No, 2019 was not a lost season for the Marlins. Based on their record, it was disappointing. The worst slumps were certainly tough to watch. But it also marked the beginning of a promising journey for the organization.
Across a year in which they won only 57 games (third-fewest in franchise history), there were at least three players to get excited about: 3B/RF Brian Anderson, RHP Sandy Alcántara, and 2B Isan Díaz. These youngsters have already given us reasons to believe in their bright futures.
Best of all is that they have room for improvement. They might be even better in 2020 and have more impactful roles if things go the right way. But let’s start one by one...
1) Brian Anderson: We might be looking at the face of the lineup for years to come. It’s a shame that a hand injury brought to an end what could have been a 40-double, 30-homer campaign.
Anderson has continued his gradual growth at the MLB level. This season, his OPS went up from .757 to .811 and he hit nine more dingers despite having 30 fewer games. The 26-year-old’s increase in extra-base power could be due to a combination of an increase in his launch angle (from 8.7º to 11.1º), his hard-hit rate (from 42.4% to 45.7%), and his barrel percentage (from 5.8% to 8.9% that’s well above league average).
Anderson still needs to maximize his production against lefties (.232/.301/.438), but if he continues his steady development, 2020 may bring a career season for the right-handed hitter.
2) Sandy Alcántara: The lone Marlin to represent the team in this year’s All-Star Game will rejoin the rotation as one of the most important pieces following a first whole season in the majors.
At times, the Dominican righty might have you wondering how he was so lucky preventing runs. After all, he recorded a 4.55 FIP, a 1.32 WHIP, only struck out 6.9 every nine innings, and still had a 3.88 ERA.
Alcántara made us think that he has the material to become—at least—a solid, durable number three in the rotation and the Fish might do just fine with that. His best moments in the 2019 regular season include finishing the campaign with a 2.78 ERA and a .207 opponent batting average in a 74.1-inning run across 11 starts.
The problems with the 24-year-old hurler came when trying to control his pitches. According to Brooks Baseball, 62.9% of his deliveries were received out of the strike zone. When Sandy was ahead in the count, he was almost untouchable (.198/.201/.319), but when hitters got on top of him, it was a different, sad story (.270/.487/.485).
It remains to be seen whether Alcántara can have a better command, but we’re sure he’s not done developing yet. Expect him to have an exciting next season.
3) Isan Díaz: Sure, there are lots of things to improve here, but it’s just a matter of helping a jewel shine. For a minute, forget that Díaz struck out like crazy and had poor slash line (.173/.259/.307) in 49 games as the Fish starting second baseman.
Isan’s only 23 and tormented pitchers all season long in Triple-A with the New Orleans Baby Cakes. In 102 appearances, he recorded 115 hits, including 21 doubles, two triples, and 26 four-baggers, along with a .305/.395/.578 line. That sort of production was what the Marlins envisioned when he was one of the four prospects packaged in the Christian Yelich trade.
The Puerto Rican is going to receive plenty of chances to remain as the starting 2B and to become an important part of a rebuilding infield, along with names such as Garrett Cooper, Jorge Alfaro, and Anderson.
Spring training is slated to be crucial for Díaz. Will he have an impact from the beginning and be on the Opening Day roster or will he get back to the minors to make adjustments?
The answer’s on his hands, but if he takes the pressure off his shoulders, gains more patience at home plate, and stops hitting so many fly balls (45.4% FB rate in MLB), people should bet on him.