The National League Rookie of the Year race was a hot Marlins topic for most of the 2018 season. But this year? Eh, not so much.
For one, it’s a deep class. Elite talents like Pete Alonso (Mets) and Fernando Tatís Jr. and Chris Paddack (Padres) made it on their respective teams’ Opening Day rosters, rather than being held down for service time manipulation. Alonso, in particular, has the entire baseball world’s attention and the opportunity to rack up huge counting stats. Ditto for Nationals five-tool outfielder Víctor Robles.
Several of Miami’s top prospects may break through to the majors during 2019, but they would need to absolutely dominate—making up for lost time—to get into the conversation.
The following players have been ordered from “NL ROY long shot” to “needing a miracle.”
The hard-throwing right-hander figures to stick in the Marlins rotation for as long as he’s effective. After 28 starts and 161 innings in 2018, there are no specific limits on his workload.
The question for Alcantara continues to be how to translate his filthy stuff into more swing-and-misses. He has an underwhelming 42 total strikeouts in his 51 major league innings with Miami (19.0 K%).
A version of Alcantara who is consistently on top of his game has the potential to be the Marlins ace.
2) Austin Dean
Dean is the perfect placeholder for this roster in 2019, given the dearth of alternatives for the corner outfield spots. The reigning Marlins Minor League Player of the Year hopes to hit his way into a true everyday role:
Don’t expect Dean to go viral with defensive highlights or super-athletic feats. His .974 OPS entering Monday’s game will drop considerably even in the best-case scenario.
The 25-year-old’s candidacy comes down to how often his all-fields approach gets him on base, and whether anybody in the Marlins lineup is competent enough to drive him in.
3) Zac Gallen
The No. 18 Marlins prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Gallen is nearly perfect through two starts at Triple-A this season (13.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 19 K). He’s experienced an uptick in velocity since arriving with Alcantara in the Marcell Ozuna trade, and the rest of his arsenal is playing up as a result.
Though not yet on the 40-man roster, the Marlins would likely find a spot for Gallen should anybody fall out of the major league rotation for an extended period. He has nothing left to prove on the farm.
Anderson was one of the most anonymous Marlins in major league camp this Spring Training. Even now, fans would be unlikely to recognize him on the streets of Miami.
Let me help with that:
The 28-year-old rookie has been spectacular in middle relief, striking out nearly half of all batters faced and holding them hitless against both his slider and curveball. He figures to work mainly in high-leverage situations moving forward—that’s an absolute must for any candidate who expects to be taken seriously for the award in a bullpen role.
Craig Kimbrel (2011) was the most recent reliever ROY in either league.
5) Isan Díaz
Díaz isn’t receiving a call-up to the big leagues unless Starlin Castro gets traded or injured. The Marlins consider him their second baseman of the future and do not believe it’s worth the trouble of rushing him into an awkward part-time role.
Standing at only 5-foot-10, Díaz generates legitimate power with his thick lower half:
Narratives matter during award races. Sans Díaz, the Marlins offense is shaping up to be among the worst in franchise history. His candidacy would be built entirely on spoiling the postseason chances of other NL East teams and carrying the Fish to respectable run production down the stretch.
Held without a home run throughout the Arizona Fall League and Grapefruit League, the toolsy outfielder cleared the bases for the Baby Cakes with a grand slam on Sunday. It was an encouraging sign after missing the opening week of the regular season with wrist discomfort.
Unlike Díaz, Harrison didn’t get any reps at Triple-A in 2018. After a disturbingly high strikeout rate with the Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, he needs to show the world an overhauled swing and approach before entertaining the possibility of a promotion.
The main reason why Harrison cracks this list at all is the increasing likelihood that the Marlins will have a vacancy in center field should Lewis Brinson continue to slump (.211/.237/.281 in 59 PA).
7) Nick Neidert
The consensus second-best pitching prospect in the Marlins organization (behind Sixto Sánchez), Neidert is their youngest NL ROY candidate. The 22-year-old seems to be multiple rotation injuries away from an opportunity and still lacks a 40-man roster spot.
However, he has the combination of skills—durability, fastball command, nasty secondary stuff—to hit the ground running whenever that call-up comes.