Relive all of the ups and downs of the 2023 Miami Marlins with our Fish On First Season Review, filled with detailed articles about a wide variety of players and big-picture topics. The FOF staff analyzes the individual impact that each of them had and what it means for their future with the organization.
This installment focuses on left-hander Braxton Garrett.
- March 29—made Marlins Opening Day roster as a reliever
- April 3—optioned to Triple-A Jacksonville
- April 4—recalled from Triple-A Jacksonville
- October 4—started Game 2 of the NL Wild Card Series
Season stats: 31 G/30 GS, 159.2 IP, 3.66 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 2.9 fWAR (age-25 season)
Too often when analyzing pitchers, we act like “crafty” and “great” are mutually exclusive. Braxton Garrett provided plenty of evidence to the contrary this year. Garrett was genuinely great for a Marlins team that achieved a postseason berth despite flimsy starting rotation depth.
The Marlins opened the 2023 campaign with a rotation of Sandy Alcantara, Jesús Luzardo, Edward Cabrera, Trevor Rogers and Johnny Cueto. That relegated Garrett to a nebulous long man role.
Before they could complete one full turn of the rotation, the injury bug bit: Cueto exited his first outing early with right biceps tightness. Garrett was selected as his initial replacement. Defying even the most optimistic prognostications, he made every scheduled start from that point forward.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Garrett. Adversity struck on May 3 when the Marlins hosted the mighty Atlanta Braves. The Braves erupted for seven runs off of Garrett in the second inning and 11 runs total (all of them earned).
“I just didn’t execute my game plan,” Garrett said postgame. “That’s it. Pitches weren’t good. Everything stunk.”
Garrett seemingly bounced back in his next start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, though you wouldn’t be completely convinced by the final line (5.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR). The walls caved in as he attempted to navigate their order for a third time. The Marlins lost and his earned run average climbed to 5.97.
Garrett truly solidified his rotation spot when he took the mound again on May 14 vs. the Cincinnati Reds. The soft-tossing southpaw stunningly struck out six of his first seven batters faced. The game was still scoreless when he exited in the sixth inning, but the Marlins rallied late to win. From May 14 through the All-Star break, Miami won 10 of Garrett’s 11 starts.
Garrett’s availability to pitch as much as he did was vital and unexpected. His previous single-season career high for MLB/MiLB innings pitched was 125. Including the postseason, he pushed himself to 162 ⅔ this year without compromising the quality of his performance.
In 2023, Major League Baseball’s average four-seam fastball velocity was 94.2 mph, according to Baseball Savant. Meanwhile, the fastest pitch that Garrett threw all season was 93.0 mph. How did he compensate for that? Sharp command and a deep pitch mix.
Garrett utilized six different pitch types this year. His sinker was typically his most-used offering, but he would lean more heavily on his slider or newly engineered cutter in certain matchups. For two months in the middle of the season, he completely shelved his four-seamer. His change-of-pace curveball was his least effective pitch, but he found appropriate times to incorporate it at least once during every appearance. Garrett made himself very difficult for opponents to predict.
Garrett’s success is also a story of collaboration. All 2,480 pitches that he threw in 2023 were received by Nick Fortes. They began working as a battery while playing for the 2019 High-A Jupiter Hammerheads and that familiarity is now paying dividends at the highest level.
Future with the Marlins
Although he’s gotten big league reps in four separate seasons, Garrett has accumulated less than two full years of MLB service time. That means entering 2024, he still isn’t eligible for arbitration. He is poised to be among the best bargains in baseball once again if he can match this season’s workload.
Has Garrett already hit his ceiling as a solid No. 3 starter? The next step for him is demonstrating that he can continue getting outs as his pitch count climbs. Opponents combined for a Ronald Acuña Jr.-like .349/.419/.621 slash line when Garrett was 76 or more pitches into his starts, per Baseball-Reference.
The Marlins still have one more minor league option to use on Garrett in the future if necessary. Health permitting, he’s a lock for an Opening Day rotation spot.
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images