Last season, Fish Stripes discussed the Miami Marlins' 2013 Keys to Success in an attempt to spot a few of the team's promising young players in a transition year for the team. The idea was that the Marlins' goal was not to do well in 2013, which was a lost campaign following an ugly fire sale trade, but instead to spot the next wave of excellence among a group of promising players. A number of those players were auditioning for long-term jobs for Miami and looking to be a part of the next great Marlins core.
How did that experiment go in Miami? We pointed out five players last February, and now we are going to take the time to examine just how well or poorly their 2013 seasons went in terms of identifying success for Miami. The expectation was never to hit on all of the players, but did the Fish find some diamonds in the rough?
The Marlins wanted Turner, who was the key to the Anibal Sanchez trade, to pan out in a major way. He was only a year removed from being regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, but he struggled at the Triple-A level and was dealt low by the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers as an organization typically rush their starters up the minors in a flash, and this was no different for the supposedly polished Turner.
But maybe that promotion schedule affected him as well. Turner whiffed entirely last season. He struggled in Spring Training and taking a preseason demotion to Triple-A, then he struggled in a short time period there. When injuries forced the Marlins' hand, they brought Turner to the bigs, and while he started fast, he ended ugly. There was a notorious second-half stretch of play during which Turner walked what seemed like five times as many hitters as he struck out, including a two-game stretch with just one strikeout and 11 walks. Turner's season ended prematurely due to an innings limit, but that might have been a good thing for Marlins fans.
Brantly was also picked up in that Tigers trade, and he too got spend some time in the majors impressing in 2012. Unfortunately, his 2013 season went nothing like 2012. Whereas Brantly showed off contact skills and passable power for a catcher in 2012, he displayed none of those skills at any point in 2013. Instead of showing off the vaunted contact skill he had in the minors, he whiffed in almost 22 percent of plate appearances. Instead of posting a respectable .321 BABIP, Brantly collapsed intoa .267 mark and hit just .211 as a result. Instead of showing his unexpected power from the year before, Brantly popped just one homer in 246 plate appearances and ended up being as weak a bat as Jeff Mathis
All of Brantly's 2013 season was lost, and it cost him. Not only is he not on the Marlins' list of potential young core members, but he is not even being considered for a job in that department. After the disaster that was catchers at the plate in 2013 for the Fish, Miami filled out their catching vacancy with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who figures to be here for a little while. Brantly, in the meanwhile, has been pushed aside to the minors and may never get a significant Major League shot.
Eovaldi made it back to this season's list after a strong sophomore performance. A 3.39 ERA followed by a 3.59 FIP showed that Eovaldi was legitimately decent last year, even if the primary reason for the low peripherals was an abnormally low home run rate. The fastball velocity went up and it followed success accordingly, and it is difficult to say that a large part of Eovaldi's strong play did not involve the change in his baseline speed.
There are ways you can make the argument, however, even if they are difficult ways. Eovaldi's strikeout rates went up just a smidgen, and while his ratios overall improved, there was not drastic change from 2013 and the later parts of 2012, when Eovaldi was in Miami. Just how much of Eovaldi's success was the fastball, and how much of it was blind home run luck in a pitcher-friendly stadium? A full year of Eovaldi this season could find out.
There were no bones about it: Hechavarria was among the worst Major Leaguers this season and indeed in recent history. If his so-called below average defense is to be believe, Hechavarria was almost two wins worse than the replacement level shortstop scrub from Triple-A. Miami could have potentially gotten two more wins from someone like Jason Donald, for example.
And this terribleness was no mirage. Hechavarria was among the worst hitters in baseball, batting just .227/.267/.298 (.251 wOBA) on the season. Only Alcides Escobar was worse among players with more than 500 plate appearances. Hecahvarria was supposed to at least bring Gold Glove defense, but a stretch of errors after a solid early-season streak helped to bog down some of his defensive numbers. While infield coach Perry Hill blames Hechavarria and the team's superior positioning (not understanding that such positioning would actually help players by allowing him to get to more balls), it is possible that the shortstop just struggled on the field last year.
Hechavarria will get another shot at doing anything right in 2014. But the fact that he failed in such spectacular fashion makes it less likely that he will be an important cog in a future Marlins competitive team.
Alvarez worked out exactly as planned in Miami. After a half-year layoff thanks to some preseason shoulder tightness that became a legitimate health scare, Alvarez returned around midseason and shined since then. Granted, his game completely lacks flash, as it is predicated on a lack of strikeouts and walks and preventing home runs, but after a horrendous year with the Toronto Blue Jays thanks in part to the friendly Rogers Centre, Alvarez found a stadium to suit his needs. His problems with home runs, even with a sky-high ground ball rate, fits well with Miami's larger, spacier dimensions in the outfield. With the fences far, Alvarez can depend on an athletic defense to handle his work.
Everything else regressed as expected and he performed well. He made the 2014 list as well because, while it is unlikely, it is worth wondering aloud whether that no-hitter could lead to more. The no-hit finale was a special time for Marlins fans, especially long-suffering ones who enjoy when the young talent play well. The question is whether Alvarez is who he is at this point or whether coaching cannot find another pitch for him to use against lefties.