This guy could save us from the next Scott Linebrink (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some internal candidates to round out the White Sox bullpen for this year. One name I omitted was that of Jhan Marinez. Marinez was signed by the Marlins in 2006 as an 18-year old out of the Dominican Republic, and he was one of the two players the White Sox acquired in exchange for Ozzie Guillen. Given how I feel about managers generally, and how I felt about Ozzie at the time of his departure, I consider Marinez to be free talent, and anything he contributes to be a bonus that was won with house money. Coming into 2013, he has only thrown 5.1 innings in the majors, and won’t turn 24 until August. So what can we hope for from Mr. Marinez?
Marinez has apparently always been tabbed as a reliever, which is a little unusual, as prospects with major league hope tend to get tried as a starter at some point just to see if they can handle it. After all, a starter who throws 180-200 innings is far more valuable than a reliever who throws between 40-80 innings a year. Still, Marinez has acquitted himself fairly well, striking out 9.9 batters per 9 throughout the minors, and not allowing very many home runs, although he walks 5.5 per 9. As we saw with Nate Jones, if you miss enough bats and don’t allow home runs, you can get away with a higher walk rate, even though 5.5 is really pushing it. Some of Marinez’ control problems were attributed to a minor elbow injury in 2010, but last year in AAA he posted a rate of 4.3 BB/9, which is a step in the right direction for him. Marinez also looks to have been pitching fine in winter ball this year, throwing another 7.2 innings of similar quality over October, November, and December.
Minor league statistics really only tell you a little piece of the story, and due to a million variables (minor league defenses, talent levels in various leagues at various times, park factors, what the pitcher or hitter is actually working on at a given time, etc. etc.), they can be extremely misleading.
Marinez has always gotten high marks for his fastball, which sits 92-96, and he can reach back for a little more if he so chooses. He also throws a slider that is really deceptive when paired with his fastball. Those are really the only things he throws, and given his slightly lower arm slot he may have trouble getting lefties out. Scouts have seen more control problems than the walk rate would indicate, as when he misses he leaves the ball up, which may not have yielded home runs in the minors, but almost certainly will in the majors. He has a very high ceiling for a reliever, but he needs to prove he can be more durable and improve his command.
It might be that Marinez is in fact the best choice as the last guy on the major league roster. Getting him extra time with Don Cooper may be what is needed for him to take the next step and fully tap into his potential. Relievers are less valuable than position players or starters, but any time you can develop a dominant reliever internally it is a blessing, and Marinez has the arsenal to achieve it. Every time you do that, you acquire another trade chip, and negate the need to go out and sign the next potential Scott Linebrink.