Rebuilding always hurts. It’s a process that every team in the MLB has been through. For the Marlins, it will be well worth if they ultimately win it all.
Still far away from contending, the Marlins are being very cautious with their farm system. Young, promising men like Sixto Sánchez, Monte Harrison, and Jesús Sánchez will not debut until 2020. In the meantime, the franchise’s only preseason top 30 prospects who debuted in 2019 were 2B Isan Díaz, RHP Jordan Yamamoto, and RHP Robert Dugger. (RHP Zac Gallen would have been included in that group, but the Fish traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks.)
How well have those players performed? Are they long-term material for the big league club?
1) RHP Jordan Yamamoto: Acquired in the Christian Yelich trade and currently on the 10-day injured list, this righty has shown flashes of what could develop into a very interesting piece for the rotation in the coming years. He might not be an ace, but could stick well at least in the last two spots.
He began his first year in the majors in fashion by throwing seven shutout innings twice in a row against the Cardinals and winning his first three trips to the mound. After five starts, he was 3-0 with a 1.24 ERA, limiting his opponents to a .117 batting average and zero home runs allowed.
Yamamoto’s main concerns seem to be walks and home runs. When the 23-year-old kept the ball in the yard, he put numbers to impress anyone (like the ones described above). But in 13 outings before suffering a right forearm strain, the right-hander gave up 30 free passes (4.00 BB/9) in 68 1⁄3 total innings and allowed 11 dingers (1.45 HR/9).
Besides those not-that-brilliant stats and even though he’s dealt with command issues in his minor league career, there are things to think of Jordan as an important piece for the future. Part of his success came thanks to having a huge repertoire. For example, three of his six pitches were almost unhittable, according to Brooks Baseball:
- Vs. his fastball (frequently used—48.29%): .190 BAA (19-for-100), .360 SLG, 18 K
- Vs. his cutter (16.76%): .191 BAA (8-for-42), .357 SLG, 9 K
- Vs. his slider (15.76%): .096 BAA (2-for-52), .154 SLG, 26 K
Not only that, but his fastball and curveball spin are among the best in the majors. He proved—in part with a 9.01 K/9—that he can get hitters out with a four-seamer that averaged 91.9 MPH.
Should Yamamoto fix his control and long-ball problems, he would be much better in the short term. Time is on his side.
PROJECTION: 4th or 5th starter
2) 2B Isan Díaz: This Puerto Rican native got his first taste of the bigs on August 5. In a small sample, he has not lived up to the expectations of being one of the top prospects in the Marlins organization, especially after setting a MiLB career-high in home runs this year (26, in 102 games at AAA).
After Sunday, Diaz has a .153/.248/.260 slash line along with three doubles, one triple and three bombs in 149 plate appearances during 37 games.
Nothing to fall in love with, right? Maybe. But this second baseman is only one and a half months shy of his offensive explosion with the New Orleans Baby Cakes. There are some “mights” around his game even though his expected stats are not that good:
- He might be just getting used to Major League Baseball. There are not many guys that succeed at 23. Not everyone is Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña Jr., Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.
- He might have a problem with his mechanics. Too many fly balls have come out of Díaz’s bat (47.7% in majors, 33.5% this year in the minors).
- He might be having bad luck. His .198 BABIP is well below his standards before graduating as a big leaguer.
If Isan gets to solve all of these “mights”, he should be penciled as the Marlins regular second baseman. But that is to be seen in Spring Training.
PROJECTION: Starting second baseman
3) RHP Robert Dugger: If you think Díaz’s sample is small, Dugger’s is smaller. He’s only had five starts with the Fish, but on Saturday he limited the Giants to five hits, two earned runs in a 6.1 IP effort. It was his third quality start.
He’s not a strikeout pitcher, so when he doesn’t walk too many guys, it usually goes well for him. In outings where he’s given up more than two free passes, he’s 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA (8 ER, 8.0 IP). When his pitching line shows two or fewer bases on balls, Dugger has a 1.96 ERA (4 ER, 18.1 IP).
Remember Henderson Álvarez, that Venezuelan hurler who ended up the 2013 season with a no-hitter? Well, in a best-case scenario, Dugger could be on the way of being something like that: recurring ground balls (as he did in the minors) and pitching to contact.
That’s what his sinker is for. He knows it and tries to be that kind of pitcher. Most of his deliveries are from the middle to the lowest part of the zone.
The top priority for Dugger moving forward is lowering the hard contact rate, which is currently at 45.3 %.
If this young man focuses on fixing his control issues and pitching down, we could see him getting a longer test in the rotation in 2020. Regardless, Marlins fans should be excited that the team was able to acquire him from the Mariners in 2017 (the Dee Gordon trade) along with two other players.
PROJECTION: 5th starter or good long reliever