The Miami Marlins promoted relief pitcher Nick Wittgren to the major league roster yesterday. He got into action quickly, making his big league debut against the Washington Nationals and giving up a walk to the only hitter he faced. More chances will come and here is what to expect.
First, the basics from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Nick Wittgren, RHP, Miami Marlins
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-3 WT: 210 DOB: May 29, 1991
2013: Grade C; 2014: Grade B-; 2015: Grade C+
The Marlins have several promising bullpen candidates and Nick Wittgren is another one, ready for a big league trial following a strong 2015 season in Triple-A. Despite strong K/IP ratios he doesn’t have a blazing fastball, working in the low-90s, but his curveball is very effective, he’s made progress with a splittery change-up, his delivery adds deception, and his command is excellent. He also has the mound presence and fearless attitude desired in a closer. Most teams want gaudier MPH readings in save situations so Wittgren may wind up as a middle man, but on a per-inning basis there are fewer minor league relievers with better resumes. Don’t under-estimate him. Grade C+.
Wittgren was off to a good start in 2016, throwing 5.1 innings over four games with Triple-A New Orleans, giving up two hits, two walks, two runs, while fanning six and collecting a save in his only conversion opportunity. He was very effective in Triple-A last year (3.03 ERA in 62.1 innings, with 19 saves and an excellent 64/8 K/BB), and has little left to prove in the Pacific Coast League.
Originally a ninth round pick out of Purdue in 2012, Wittgren offers a classic middle relief profile. Command is his best attribute so last night's walk against the Nationals (on a 3-2 pitch to Anthony Rendon with runners on second and third) was atypical and not representative of what to expect over a larger sample.
That was a tight situation for a rookie to make his debut, an interesting decision on the part of Marlins manager Don Mattingly. It will be fascinating to see if Wittgren is thrown into the fire again soon or if he's given a chance to get his feet wet in less critical spots.
As noted in the book comment, Wittgren doesn't offer exceptional velocity but his track record is impeccable. For fantasy purposes his value will depend on the availability of save opportunities. It is hard to say if those will come or not, but he should at least be a source for quality filler innings eventually.