Even after trading Pablo López for Luis Arraez as part of their effort to overhaul the lineup, the Marlins go into 2023 with a strong group of starting pitchers. Defending Cy Young award winner Sandy Alcantara is followed by Jesús Luzardo, Trevor Rogers and offseason pickup Johnny Cueto. The fifth spot has at least been a bit up in the air, with each of Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera having a case for the job out of camp.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes that Cabrera appears to have moved ahead of Garrett on the depth chart. Cabrera has had the edge with regards to Spring Training performance. He’s tossed five innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts and a pair of walks; Garrett, on the other hand, has been tagged for ten runs in 9 1/3 frames with seven punchouts, three walks and a hit batter.
There are certainly more important factors in the club’s decision than small-sample performances in exhibition games. One could argue Cabrera entered camp with the upper hand given his prospect status and higher-octane stuff. The right-hander worked to a 3.01 ERA over 14 starts last year, a solid rookie showing in spite of elbow tendinitis that resulted in a six-week injured list stint. Cabrera averaged north of 96 MPH on his fastball and generated swinging strikes on an excellent 13.3% of his total pitches. That power stuff had previously gotten him onto Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list each season from 2020-22.
The only area of concern for the 24-year-old Cabrera was some inconsistency in his strike-throwing. He walked an elevated 11.3% of batters faced, relying on an unsustainable 86.1% strand rate and .207 batting average on balls in play to keep his ERA around 3.00. Cabrera’s season was overwhelmingly positive overall, though, and the organization no doubt anticipates him pitching alongside Alcantara and Luzardo towards the top of the staff for years to come.
Garrett, 25, is a former seventh overall pick and top prospect in his own right. His stock had dimmed a bit in recent years thanks to inconsistent minor league performances. Garrett had a quietly strong 2022 campaign, though, posting a 3.15 ERA in seven Triple-A starts. More impressively, he worked to a 3.58 ERA with better than average strikeout (24.1%), walk (6.4%) and ground-ball (47.8%) numbers in 17 big league outings. Garrett’s 11.8% swinging strike percentage was solid despite a pedestrian 91.4 MPH average fastball.
Both Cabrera and Garrett figure to get into the Miami rotation throughout the season, as virtually no team goes through a 162-game schedule without any injuries. It’d seem Cabrera is trending towards first crack, with Jackson suggesting that Miami is likelier to option Garrett to Triple-A Jacksonville than have him start the season in long relief at the MLB level. The Alabama native has one minor league option year remaining, as does Cabrera.