When can we expect Gallen to make his debut?

May 17th, 2019

MIAMI -- As the Marlins get a look at three of their promising young starters in the weekend series against the Mets at Marlins Park, the organization also will be paying close attention to its Triple-A New Orleans squad, which will be taking on the Iowa Cubs on the road.

The pitching prospect garnering plenty of attention this season is 23-year-old Zac Gallen, who gets the nod on Sunday for the Baby Cakes.

A strong case can be made that Gallen has been the Marlins’ top pitching prospect this season, although several scouts believe hard-throwing Edward Cabrera, who is at Class A Advanced Jupiter, has shown flashes of being a No. 2-caliber, or even an ace. And at Double-A Jacksonville, top prospect Sixto Sanchez has the makings of a future No. 1.

The book is still out on Gallen, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami’s No. 18 prospect.

Acquired from the Cardinals as part of the Marcell Ozuna trade in December 2017, Gallen is regarded as a middle-of-the-rotation prospect. The way he’s pitched in the first part of the season, however, he’s looking the part of a frontline starter. His fastball has maxed at 97 mph, but he has sat mostly in the 91 to 94 mph range, while demonstrating the ability to spot pitches to all corners of the plate.

Gallen made a strong showing with the big league club in Spring Training, and statistically, has been simply dominant -- reflected by his 5-0 record, 1.16 ERA in eight starts and WHIP of 0.55.

In his last four starts, Gallen has worked seven innings three times, and eight once -- giving up four earned runs in 29 innings (1.24 ERA). He’s fanned 33 and walked five in that stretch.

The way Gallen has been throwing, the burning question among Marlins’ fans is: Why isn’t he getting a chance in the big leagues?

Quite simply, the Marlins aren’t in any rush primarily because starting pitching has been a strength this season -- even if a few of the young starters, like Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Richards, have had some ups and downs. Jose Urena and Caleb Smith are staples.

The Marlins have run out the same five starters all season, and they aren’t looking to change that mix.

The general feeling is, if there is an injury situation, then Gallen would be first in line to join the rotation. But even that isn’t guaranteed because Gallen is not on the 40-man roster, and right-hander Elieser Hernandez, who has big league starting experience, is.

Hernandez is also playing at New Orleans.

Over the long season, Gallen likely will get his shot, but there isn’t an urgency in mid-May.

There is the possibility that Urena could be traded, which would create an opening and 40-man spot. And the club will be monitoring innings for Smith and Lopez, who both missed at least a month in 2018 due to injuries.

A year ago, Gallen threw 133 1/3 innings at Triple-A, and he has 345 career Minor League innings since being a third-round pick of the Cardinals from the University of North Carolina in 2016. The way the Marlins see it, having Gallen is a nice luxury, because he’s being afforded more time to develop before he gets a taste of the big leagues.