The absence of Sixto Sánchez and now Elieser Hernandez have presented the team with early adversity in 2021.
For the Miami Marlins, the 2021 regular season has been a whole-lot-of puzzling to say the least to this point. Granted, we are only a week into the regular season, but problems that plagued the team in previous years seem to be persisting in the new calendar year.
While the starting pitching has been among the better in the sport to start the season with just 8 runs allowed in 30 innings per our Nicole Cahill, the bullpen has faltered, allowing 19 runs (18 earned) in 26 innings.
Offseason additions such as Adam Cimber (.417 BAA 2.0 WHIP), John Curtiss (6.75 ERA, 1.88 WHIP), and Adam Duvall (2-for-18, 7 K’s) have struggled out of the gate, while the likes of Richard Bleier—who’s been bit early by the long ball—and Brian Anderson have yet to round into form.
The biggest issue, though, comes by way of the injuries the team has suffered, particularly to starting pitchers Sixto Sánchez and Elieser Hernandez. MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola reported that Sánchez—who the team advised would be monitored via an innings limit in 2021—has been dealing with right shoulder inflammation, while Hernández is out with left biceps inflammation. The team placed Hernandez on the 10-day injured list following an early departure from his start against the Rays on Saturday.
While it was expected for Sánchez to pitch roughly 150 innings for the team this year, news of his injury has certainly greatly reduced that number, depriving Miami’s future ace the opportunity to develop at the big league level.
Not wishing to delve into their pool of minor league players this early, Nick Neidert will get the chance to start in Sánchez’s place. Neidert pitched to a 5.40 ERA exclusively out of the bullpen over 8 1⁄3 innings in his debut 2020 season. The team also has the likes of Braxton Garrett at the alternate site, who too has prior big league experience. Perhaps the Marlins will send a staffer to evaluate Aníbal Sánchez when the veteran free agent throws a bullpen session in Miami this weekend?
The team are also without pitching prospect Jorge Guzmán, who began the season on the IL due to an elbow injury. Given his limited exposure above AA, Guzmán will likely see time at the minor league levels before rejoining the team in the big leagues. And given the severity and precaution team’s place on preserving the health of organizational arms, Guzmán could be destined for a bullpen role should he pitch at all with Miami in 2021.
While having depth is never a bad thing, the sluggish start in what looks like a powerhouse NL East reflect the notion that for them to compete, everyone would have to healthy and firing on all cylinders.
Sánchez would need to be a healthy compliment to the early groundwork Sandy Alcantara (1.50 ERA, 1.67 FIP in 12 IP) and Pablo López (1.54 ERA in 11.2 IP) have laid for the rest of the staff, and the offense would have to do better than averaging merely 10.2 total bases per game.
But again, this all circles back to the “small sample size” qualm that most are thinking six games into a 162-game marathon, and the constant shuffle-nature of results on the diamond could make this read as incoherent nonsense in six months, but for now, Miami is a team without direction.
The problems are evident, but that does not mean Miami are destitute in their quest to regain some ground in the division. Washington are the first—though hopefully, the last—of teams experiencing COVID outbreaks in their clubhouse this season, playing the first handful of games without a slew of regulars, and Mets still have concerns surrounding their offense on the days where Jacob deGrom pitches, as well as their suspect bullpen.