Around the Horn: Bullpen

Ramos, Capps to compete for closer role in high-ceiling relief corps

Around the Horn: Bullpen

Pitchers and catchers open Spring Training for the Marlins on Feb. 19 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. As the first workout date approaches, takes a position-by-position look at the 2016 Marlins. The second installment is the bullpen.

MIAMI -- All the makings are there for the Marlins to have a top-notch bullpen, which is the reason the club didn't make any significant offseason reliever additions.

Miami has a collection of hard throwers who get their share of strikeouts, while also inducing lots of ground balls. But to collectively reach elite status, the unit still must polish up its command and become more consistent. These are two areas new pitching coach Juan Nieves and Jim Benedict, the vice president of pitching development, will focus on in Spring Training.

There will be plenty of competition for bullpen spots in Spring Training. Even the closer role is up for grabs, with incumbent A.J. Ramos expected to be pushed by Carter Capps, who throws heat.

Overall, if the bullpen reaches its potential, it should be an interesting unit to follow. The bullpen had a collective ERA of 3.66 in 2015, which ranked 14th among the 30 MLB teams. But the club blew far too many save chances, especially early in the season. The Marlins converted 35 of 56 chances, with Ramos locking down 32 of 38 opportunities.

To maximize the bullpen's effectiveness, the starters must do their part. Miami's relievers carried a heavy workload last year, logging 516 innings, the 12th most in the Majors. They did show swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 499, 12th highest among relief corps. But they walked 214, the sixth highest. Their strikeouts per nine innings was 8.7, but they also averaged 3.73 walks per nine innings. The 'pen also was able to get opponents to hit the ball on the ground. Their ground-ball percentage was 47.6 percent, the ninth-highest rate, according to Fangraphs.

Ramos has been the Marlins' most consistent reliever the past few seasons, and in 2015, he took over as closer in May. He posted a 2.30 ERA and struck out 87 in 70 1/3 innings.

Capps, who showed dominance in 2015, will get a chance to win the closer role. First, he has to show he is healthy and able to handle the role. Capps' fastball averaged 98.1 mph, according to Fangraphs. But the right-hander threw just 31 innings, and didn't pitch after Aug. 2 due to a right elbow strain.

Capps strikes out side in 8th

Whoever wins the closer role, the other should slide into the eighth-inning setup spot.

Bryan Morris and lefty Mike Dunn are the other most experienced late-inning options. Lefty Brad Hand, used mainly as a starter in the past, could fill multiple roles. Look for Hand to get a shot at being the second late-inning lefty option.

Kyle Barraclough and Brian Ellington are two hard-throwing righties who showed promised in the second half of last year. If they don't win roster spots, they could open at Triple-A New Orleans. David Phelps and Edwin Jackson, who will compete for rotation spots, are also long-relief possibilities.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.