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 reliever Huascar Brazoban.
- March 1—reported to spring training after being delayed by visa issue
- June 13—optioned to Triple-A Jacksonville
- June 17—recalled from Triple-A Jacksonville
- August 3—optioned to Triple-A Jacksonville
- August 5—recalled from Triple-A Jacksonville
- August 14—placed on 15-day injured list (left hamstring strain)
- September 21—sent on minor league rehab assignment to Triple-A Jacksonville
- September 26—activated from 15-day injured list
Season stats: 50 G/0 GS, 58.2 IP, 4.14 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.43 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR (age-33 season)
Huascar Brazoban had been one of MLB’s oldest rookies in 2022. It was a triumph of Miami’s pro scouting staff that he rose all the way to the big leagues after nearly five years away from affiliated ball. He was a cool story during the latter half of a lost season.
Entering this year, the Marlins wanted to find out whether he could be a meaningful contributor to a competitive team. The answer was “yes.”
In an era where most relievers are conditioned to hit the showers after a single inning of action, the Marlins’ usage of Brazoban was refreshingly unconventional. In 19 of his 50 games pitched, he was tasked with recording four or more outs. Although it was an unglamorous role—he only had the satisfaction of finishing off two Marlins wins—he provided substantial value.
Particularly early in the season, Brazoban showed improved control. During a month-long scoreless streak (April 14-May 14), he issued only four walks and no hit batsmen over 15 innings of work. Compared to his rookie campaign, the Dominican right-hander was better at putting away hitters in two-strike counts—opponents had a collective .125/.239/.158 slash line in those situations.
By the end of the aforementioned scoreless streak, Brazoban had pitched in 19 of Miami’s first 41 games, tying him for the team lead. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that his effectiveness waned the rest of the way (5.60 ERA in final 31 G).
Brazoban’s aesthetically pleasing changeup was his most effective pitch, generating an impressive blend of whiffs and soft contact. It was his primary weapon against lefties, accounting for 40.0% of his total pitches against them. Even so, his bottomline results were mediocre when at a platoon disadvantage. Batters OPS’d 200 points higher from the left side.
There is still room for Brazoban to improve in other facets as well. He inherited the most baserunners of any Marlins righty despite not being good at stranding them (37.5% of them scored). He also struggled to manage the running game. Brazoban’s opponents went a perfect 11-for-11 on stolen base attempts, taking bigger leads against him than any other Marlins pitcher, per Baseball Savant.
Both of Brazoban’s demotions to the minors were cut short by injuries to other Marlins pitchers. The only two appearances he actually made for Triple-A Jacksonville came in September while making his way back from his own IL stint.
Future with the Marlins
With all three of his minor league options intact and a pre-arb salary, Brazoban’s place in the Marlins organization seems secure heading into 2024. As long as he maintains mid-90s fastball velocity and decent strike-throwing ability, he’s likely to earn a spot in the Opening Day bullpen.
From there, I will be curious to see how the 34-year-old adjusts his pitch sequencing to maximize the value of his changeup. Brazoban’s best work could still be ahead of him.
Photo by Kevin Barral/Fish On First