CORONAVIRUS Sports Tracker: Frequent Updates

The widespread coronavirus outbreak has impacted professional and collegiate sports across the nation.

Most recent at the top….

Hey, finally some good news!

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THE MASTERS is now postponed. Could mark first time in history that the tournament is not played in April.


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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP is now cancelled, along with every PGA event till the first week of April.

…..

Charles Barkley is among the latest to self-quarantine.

 

The Heat are working on something to help arena workers. More details to come.

 

Some NBA teams are doing the right thing.

 

Dwyane Wade doesn’t understand what the local school officials here are doing.

 

The XFL has caved. So much for the rebirth… for now.

 

It’s now infecting international soccer.

 

NBA will be suspended for 30 days.

Essentially that means the regular season is over.

 

Goodbye March Madness.

 

More details on the NBA coming soon.

 

Dan Gilbert is ahead of Micky Arison on something.

One league seems intent on outlasting all the others.

The entire ACC has postponed spring practice for all teams, which may also put the Hurricanes spring game in jeopardy.

 

Fans of the Marlins will have to wait a few extra weeks…

The American Airlines Arena has canceled all major events for the rest of March.

 

There will also be no NFL Spring meeting in Palm Beach for the time being.

 

 

The National Hockey League has suspended their season as well.

 

 

 

The Florida Atlantic University basketball season is over….

NFL now headed for a shutdown. Hard to see how free agency proceeds as scheduled…

So much for that InterMiami home debut.

Yes, it is already affecting prep for the NFL draft.

We are now waiting on the NHL.

A second NBA star has been diagnosed.

 

After it was learned Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, the NBA has suspended the season indefinitely.

 

The NCAA had already announced that all men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be held without fans.

 

Locally, besides the Miami Heat other sporting events are being cancelled or postponed including the upcoming Miami Open.

 

Predicting the Marlins Opening Day Rotation

The Marlins rotation enters the 2020 Spring Training with an abundance of starting pitching options. However, there are only five spots up for grabs, maybe even six if Don Mattingly sees fit. Nonetheless, spots in the rotation are limited but, who would take those spots? Let’s start off with who SHOULDN’T be in the rotation on opening day.

Who Shouldn’t be in The Rotation

First is Jose Ureña. Ureña does have decent numbers as a starter but I don’t think he should even be with the Marlins on Opening Day. He would just be taking a spot from a more deserving prospect such as Sixto Sanchez. A trade would be preferable before the start of the season but if not, another move to the bullpen would be sufficient.

Second would be Elieser Hernandez. Don’t get me wrong, Hernandez was one of our best pitchers last year and when he was called upon to be a starter, he didn’t disappoint. However, I think he should be moved to the bullpen. With his experience as a starter, he could be used in a long-relief type of position while refraining from taking a starter spot from a promising prospect.

 Who Should be in The Rotation (In Order)

Sandy Alcantara should definitely be the Opening Day starter for the Marlins after his All-Star season in 2019. He was electric, exciting to watch, and the fans loved to watch him pitch because more times than not he gave them a performance worth watching. He was the Marlins’ only representative at the 2019 All-Star game in Cleveland.  He finished the season with 3.88 ERA while logging 197.1 innings pitched, 151 strikeouts, and batters hit for a .241 average against him. Not too shabby for his rookie year. A look at Alcantara below. (via @Marlins)

The second spot in the rotation should go to Caleb Smith. Smith had a promising first-half for the Marlins during the 2019 season. In 13 starts he accumulated a 3.50 ERA, 88 strikeouts and hitters were only hitting for a .201 average against him. He was receiving national media attention for the success he was having as the Marlins’ ace before he went down with an injury in early June. After spending a month on the injured list, he wasn’t the same when he came back. Smith finished the season with a 10-11 record, a 4.52 ERA while logging 153.1 innings pitched with 168 strikeouts. Video of Smith below. (via @Marlins)

The third rotation spot should go to Pablo Lopez. Pablo has great stuff and has showed promise when he is on the field. Lopez was placed on the injured list on June 19th and didn’t return to the rotation until August 26th. Before going on the injured list, Pablo was 6-5 with a 4.23 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 76.2 innings pitched, he was doing quite well was showing much promise before going down with a shoulder injury yet again. A look at the movement of Pablo’s pitches below.               (via @AugustineMLB)

The fourth rotation spot should be where Jordan Yamamoto will end up. Yamamoto shined during his first six starts he started with a 4-0 record with a 1.59 ERA in 34 innings pitched with 34 strikeouts. He was also receiving national media attention because of the hot streak he was on during his first six career starts. Towards the end of July, he started to have command issues and his numbers began to spiral downhill which was expected to come from a rookie starting pitcher. Nobody expected his hot streak to last the rest of the season. A look at Yamamoto attached below. (via @MLBPipeline)

The fifth rotation spot in my honest opinion should go to Marlins top prospect Sixto Sanchez. Sixto is ranked as the 5th best starting pitching prospect in all of baseball and is ranked 22nd in MLBPipeline’s top 100. He spent his 2019 season in the minor leagues and he was impressive. In 103 innings pitched, he accumulated an 8-4 record with a 2.53 ERA while striking out 97 hitters. He is a ground-ball producing machine but his ability to control all of his pitches including his offspeed such as a changeup and breaking balls while having plus movement on his fastball that constantly reaches triple digits. Sanchez will be placed on an innings plan and where better place to monitor that the innings plan is being followed than in the major league rotation.

A look at Sixto is below. (via @Jasenelpartido)

Related:

Winslow, Butler Practice for Miami Heat, Will Travel

For all their success this year, the Miami Heat have yet to accomplish one important goal . . . fielding a healthy roster.  The Heat came into the season missing their newly signed superstar, Jimmy Butler, due to the birth of his first child.  And there were the self-inflicted setbacks, most notably from high-paid reserves Dion Waiters and James Johnson.

But most concerning has been the rash of injuries that has plagued the Heat’s back court rotation of Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic.  The injuries to both of Miami’s point guards has led to an increased burden on Butler and a “playoff-style” rotation of 8 or 9 players that has seemingly shown in weary legs at the end of road games and back to back scenarios.  Even with Dragic’s recent return and stellar play, the shortened rotation has still been in place thanks to the uneven play of forwards Kelly Olynyk and Chris Silva.

Reinforcements, however, look to be on the way with a breakout game from Johnson Sunday night against the Blazers.  Johnson’s size, playmaking ability and defense were on display for the first time in months as he finally received the nod from Coach Erik Spoelstra with Butler taking the night off.  “We stay ready around here,” replied Johnson when asked how he was able to shake off the rust of weeks on the bench to impact the game in such a fashion.

And it would seem that the return of Winslow may be on the horizon as he was upgraded to questionable on Sunday night, even though he didn’t play.  Monday Winslow was seen swimming with dolphins and teammate Bam Adebayo and Tuesday Spoelstra told media that he practiced with the team and was travelling to Indiana for Wednesday’s game against the Pacers, a positive sign.

Butler practiced with the team as well, which is a good signal that he will be available as well on Wednesday night.  So a fully healthy Heat squad is finally a real possibility in the coming days which should be a welcome sign to Spoelstra and his staff, as well as present new rotation challenges.  But after weeks of riding an 8-man rotation, those are great challenges to have.

Recap of The Marlins Offseason Before The 2020 Season

The Marlins have had a rather successful offseason despite not reeling in any of the prized free agents. From the start, attracting big free agents such as Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strausburg, and Anthony Rendon was never in the Marlins plans for this offseason. Bringing in veterans on short term deals while upgrading the line-up has been the plan. Low risk, high reward.

Staring The Offseason 

To start off their offseason, the Marlins designated two players for assignment, J.T Riddle, and Tayron Guerrero. J.T Riddle elected free agency while Tayron Guerrero was claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox. The Marlins grew weary of Guerrero’s inability to throw strikes consistently. throwing 100mph does no good if it isn’t in the zone. Designating Riddle for assignment was to make room on the 40 man roster.

Adding Bats

After subtracting two players from their team, it was time the Marlins added to their team. The team made a trade with the Baltimore Orioles to acquire Jonathan Villar for Minor League left-handed pitcher Easton Lucas.

Villar hit for a .274 average, 24 home runs, 73 runs batted in, and he stole 40 bases for the Orioles last season. Villar has the speed and power combination that is perfect for Marlins Park especially now that the fences have been brought in. His power side is hitting from the left side and hitting a home run to left field is easier to do than to right field.

Villar can play a multitude of positions including second base, shortstop, third base, and some outfield if he needed to.

Shortly after acquiring Jonathan Villar from the Orioles, the Marlins claimed first baseman, Jesus Aguilar, from the Tampa Bay Rays off waivers. The Marlins needed to fill a power hole in their line up. They ranked last in all of Major League Baseball in hitting home runs and desperately need some power bats in their line up.

Aguilar did not have a spectacular year last season but he does have a reputation to be an elite power hitter like he was in Milwaukee back in the 2017 season. He hit for a .236 average, 12 home runs, and 50 RBIs last season for the Rays.

With the hiring of new hitting coach/offensive coordinator  James Rowson, it’s possible that we see an upstep in production from underproducing hitters like Aguilar.

Hitting the Free Agent Market

After making trades and claiming players off waivers, the Marlins finally dug into the free-agent market. They started off free agency by bringing in strike-throwing reliever Yimi Garcia on a two-year deal. Garcia was previously with the Los Angeles Dodgers and in 62.1 innings pitched, he posted a 3.61 ERA with a .178 opponent batting average against him.

After signing Garcia, the Marlins went and signed more bats. Bringing in outfielder Matt Kemp on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Kemp hardly played last season but in 2018 he hit for a .290 average while hitting 21 home runs and driving in 85 RBIs and leading the Dodgers to the World Series.

The first biggest free-agent signing made by this new ownership is the signing of outfielder Corey Dickerson. The Marlins signed Dickerson to a two-year $17.5 million dollar deal. In 2019, Dickerson hit for a .304 average, 12 home runs, and 59 RBIs in 260 at-bats.

The Marlins recently signed veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli to a one year contract. Cervelli will provide a veteran catcher presence and will help develop our young pitchers into potential aces. 

Rule 5 Draft

The Rule 5 Draft wasn’t very exciting this year. The Marlins’ biggest move however from the draft was selecting RHP Sterling Sharp from the Washington Nationals. Sharp is an excellent pickup who will go directly into the Marlins bullpen to start the 2020 season if he is healthy. Sharp produced a 3.53 ERA in 58.1 innings pitched while allowing only ONE homerun. He is a groundball specialist and will prove to be very useful for the Marlins bullpen needs.

 

Who is a Perfect Fit for Marlins?

The Marlins are determined to sign impact bats to help bolster their lineup of young players this offseason. The only question is who should they sign? There have been reports that the Marlins are interesting in bringing in free-agent outfielders Nicholas Castellanos, Avisail Garcia or perhaps a reunion with Marcel Ozuna. However, in my opinion, the one option that I believe would be more cost-friendly for the club after they burned $22 million dollars to release Wei-Yin Chen would be Yasiel Puig.

Puig hit for a .267 average while belting 24 home runs and driving in 84 RBIs during the 2019 season. His stats may not be eye-opening but for a Miami lineup who struggled to hit for power, it could be the boost they need for more run production. They say hitting is contagious and when Puig gets going, so does the rest of the line-up. (Video credit to @Starting9)

 

So, why would the Marlins go after Puig when Castellanos, Ozuna, and Garcia are on the table? Puig is from Cuba and Miami who has a vast Cuban population would go well together. Puig has a lot of energy and could provide a spark that the team along with their fans have been missing.

Fans from all over love Puig because of the antics he performs on the field, whether he’s on the opposing team or not, fans cheer him on because of his electric personality. His competitive nature brings some enjoyment and an energy boost to the long nine-inning games. Everyone knows Yasiel Puig, and to be quite honest with you, his name alone could draw in more fans to Marlins Park. 

Whether the team is down or up, Puig plays the game with the energy as if it was Game 7 of the World Series. If the Marlins do take a chance on Puig, he would be the first Cuban born player on the team since Jose Fernandez. Believe me, the Marlins and their fans need a player like Puig. They should not overlook his ability to bring up the energy and to mentor the younger players. Speaking of his energy and the World Series, here’s a video. (credit to @SportsCenter)

He has played on the game’s biggest stage more than once so he has the experience that many players don’t and the Marlins could use that to their advantage in developing their young core. He has been through his failures and has been able to overcome them and he has had his successes. Providing lessons on how to overcome those failures and to sustain those successes would be a huge lesson that Puig would be able to provide.

Miami Marlins designate Wei-Yin Chen for assignment in 40-man roster crunch

The Miami Marlins have finalized their 40-man roster by Wednesday’s deadline to set their 40-man roster in advance of the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. in order to protect prized prospects from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft a week from today at the conclusion of the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Pricy pitcher Wei-Yin Chen was the odd man out and was designated for assignment. This means the Marlins now have seven days to try to trade him or release him.

Trading Chen will be difficult, as he comes with a salary of $22M in 2020. He finished the 2019 season with a 6.59 ERA in 45 appearances as a reliever.

“This decision was not about money,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said on a conference call. “It was about building the best and deepest 40-man roster, to allow us to compete in 2020 and beyond.”

It may feel like a hard thing to do but it was also the right thing to do. Chen finished the season with a -1.1 WAR. That means any of the minor league prospects that were added to their 40-man roster would have a much more positive impact on their record than Chen.

Having signed a five-year, $80 million contract in 2016, Chen was supposed to be the missing piece to the Marlins’ starting rotation behind Jose Fernandez. Unfortunately, it never materialized. His best year was 2017 when he recorded a 3.82 ERA but that year was curtailed by injury. In 2018, he had a 4.79 ERA but somehow posted a 1.62 ERA in 13 home starts.

The Marlins opted to move Chen to the bullpen in order to load their rotation with young studs such as Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards to go with Jose Urena at the start of last year. This experiment fell flat from the start and Chen was reduced to being the human white flag. It was better to move on rather than spend another season hiding him in the bullpen only to send him out when the game is already a lost cause.

Chen may end up with another team in spring training and try to capture a starting pitching role. It would most likely be for the league minimum and the Marlins will still be on the hook for vast majority of his 2020 salary.

Not the only expensive dump

Designating and potentially releasing Chen wasn’t the most expensive player to get left off a roster this week. The New York Yankees released Jacoby Ellsbury with $21 million remaining on the seven-year, $153 million contract he signed prior to the 2014 season. The Yankees are also on the hook for a $5 million buyout for the 2021 season. Ellsbury hasn’t played a game in the last two season due to injury.

Who made the Marlins 40-man roster

The Marlins filled their roster openings with pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, Nick Neidert and Humberto Mejia, along with shortstop Jazz Chisholm and first baseman Lewin Diaz. Those prospects, which the exception of Cabrera and Mejia, were acquired in trades. Sanchez, the No. 1 ranked Marlins prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was acquired in the JT Realmuto trade with Philadelphia. The Marlins got Neidert from Seattle for Dee Gordon, Chisholm from Arizona for Zac Gallen, and Diaz from Minnesota for a Single-A prospect and Sergio Romo.

The Marlins left out Will Stewart, Tommy Eveld, Bryson Brigman, Dylan Lee and Christopher Torres, which leaves them open for selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Eveld and Brigman were acquired in 2018 trade deadline period for veterans Cam Maybin and Brad Ziegler. Torres was a part of the same trade package as Neidert to the Seattle Mariners for Dee Gordan prior to 2018. Stewart was part of the Realmuto Trade and while his stats in Single-A weren’t so hot, he did show flashes of a potential big leaguer.

“It is a challenge, and it’s a good challenge to have,” Hill said. “As we’ve built the layers of talent throughout the system, we still believe he is a very good Major League prospect.”

If a player is taken in the Rule 5 Draft, he would have to make the opening day roster or be sent back to his original franchise.

Miami Heat (8-3) Need to Keep Feasting on Bottom Feeders

The Miami Heat (8-3) are sitting pretty in a dreadful Eastern Conference where only six teams have winning records so far.

After two closer than expected wins against Detroit and Cleveland, Miami looks to get healthy against more subpar opponents in the coming days.

Beginning Saturday when they meet the 3-8 New Orleans Pelicans, the Heat will only face two teams with winning records to close out November.

So far the Heat have taken care of business when they should, as five of their eight wins are against sub .500 teams.

Miami has only lost to the Timberwolves, Nuggets, and Lakers who are a combined 24-8 this season.

While also taking care of business on the road at Milwaukee (8-3) and Phoenix (7-4) and blowing out the 8-3 Rockets 129-100 at home.

The Heat have a quick two game home stand which kicks off against the 3-8 Pelicans who are near the bottom out West without Anthony Davis and top pick Zion Williamson.

New Orleans is still scoring at an impressive clip (118.4 PPG, 3rd) but are atrocious on the other end, giving up the most points in the NBA at 122.8 per game.

Like Miami, New Orleans also struggles with turnovers giving it up over 17 times per contest, while allowing teams to shoot 47.4% from the field (24th in the NBA).

Miami is a middle of the pack scoring offense but so far excelling on defense, this should continue against New Orleans.

To close out the home set the Heat will host Cleveland, whom they just dispatched 108-97 on Thursday.

The Cavaliers are polar opposites of the Pelicans, Cleveland is tied for 25th in the NBA scoring just 105.3PPG, but allows a respectable 107.1 PPG which is 11th league-wide.

Cleveland has scored 97 or fewer points in four out of 11 games (all losses) and should again struggle with an elite Heat defensive unit.

Miami will then travel to Chicago to kick off a stretch where they play six out of eight games on the road. Jimmy Butler will face his former Bulls team for the first time in a Heat uniform, Butler spent the first six seasons of his career in Chicago.

Chicago (4-8) has lost seven of ten games and have allowed the most points off of turnovers in the NBA. If Miami can play a clean offensive game that should be a recipe for a nice road win. The Bulls are the 4th worst shooting team in the league at 43.3%, playing right into Miami’s hands.

Things get tougher after that as the Heat will visit the other team in Butler’s past, the Philadelphia 76ers. This rivalry has become more contentious and now that Josh Richardson is in Philly it makes it even more interesting.

You know Butler and the Heat circled this game on the calendar.

Miami must keep cleaning up on lesser opponents which has been an issue in seasons past, all wins count whether in November or May and the Heat must stockpile as the schedule becomes more difficult in the second half of the season.

Follow us on Twitter for more exclusive Miami Heat coverage @5ReasonsSports.

Subscribe to the 5 on the Floor Heat podcast here.

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Miami Sports…are They Becoming Good Again?

The ever changing Miami sports landscape has been on a steady trend downward since the end of the “Big 3 era” of Miami Heat basketball.

Now there were some amazing moments since then, such as Dwyane Wade’s Last Dance and the Miami Miracle.

Those fleeting instances have been sandwiched between years of mediocrity.

The Marlins tore it all down, again.

The Heat had a bloated, ineffective roster.

We all know where Adam Gase left the Dolphins.

Manny Diaz is trying to bring the Hurricanes back.

Even the Panthers, a team with legitimate playoff aspirations recently, has disappointed.

Expecting anything different has become an annual disappointment.

Until now.

Dolphins Vision Unfolding

All of a sudden there is exciting and competitive football being played by the Miami Dolphins.

Who for once are actually exceeding expectations.

Yet we still aren’t happy.

Brian Flores has steadily guided a team lacking NFL level talent across multiple positions into a disciplined and passionate group.

Flores and his coaching staff are developing players and proving it “Takes No Talent” to compete.

Chris Grier has a war chest of draft capital, and actual capital of about 140M to quickly add top tier free agents.

With a shot at a franchise quarterback to boot.

For once the Dolphins have a plan and the cast to execute and deliver a winner.

Culture Shock

The Miami Heat seem to have figured out their roster around a true star in Jimmy Butler.

And are interesting as hell.

 

Getting back to their defensive identity and bringing back the “Culture” led by Butler has galvanized a young roster.

Currently the Heat rank fourth in defensive rating and third in steals per game (9.6). Miami also ranks in the top ten league wide in points-per-game allowed (105.7, 6th) steals (96, 5th) and overall defensive FG% (.437, 9th).

Smart perimeter defense has been key, the Heat lead the NBA in 3-point FG% allowed at just 28.9%. Only Miami and Oklahoma City are holding teams under 30% from deep as of November 13th.

 

Hassan Whiteside went to Portland which paved the way for Bam Adebayo to become the all around catalyst we see before us. Before being sidelined with a concussion, Justise Winslow was taking a huge step forward as well.

Finally the Heat have a cohesive roster that fits their style of play and identity, in a wide open Eastern Conference the Heat are suddenly poised for a home playoff series if they stay on track.

Cardiac Cats

In Sunrise the Florida Panthers under new coach Joel Quenneville are playing exciting, action packed hockey. Florida has won their last two games by an 11-9 margin…that’s a lot of goals!

After making franchise history with a four goal rally against Boston this week, the Panthers are showing tremendous toughness and resolve in late game pressure situations.

 

In the two wins against Boston and New York the Panthers outscored them 5-0 in the third period. Despite shaky goaltending and defense the Cats have found a way to get it done in the final 20 minutes.

It helps to have a top ten offense on your side, Aleksander Barkov has points in six straight games entering Thursday’s action and the power play continues to dominate.

Florida ranks second with the man advantage, converting 26.8% of their power play opportunities.

If the Panthers can figure out their issues on the blue line and in goal to support a dynamic offense, they have a great chance of making the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.

Hurricanes’ Season a Tale of two Teams

The Miami Hurricanes football team has had a polarizing season to say the least.

From quarterback uncertainty and losses against inferior teams early in the year, to blowout wins and record breaking performances – the 2019 Miami Hurricanes have kept fans on the edge of their seats.

After an uneven start to the season on offense, Jarren Williams has settled in as QB1 and hitting the big plays that were missing earlier in the year.

 

The Hurricanes have won three straight in ACC play by a combined margin of 95-49, after starting conference play 1-3 the turnaround has been drastic.

On the other side of the ball the defense has been wrecking house led by new and older names alike.

Senior linebackers Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman have experienced a resurgence of energy and effectiveness.

While Gregory Rousseau went from out of the starting lineup to the best defensive lineman in the ACC, and one of the best in all of college football.

 

The Hurricanes have a star in the making both under center and at defensive end, two of the most important positions in football.

And they are both freshman.

With a coaching staff starting to figure it out and a favorable ACC Coastal division to call home, the sun is shining bright in Coral Gables.

Don’t Forget About us!

While the teams that are in action in November are getting all the attention, there are more great storylines in Miami sports on the way.

The Marlins have quietly built one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.

Oh yeah, we are getting professional soccer too!

We could be saying this time next year “what a time to be a Miami sports fan”

A statement that is well deserved and long overdue.

Follow us on Twitter for all things Miami sports @FiveReasonsSports and @SportsWaveDave.

Photo by Tony Capobianco.

Josh Rosen out, Ryan Fitzpatrick in for Dolphins

Brian Flores clearly wants to win, even if the Miami Dolphins organization does not.

And in that context, he’s gone back to Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter at quarterback, as the Dolphins travel to Buffalo.

That means Josh Rosen, after three starts and an overall 52.0 passer rating for the entire season, is back on the bench. And it means there will be much debate about whether it was worth trading a second-round pick to Arizona for him, and whether he has any future with this franchise.

Rosen was repeatedly hurried and hit in Sunday’s loss to Washington, but his performance also paled in comparison to that of Fitzpatrick, who rallied the Dolphins to within 17-16 before a two-point conversion failed.

And Rosen hasn’t been that good when given time either, as our Chris Kouffman of Three Yards Per Carry noted:

And Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post has a sentiment that is similar to ours.

Rosen may have been put in a terrible spot. Awful offensive line. So-so skill players. A coaching staff that, at times, has seemed clueless or worse.

But he hasn’t shown much either. Some escapability and improvisation. Some toughness. But not much special in terms of arm strength or anticipation. And it’s clear that Flores hasn’t been satisfied with his command of the offense.

We thought that, at worst, Rosen would compete with the next quarterback — likely drafted this April — to be the starter at the start of next season. Now that appears unlikely.

Fitzpatrick? Well, he is what he is.

Buffalo is one of his former teams, and Fitzpatrick knows that stadium and the conditions well. The Bills are good, really good, but it shouldn’t stun anyone if there’s some FitzMagic on Sunday. Flores clearly wants that. Do you? Does Steve Ross?

Marlins prospect Alex Vesia is torching the Arizona Fall League

At 10-5, the Salt River Rafters have the best record in the Arizona Fall League, and is in part, thanks to Alex Vesia. This is relevant considering that this is the team that includes seven Marlins high level prospects.

The Rafters roster is comprised of top prospects from the Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rays and Twins. Their best reliever so far in the season has been Alex Vesia, who has yet to give up a run in six games while striking out 10 batters.

That alone is impressive but when compounded with the fact that he finished the minor league season not giving up a run in nine games at Double-A Jacksonville while striking out 25 in 16.1 innings, then it looks like the Marlins’ next closer is on the way.

Most of the prospects that play in the Arizona Fall League find themselves in the big leagues not too long after. Case in point is Giancarlo Stanton, the slugger formerly known as “Mike.” He was in the Arizona Fall League in 2009 and made his MLB debut in June 8, 2010.

So consider who are falling victim to Vesia’s vicious velocity. Joe Rizzo is the Seattle Mariners’ 16th ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline and Vesia struck him out swinging on three 93-94 MPH fastballs this past Saturday. Greyson Jenista is the Atlanta Braves 11th ranked prospect. After drawing a full count against Vesia on Oct. 2, a series of foul balls and a 92 MPH fastball did him in. Micker Adolfo (No. 11, White Sox) struck out swinging twice in the same week against him. Elehuris Montero (No. 4, Cardinals) is the highest ranked prospect that Vesia struck out.

Vesia’s first performance was his best in the AFL. Zack Short (No. 9, Cubs), Greg Deichmann (No. 17, Athletics) and Nick Allen (No. 6, Athletics) all struck out swinging on the same fastball that has plagued every prospect that’s faced him.

It’s amazing to believe that his minor league season began in Low A Clinton and ended with 100 strikeouts in 66.2 innings through three different levels. At this point, there’s a good chance he joins the Marlins bullpen in 2020 as the next Nick Anderson.