Miami Marlins

Jorge Guzman could make his Miami Marlins debut next year, but as starter or reliever?

The Miami Marlins are starting to see what they have in right-handed pitcher Jorge Guzman.

But one question still remains.

When the organization calls him up to make his major-league debut — a move that could happen as early as next season — will he be a starter or a reliever?

It’s a tricky predicament. On one hand, the club views Guzman as a starter. The 23-year-old has shown as of late, at least at the minor-league level, he can handle being a starter.

On the other hand, Guzman’s pitching repertoire — a four-seam fastball that has topped out over 100 mph, a plus slider and serviceable changeup — have the making for a top back-end reliever.

Regardless, Guzman will have to show that he can build on his strong second season in the Marlins organization.

The 23-year-old righty, acquired as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade, posted a 3.50 ERA with 127 strikeouts, 71 walks and a .201 batting average against in 25 games (24 starts) for the Double A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp this year. His 138 2/3 innings pitched this season were by far the most he has thrown in a single season.

And Guzman, the Marlins’ No. 16 overall prospect according to MLBPipeline, only got better as the season progressed.

He allowed just four earned runs in his final five starts, striking out 35 batters and walking just 13 over 30 innings.

“That was my focus in the second half of the season, I started working on my control, and things started coming by themselves,” Guzman told reporters at Marlins Park last week as he and a handful of other Marlins prospects were honored for their minor-league seasons. “All the good things that happened this year came by working hard.”

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There was the potential for Guzman, already on the 40-man roster, to receive a September callup this year. However, the Marlins opted against it considering he had already reached career innings.

“I thought I was going to get the call at any time this month,” Guzman said. “But it didn’t happen. I can’t get desperate because of that. I know there are some things I have to keep working on, and that’s [how] I’m going to use this offseason, to keep working, and hopefully make the team next year.”

He’ll have some competition along the way. Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith are expected to headline the Marlins’ rotation in 2020. Three more spots remain for the likes of Pablo Lopez, Jordan Yamamoto, Robert Dugger, Elieser Hernandez, Jose Urena (if he isn’t moved into a full-time reliever role), Nick Neidert, Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera and potentially Guzman.

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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