Lefty reliever Garcia could be rotation candidate

Lefty reliever Garcia could be rotation candidate

MIAMI -- Starting pitching is the Marlins' top offseason priority, and the organization may not have to look past its own roster for a viable candidate.

Jarlin Garcia, Miami's top lefty reliever in 2017, was a starter for most of his Minor League career, and the club is considering giving him a shot to make the rotation in Spring Training.

If Garcia can handle the transition, it would be a big boost to the starting five. According to Statcast™, his average fastball velocity was 94.32 mph, tops among Marlins left-handers.

The concern about switching roles is durability. Garcia has had injury issues in the past. He spent time on the disabled list in August due to a strained left biceps. One reason Garcia was moved to the bullpen a couple of years ago was because of previous arm injuries and questions of whether he could hold up as a starter.

With Class A Greensboro in 2014, Garcia threw 133 1/3 innings in 25 starts. He followed that up with 133 2/3 innings combined at Class A Advanced Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville. He was limited to 50 2/3 innings in '16, and he pitched in the Arizona Fall League.

The topic of Garcia starting was raised in August, and the lefty said he was open to any role.

"My main goal right now is to just help the team and do my best in whatever role they put me in," Garcia said. "If it's a starter or a reliever, I'm just focused on going out there and getting the job done. In the future, maybe I'd like to go back to being a starter, because that's what I've enjoyed. But at the same time, I don't want to lose my spot up here helping the team win. I'd rather help the team win than be a starter."

A native of the Dominican Republic, Garcia has been in the Marlins' system since 2011. He made 89 starts and 22 relief appearances in his Minor League career. In 2016, he appeared in 17 Minor League games, making 12 starts before being moved to the bullpen.

"I like him in the bullpen myself right now," manager Don Mattingly said at the end of the regular season. "But a lot of teams in the past have brought guys up to be bullpen guys, to be comfortable, and then start them."

Garcia opened 2017 at Double-A, but he was promoted to the big leagues on April 14, and he became Miami's top lefty reliever. In 68 games, he had a 4.73 ERA in 53 1/3 innings, striking out 42 and walking 17. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) was 4.23.

As the season progressed, however, Garcia appeared to wear down. Before the All-Star break, his ERA was 3.60, compared to 6.17 in the second half.

With a power fastball, slider and changeup, Garcia induced his share of soft contact. Per Statcast™, the average exit velocity on balls in play off him was 84.9 mph. Among all left-handed pitchers with at least 100 results, Garcia's average exit velocity against ranked 25th in the Majors. For perspective, the Indians' Andrew Miller was first at 81.2 mph, the Astros' Dallas Keuchel was 16th at 84.5 mph and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw was 20th at 84.6 mph.

The Marlins' rotation is wide open. Dan Straily and Jose Urena are front-runners to be on the Opening Day roster. The rest is uncertain. Garcia could be a valuable left-handed addition.

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