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If Anyone Can Fix Jhan Marinez, It’s the Tampa Bay Rays

By Robbie Knopf
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Jhan Marinez‘s name is missing the letter t. It’s one of those funny things–our minds naturally read his name as “Martinez,” and it takes a couple of glances to finally read it correctly. It certainly would have helped, though, if Marinez had achieved more success in the big leagues the last few years.

The other big things missing for Marinez are performances he can hang his hat upon from the last two seasons. The Tampa Bay Rays won’t be finding Marinez a “t” for his last name, but they are the ones with the best chance of anyone at getting his career back on track.

The bad news regarding Jhan Marinez is that he pitched to just a 6.46 ERA in 71 innings between the Triple-A affiliates of the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Double-A club in 2013 and 2014. It’s not as though bad luck is to blame either–he has struck out 10.0 batters per 9 innings, but his 6.3 BB/9 and 1.5 HR/9 are quite terrifying. Marinez’s numbers resemble those put up by a once-promising reliever just before he leaves affiliated ball for good.

On the other hand, Marinez still has a couple of factors working in his favor. He is still quite young, not even turning 27 until August, and his stuff is excellent. In his brief big league time with the Florida Marlins and White Sox, Marinez averaged 95.88 MPH with his fastball to go along with a sharp high-80’s slider. Combine those with some deception in his delivery, and it is not so implausible that Marinez can be a solid big league middle reliever.

Marinez’s issue, though, is always going to be his command. He leaves too many fastballs in hittable spots, and left-handed batters especially have been able to send such pitches a long way. More importantly, Marinez has a terrible track record for throwing strikes. We talked about his walks from the last two years, and while he did have a reasonable 4.3 BB/9 in 2012, his 5.7 career BB/9 in the minor leagues inspires less optimism.

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Instead, if we are going to believe that Jhan Marinez can turn himself around, we should look at how he did once moving onto the Dodgers’ Double-A Chattanooga affiliate. After the Tigers released him, Marinez headed to the Lookouts in June and put up a more reasonable 4.91 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, and 0.4 HR/9 in 22 innings pitched. We should certainly be taking those numbers with a major grain of salt because of the lesser level, but the biggest thing to look at with Marinez is his control, and it is encouraging to see that he threw more strikes.

Marinez’s probability of making the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster out of spring training is exceedingly small. However, the Rays will give him one more chance at Triple-A, and if he can keep the ball over the plate, he has the stuff to return to the major leagues. The Durham Bulls needed a few relievers, and it always nice to fill one of the spots with a pitchers who still has upside.

The Rays always like to find reclamation projects that come with overpowering stuff and little financial risk. Jhan Marinez fits that label quite well, and while 2015 could be the year that teams officially view him as a lost cause, there is also the chance that the Rays will look brilliant for signing him to a minor league deal.

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