MIAMI -- The Marlins' pitching prospects are moving up the ranks in their Minor League system.At Triple-A New Orleans, there are currently six starters who have either already pitched in the big leagues or are getting close. Double-A Jacksonville on Thursday added another starter, when Merandy Gonzalez was optioned back
MIAMI -- The Marlins' pitching prospects are moving up the ranks in their Minor League system.
At Triple-A New Orleans, there are currently six starters who have either already pitched in the big leagues or are getting close. Double-A Jacksonville on Thursday added another starter, when Merandy Gonzalez was optioned back to the Minor Leagues to make room on the Major League roster for 23-year-old right-hander Elieser Hernandez.
With Miami, Hernandez's role, for now, is long relief, but he could eventually start. Gonzalez, meanwhile, will start on a staff that also includes right-handers Pablo Lopez and Nick Neidert, both tracking towards being big league-ready. All three could be in the Majors at some point this season.
But New Orleans has other candidates even closer to being ready for the show. Sandy Alcantara, the organization's No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has made seven starts for the Baby Cakes. He's joined in the rotation by left-handers Dillon Peters and Adam Conley. Right-handers Zac Gallen, Trevor Richards and Ben Meyer round out the starters.
Peters and Richards have pitched in the Majors this season, while Conley made 62 appearances between 2015-17.
"When you make all the transactions we made over the offseason, our goal was to try to create as much depth and layer our talent throughout the system," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "I think we've been able to do that throughout our system."
The Marlins continue to show patience in the development of Alcantara, the hard-throwing right-hander. In seven starts for New Orleans, he has a 3.79 ERA in 38 innings, with 34 strikeouts and 17 walks.
On Thursday, Alcantara allowed four runs on nine hits in five innings.
"The thing that we wanted from him, following Spring Training, is just consistency," Hill said. "Consistent strike throwing, commanding the zone. Consistency with his breaking ball. Consistency with the little things, like controlling the running game. He's still progressing well, and we're excited that he's continuing to throw the ball well."
Peters has logged 25 2/3 innings with the Marlins, in six games (five starts). In his first appearance with New Orleans, he gave up three runs in six innings. Before being sent down, Richards started five games and threw 23 2/3 innings in five starts for Miami. With the Baby Cakes, he has a 2.51 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.
Gallen also is knocking on the door to reaching the big leagues -- he sports a 2.57 ERA in 42 innings with 38 strikeouts and 12 walks.
Meyer, a 29th-round Draft pick in 2015, has a 2.10 ERA in 34 1/3 innings, and 30 strikeouts and eight walks. With a surplus of starters, Meyer could be a candidate to be a multi-inning reliever.
At Jacksonville, Lopez is a promising prospect who hasn't allowed a run in 19 innings since coming off the disabled list. He has 20 strikeouts.
Neidert has thrown 31 2/3 innings.
"You've got a number of pitchers, all the way from [Class A] up to Triple-A, that [give us] middle-of-the-rotation or better starting pitching depth," Hill said.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.