upside. Turner started seven games in Miami and recorded five quality starts, never going less than 5 IP in any outing. He also never allowed more than three walks in a game, allowing three in a game just one time total.

You shouldn’t set your expectations too high for Turner this season, but there is something to like here. I’m still not sure exactly how high Turner’s ceiling is because I’m not convinced he’ll be a strikeout pitcher. However, his floor isn’t that low and while he may not overwhelm you with his numbers, he shouldn’t disappoint you too much either. While there is always a risk with rookies, the risk is less with Turner than some others.

Henderson Alvarez
There is something interesting about Alvarez. He’s an extremely excellent control pitcher who only walks 2.59 batters per nine innings last season. Even that number is considerably higher than his minor league numbers where he only surpassed 1.75 BB/9 one time in four years.

Unfortunately while Alvarez is a very good control pitcher he does struggle with strikeouts a great deal. Alvarez struck out just 79 batters in 187.1 innings in Toronto last season. That’s a total of just 3.80 K/9. While a move to the National League should help things out for Alvarez, you shouldn’t expect anything much higher than 6.0 K/9, and that’s not a real projection, but as best case scenario.

What’s a mystery with Alvarez is that he is a groundball heavy pitcher with a GB rate of 57% last season, but he’s very prone to the long ball allowing 1.39 HR/9. No pitcher with that GB rate should ever allow that many HR’s. Alvarez ended up with an extreme HR/FB rate of 18.1% which is not going to cut it. If you’re control pitcher is allowing this many HR’s he’s not going to have a whole lot of value in fantasy baseball. Alvarez is young and still possesses a great deal of potential, but I wouldn’t jump at spending a pick on him, he’s more of a watch and see guy.

Nate Eovaldi
Here is a pitcher quite the opposite of the other two discussed prior to this. Eovaldi isn’t as heralded of a prospect as Turner was, but he may have more upside to fantasy owners than either of the other two mentioned before. However, he also possesses a bit more risk than the other two as well.

Where the other two lack strikeout potential, Eovaldi possesses it. While the strikeouts didn’t pile up in the big leagues for Eovaldi last season he has a track record in his minor league career of being a strong strikeout guy, with a K/9 rate that increased in every minor league season he had. The other two pitchers are a bit more finesse and control, Eovaldi is more of a flame thrower with a fastball that averages over 94 MPH. Eovaldi’s 5.88 K/9 rate in 22 big league starts last season shouldn’t convince you that it’s the norm for him, because he’s capable of much more than this.

The downside to Eovaldi is that he doesn’t possess near the control of the other two young pitchers in Miami. Last season Eovaldi managed to maintain a BB/9 of 3.54 in the big leagues which isn’t a bad number, but he ventured north of 4.00 a few times in the minor leagues and I don’t know if he’s licked the control issues just yet.

Eovaldi does a really good job of keeping the ball on the ground with a 45.5% rate last season, but he also allowed a 23.2% LD rate. With the walks and that kind of a line drive rate Eovaldi’s WHIP could wind up over 1.40 this season. He has the swing and miss stuff though that could keep his ERA under 4.00 still and like I said the upside of Eovaldi is very tempting. He’s a bit riskier than Turner, but if you’re willing to gamble he could be the ace of the Marlins staff this season too.



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