5 Marlins relievers who could step up in 2017

5 Marlins relievers who could step up in 2017

MIAMI -- The Andrew Miller Effect has been one of the most interesting and entertaining storylines in the American League Championship Series. The way Indians manager Terry Francona has used his versatile left-hander in multiple relief roles could also be a model for other clubs trying to maximize their bullpens.

The Marlins are looking to find creative ways to piece together a pitching staff that is now without a true ace. Their bullpen was a strength this season, and it will be counted on heavily again in 2017.

There aren't many relievers as dominant as Miller, but Miami does have several candidates who can assume multiple relief roles. Here's a breakdown of five who could do for the Marlins what Miller is doing for the Tribe.

David Phelps: No matter the role, Phelps was up to the task. He posted a 2.28 ERA in 86 2/3 innings, made 64 appearances with five starts, struck out 114 and added four saves. He might end up being the closer. But if the Marlins sign a free-agent closer like Aroldis Chapman, Phelps probably fills a setup role. His fastball had more life this year, with his four-seam averaging at 94.37 mph, according to Statcast™. The MLB average was 93.04. The fear of him starting is that he might wear down.

Justin Nicolino: Groomed his entire professional career as a starter, the 24-year-old may wind up in the bullpen. The left-hander appeared in 18 games for Miami (13 starts), and he finished with a 4.99 ERA and a .307 batting average against. Nicolino also struck out 37 in 79 1/3 innings. As a starter, his ERA was 5.48, but in five relief appearances, his ERA was 1.04 with seven strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings.

Nicolino gets out of a jam

Jose Urena: Urena is a hard thrower with a four-seam fastball average of 95.83 mph, per Statcast™. But finding a role has been an issue. Like Nicolino, he's been a starter, but he's lacked consistency. In 12 starts, he had a 5.68 ERA. He had his moments as a reliever, but a few rough outings resulted in a 7.52 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. Urena appeared to make a case to be in the rotation when he threw career-high 8 2/3 shutout innings on Sept. 11 against the Dodgers. But in his final three starts, he had a 15.30 ERA in 10 innings.

Urena's five-out save

Nick Wittgren: The right-hander had a promising rookie season, striking out 42 in 51 2/3 innings with a WHIP of 1.16. His future may be as a one-inning setup reliever, but he is capable of throwing multiple innings. Down the stretch, the Marlins dialed back his workload, as he showed fatigue. In 26 1/3 innings before the All-Star break, his ERA was 2.73, compared to a 3.55 ERA in 25 1/3 innings in the second half.

Wittgren's three perfect innings

Austin Brice: Brice got a taste of the big leagues, mostly as a September callup. In 14 innings, he struck out 14, although his ERA was 7.07 in that small sample size. The right-hander was switched from a starter to a reliever at Double-A Jacksonville, and he moved up to Triple-A New Orleans before seeing some time with Miami. Brice posted a 2.74 ERA in 102 Minor League innings. With the Marlins, he showcased a power fastball that averaged 95.2 mph.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. 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.