Between the opening of the new international signing period, the finalizing of deals with top MLB Draft picks and the fast-approaching trade deadline, July 2019 is shaping up to be the biggest month for talent acquisition during this entire Marlins rebuild. The previous incarnation of the Fish was lacking in major league depth; that certainly won’t be an issue moving forward.
In the meantime, though, with a 34-57 record, they are buried in the NL East cellar and destined for premium draft position once again. Major League Baseball’s lowest-scoring team at least has quality pitching to keep things interesting (plus so many intriguing arms knocking on the door throughout their farm system).
In this 2019 midseason edition of the Fish Stripes Roundtable, we review the first half of the Marlins’ campaign, set expectations for what they’ll be doing on and off the field down the stretch, and weigh in on where the franchise stands in its ultimate pursuit of championship contention.
Enjoy our perspectives below. Please feel free to participate by posting your own responses to these questions in the comments section.
The following responses have been lightly edited...
1. Who is your Marlins MVP so far in 2019?
Ely Sussman: Brian Anderson. Offensively, he leads the Marlins in nearly every significant counting stat, and that’s even with some slightly bad luck baked in. And defensively at third base, BA is much improved from his rookie year. Now, he has the accuracy to put his strong throwing arm to good use. Obvious candidate for a contract extension.
David Phillips: Has to be Rojas or BA as they’ve been the only two worthwhile offensive players who have started almost every game, but I will go with BA, who leads the team in R, HR and RBI.
Danny Martinez: Brian Anderson. I believe an argument can be made for the whole starting staff as a unit, or Miguel Rojas for his on and off field value. But Brian Anderson is the most complete and talented player on this team. His WAR tells the story for me.
Ian Smith: It’s gotta be the guy I take any chance to credit, and that’s Garrett Cooper. He came back from the IL around the middle of May and just energized the entire lineup.
He’s been consistent on defense at multiple positions when he’s been healthy and been the most potent power we’ve seen at times. I’ve seen him as a huge part of Miami limited success in the first half.
Daniel Toll: Garrett Cooper. He is in the top three in nearly every offensive category among Marlin players despite missing a significant amount of play time. When healthy, he’s been a force at the plate and should continue to be one in the second half.
Jose Miranda: While pitching has been most important, most valuable goes to Garrett Cooper for how he changed the offense once he got consistent playing time.
2. Predict which Marlins players will be traded by the July 31 deadline
Ely Sussman: As identified on the latest Fish Bites episode, Starlin Castro, Bryan Holaday, Sergio Romo and Neil Walker. I would be pleasantly surprised if they found a fit for Austin Brice and/or Jarlin García, capitalizing while their value might be at its highest. We riot if they move Caleb Smith.
Danny Martinez: Sergio Romo, Neil Walker, Starlin Castro, and for my surprise...one of either Caleb Smith or Trevor Richards. All deals targeting international free agency pool money and/or position prospects.
Ian Smith: I think it could be more quiet than we expect by July 31. Neil Walker is my main candidate with Trevor Richards as a longshot, but something I think they consider if offered a strong deal.
Daniel Toll: Starlin Castro and/or Neil Walker. They are veteran infielders that can be a valuable addition to a contending team. Sergio Romo may be moved, but his loss would create a large gap in a bullpen with few reliable arms.
Jose Miranda: Sergio Romo is most likely because he’s both expendable and valuable. Other vets like Castro and Walker are also likely even if it’s just for international spending money.
3. Is the rebuilding process ahead, behind or on the same schedule as it was when new ownership took over?
Ely Sussman: It’s been the same as initially projected on a macro “How long until they try to contend?” level, but the specifics are unusual. Rather than trading directly for a full, homegrown core, the farm system’s talent skews heavily toward pitching. Making a leap at the major league level will hinge on additional trades they make with those surplus arms as well as free agent spending. I think the Marlins gradually improve from 2020 onward, finding themselves legitimately in the division title/World Series mix in 2023 (if ownership is willing to carry a considerably larger MLB payroll by then).
David Phillips: Ahead. The progress of the pitching staff is way ahead of schedule, making up for the offense’s lagging behind. If some of the prospects can keep developing, this will be a competitive team sooner than most thought.
Danny Martinez: Tends to depend on what the original schedule was. But I’ll go with the year 2021 as original estimated year of visible growth or competition. With that being the case, I’ll say they are one year ahead of pace. The pitching, plus Alfaro, Anderson, Cooper’s performance also helps.
Ian Smith: I believe they are ahead of schedule at this point, due to the sheer results of the young starters. If you’re just looking at that then this year is a success, but then you add that the minor league system is in its best place in a long time. They could possibly be a year ahead of schedule.
Daniel Toll: When it comes to pitching, we are way ahead of schedule with so many pitchers breaking out and displaying promise and potential. Offensively, I’d argue we’re slightly behind. Several prospects that were expected to succeed in the bigs at this point (Brinson, Sierra, Dean, etc.) have struggled, but Harrison and Diaz are making up for it!
Jose Miranda: It’s on schedule. While management is making a lot of good moves and we’re seeing some of the young trade pieces in games now, this team is performing similar to last year’s. The expectation is to have 2-3 bad seasons. That’s what’s happening.
4. Imagine that the Marlins hosted the NL Wild Card Game this October. Which pitcher would you pick to start that game?
Ely Sussman: I love Jordan Yamamoto under those circumstances (even though I don’t actually believe that he is the most talented Marlins starter). It wouldn’t be stress-free, but he’s demonstrated impressive “pitchability” ever since the Marlins acquired him, understanding how to escape jams and overachieve his peripheral numbers. Unfamiliar MLB opponents have been unable to do anything against his slider, so it’d be exciting to see him lean heavily on that in a do-or-die situation.
David Phillips: Caleb Smith, hands down. The closest thing the Fish have to an ace.
Danny Martinez: If he were healthy, my answer would be Pablo López every single time. He is the best pitcher in this rotation when looking at many advanced stats. As for healthy options, Caleb Smith.
Ian Smith: I’d flip a coin between Sandy Alcantara or Caleb Smith. Miami’s 2019 All-Star has the best pure stuff on the staff and can be dominate when locked in. Caleb brings a special mentality to the mound that is going to do wonders in a playoff atmosphere.
Daniel Toll: Definitely would be between Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith. If we were to take each of them on their best days, Sandy would be my choice. He is very pitch efficient and his stuff is more electric than Smith’s. I envision he would put up a performance similar to those of L.A.’s Walker Buehler last postseason.
Jose Miranda: It’d have to be Sandy or Kaleb depending on turn and usage.
5. Will the Marlins finish with a better or worse record than last season (63-98)?
Ely Sussman: Worse, 61-101. Maybe Isan Díaz, Lewis Brinson, Austin Dean and those boys get comfortable immediately and ignite the offense, but I’m not seeing any sustained hot streak coming that changes their current pace all that much.
David Phillips: Currently, they’re on pace to finish half a game worse, and making moves at the deadline likely guts more of the team, I’ll say worse.
Danny Martinez: Better. I can only see this team continuing to improve moving forward, with offensive reinforcements on the way (Díaz, Harrison, improved Brinson) and an already Top 10 pitching staff.
The #Marlins own the 7th best starting ERA in all of Major League Baseball at the All-Star Break— Danny Martinez (@DannyM_MIA) July 10, 2019
C Jorge Alfaro is 8th in MLB C
3B Brian Anderson is 11th in MLB 3B
1B Garrett Cooper is 17th in MLB 1B
+ Isan Diaz, Monte Harrison, Lewis Brinson and others to this for 2020 and... pic.twitter.com/5M3Y6lBkXg
It won’t be by much, but they’ll be better (mostly because the deadline will actually lose dead weight, more so than worsen the team).
Ian Smith: Better. This team has a lot to look forward too in the second half and I think if things go well, then it could be a very fun second half for Marlins fans.
Daniel Toll: Better. If the Fish play .500 baseball like they have over the past few months, they could easily finish with 70 wins. With the reinforcements they have coming soon, they may do even better than that.
Jose Miranda: Better. If the lineup were as it is now from the start the team would already be on pace for better. The assumption is this better version of the offense will relatively remain as will the solid pitching. Sprinkle in protest call ups and the second half should be better than the first.
Follow Danny (@DannyM_MIA), Jose (@YesWayJose23), David (@hitbypitchratio), Ian (@FlaSmitty), Daniel (@DanielToll2002) and Ely (@RealEly) on Twitter.