The Miami Marlins never had a shot to contend for a championship during the 2019 season. With a roster full of rookies, promising young talent, and journeymen veterans, even finishing with a .500 record and breaking a decade worth of losing was going to be a stretch.
Heading into tonight's second-half opener at home against the New York Mets, the Marlins sit at 33-55. After a historically bad 10-31 start to the year, they have a markedly improved 23-24 record since that point.
Despite being 19.5 games behind Atlanta in the NL East and 13 games adrift of the second NL Wild Card spot, Miami still has a lot to play for before the season draws to a close. If the following “wish list” items come to fruition, then the Marlins will be able to build some positive momentum heading into next year.
A Healthy Pablo López
For the second straight season, the young Venezuelan has spent an extended period of time on the Injured list with a right shoulder strain, which is concerning to say the least. Miami initially received good news regarding the injury, as tests showed no structural damage, meaning that rest and recuperation would be the prescribed remedy. However, Lopez has been on the 10-day IL since June 19 (retroactive to June 10), and has yet to start a rehab assignment in the minors.
Boasting a 5-5 record with a 4.23 ERA, Lopez has actually performed better than the surface numbers suggest—he owns a 3.55 FIP and a stellar 1.12 WHIP, which ranks 32nd in all of baseball (minimum 60 innings pitched).
To truly become a face of the franchise and fixture in the middle of the rotation, Pablo López will have to prove his durability.
A Successful Trade Deadline
The Marlins have pitching, lots of promising young pitching.
The problem has been timely hitting all season long. Even though the Marlins have made a solid turnaround since that disastrous start, they rank at or near the bottom in every significant offensive category. Miami used the MLB Draft to address some of those issues by selecting numerous polished college hitters, but those reinforcements are still years away from arriving in the majors.
Therefore, the organization will be looking to flip the likes of Curtis Granderson, Sergio Romo, Neil Walker, and maybe even Starlin Castro to acquire bat-first prospects over the next few weeks. It has also been speculated that the team may deal from its pitching depth to try and add some impact bats to complement the likes of Garrett Cooper and Harold Ramirez.
However, the Marlins must tread carefully if they are to go down that route. There are a lot of pitchers up and down the system who are displaying great potential, and the Marlins may be able to capitalize on some of that hype, but you can never have too much pitching. Until the franchise feels certain of several arms who can stick in the rotation long term, they shouldn't jump the gun on trading away their alternatives.
“Success” in this situation is a relative term. If the Marlins can add one or two solid hitters to their system who can be everyday players by the end of the season, then that's great. Just don’t give up too much to do so.
Promising September Call-ups
Contrary to popular belief, prospects are generally hard to predict, and translating minor league success to the majors is never a straightforward process. September call-ups are great for developing young players who are almost ready for a permanent role on the 25-man roster, but success in a limited sample size is not always a true indication of future performance. More often than not, though, a strong showing can give a prospect confidence and allow them to hit the ground running the following season (think more Brian Anderson, less Peter O'Brien).
With that in mind, the team and fans alike will be hoping that the likes of Isan Díaz (unless called up early in light of Starlin Castro being traded, or released), Monte Harrison, and Lewis Brinson can put on a show when given their opportunity at the end of the year.
FIREWORKS— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) July 5, 2019
Lewis Brinson declares his independence from Triple-A New Orleans with his 13th HR since being sent down pic.twitter.com/SacpQXUQwE
For Díaz and Harrison, the focus will be on putting the ball in play and showing great plate discipline along with the strong defense that got them to where they are now, regardless of their final slash line. For Brinson, anything less than a significant jump in performance at the plate—meaning league-average production, or better—may close the door on him as an All-Star building block for the franchise.