With a 4.49 ERA including 6.91 in the month of June, the Miami Marlins’ bullpen needs help. Viable assistance is thriving just nine and a half hours away from loanDepot park as Josh Simpson has continued turning in strings of lights-out innings for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Who is Simpson and how soon could we see him in a Marlins uniform?
Josh Simpson has been through a lot in his four-year career. As a 6’2” lefty out of a cold weather state, his name wasn’t spoken much leading into the 2019 MLB Draft. Because of those stigmas, the Marlins were able to pluck him off the board in the 32nd round.
From there, Simpson’s timeline is very turbulent. Almost immediately, Miami converted Simpson from starter to reliever and he turned in solid numbers for the short season Batavia Muckdogs. Then 2020 happened, challenging all Minor League Baseball players, including Simpson. During that process though, Simpson not only stayed active, he went back to the lab, completely modifying everything related to his game.
“That COVID year, to me… it gave you time to sit down and that was what was going to separate you from guys who really wanted to work and get their stuff done on their own or kind of take that time to relax,” Simpson said. “I reworked my whole repertoire, my mechanics, my pitches just trying to make everything as good as I possibly could.”
The soon-to-be 25 year old faced his next test in 2021 when an injury kept him out of action for nearly two months. The Marlins attempted to make up for the lost time and build Simpson’s arm back up by re-inserting him into the rotation at A+, leading to some inflated numbers. He also participated in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League where more crooked figures were put up against him. Simpson describes 2021 as a learning curve season and this past offseason as his ‘a-ha’ moment.
“I think last year was a little bit of getting adjusted and kind of understanding who I was as a pitcher. Going out there every time and not necessarily knowing what was going to happen,” Simpson said. “This offseason, I think I just kind of found what worked for me best and the way I can go out there and be as consistent as I can every time.”
Despite his past trials and tribulations, the Marlins challenged Simpson to the AA level. There, he has put polish on his reworked craft quickly become one of the best relievers in the organization. In 31 innings, Simpson is holding down a 2.90 ERA via an even 1.00 WHIP. Amongst AA South pitchers with at least 30 IP, those figures rank ninth and sixth. Minus one rough outing in which he allowed five of his 10 earned runs, he would have a 1.45 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. If that weren’t impressive enough, Simpson is the best strikeout pitcher in his league with a 45.1% K rate. His latest gem was a 2 IP, 1 H, 5 K two out save. After that outing, veteran starter Bryan Mitchell spoke highly of his first impressions of Simpson.
“I’ve only gotten to see him a few times now but his curveball is really, really good and he’s got velo to go with it,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t worried at all about him coming in behind me.”
An Ivy League student, Simpson knew very early in his playing career he would need a plus breaking pitch to succeed. A main reason for his dominance has been the polish he’s put on the aforementioned nasty sweeping curveball that sits in the mid-70s. Simpson describes the pitch as his bread and butter.
“When I was younger, being a lefty and undersized and not necessarily going to dominate guys with the heater so I always relied on my offspeed stuff and I think that kind of stuck with me and it’s blossomed into the pitch it is now,” Simpson said. “It’s definitely been solid for me so far.”
Coupled with a dancing fastball that sits around 93 but can touch 95, Simpson has shown impeccable command, a good mix of speeds and an overall incredible pitcher’s IQ capable of speeding up the game and stifling hard contact. Simpson would have been exposed to the Rule 5 draft last season if there were a Major League portion. That will now happen this coming offseason if he is not added to the big league roster. Starving for scoreless relief innings, Simpson is the best in-house option Miami has. He should keep a packed bag close by.