Pitching reinforcements waiting in the wings

Marlins' young arms provide attractive rotation options

January 3rd, 2016

MIAMI -- For much of the offseason, the Marlins have focused on acquiring experienced starting pitching. But after using 13 starters in 2015, the organization understands the importance of having reinforcements who can step in over the course of a long year.

In terms of close-to-being-ready rotation depth, Miami has some interesting options who could make their mark in 2016.

"We're still talking with players and looking for ways to add to our overall depth," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.

The projected starting five, behind ace Jose Fernandez, are Jarred Cosart, Tom Koehler, Adam Conley and Justin Nicolino or David Phelps.

The next wave of starting candidates expects to begin in the Minor Leagues, and there are some talented possibilities.

RHP Jose Urena: As a rookie, Urena appeared in 20 games with nine starts in '15. The hard-throwing right-hander still needs to polish up his secondary pitches. If he doesn't win a rotation spot in Spring Training, he could wind up in the bullpen.

"Urena came up and he had mixed results as a starter," Hill said. "He pitched very well out of the 'pen. He's another one who will compete for a rotation spot. If he doesn't make that, he could easily transition to the 'pen. But if we want to keep him stretch out as a starting option for us, then he goes to Triple-A."

RHP Kendry Flores: Ranked by MLBPipeline.com as Miami's No. 4 prospect, Flores appeared in seven games for the Marlins with one start, while posting a 4.97 ERA. He spent a majority of the season at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans, and he combined for a 6-5 Minor League record with a 2.29 ERA in 118 innings. Late in the season, Flores was on the disabled list with right-shoulder tendinitis. He now is healthy.

LHP Jarlin Garcia: Miami's No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, Garcia represented the organization at the 2015 Futures Game. The lefty split time at Class A Advanced Jupiter and Jacksonville, posting a 3.57 ERA in 25 starts and 133 2/3 innings.

"Good curveball. Power fastball," Hill said. "Another young option that people don't know about, but he's on the [40-man] roster now. He is an option for us moving forward."

RHP Jacob Esch: An 11th-round pick by the Marlins in 2011, Esch has risen through the ranks, and the 25-year-old is now on the 40-man roster. He was 6-5 with a 3.48 ERA at Jacksonville last year.

"He pitched very well in the Fall League, and showed that he is close to being ready," Hill said.

Non-roster invitees: Right-handers Dylan Axelrod and Paul Clemens each signed Minor League contracts with Spring Training invitations. Axelrod, 30, made six appearances with the Reds last year, and Clemens was in the Phillies system in 2015. He pitched for the Astros in 2014.