The Miami Marlins have gone through many catchers this season—six different starters at the position ties a franchise record. A lot of them have not panned out (Chad Wallach, Jorge Alfaro, Sandy León and Alex Jackson), but there is a new wave of options that just came up in the last week. Are Nick Fortes and Payton Henry part of the team’s future?
These guys are getting opportunities to prove themselves as short-term options while younger prospects Will Banfield and Joe Mack continue their development in the minor leagues. Do not expect to see Mack or Banfield make their major league debuts in 2022.
In the meantime, Henry and Fortes have already shown some flashes of being able to contribute at the highest level.
Payton Henry (#30 Marlins prospect on MLB Pipeline)
On the day of the 2021 MLB trade deadline, the Marlins traded away reliever John Curtiss for Henry. He was a solid player in the Brewers minor league system at the time.
Here are the MiLB stats Henry had prior to being called up:
Henry has only made 2 starts for the Marlins but this is a player who has shown small flashes defensively. Most of his potential is on the offensive side, which we have not seen much of in the majors as he only has one hit.
Alex Carver of Fish On The Farm thinks that an eventual position change could benefit Henry long term. The easiest transition would be to first base, but that is already well occupied by Lewin Díaz, Garrett Cooper, and Jesús Aguilar. For the near future, the Marlins may as well just let him stay at his primary position and try to develop him there.
Nick Fortes (Unranked on MLB Pipeline)
Like Henry, Fortes would have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter. Calling him up now protects him from that.
Fortes caught some of Edward Cabrera’s games this season in the minor leagues and the day of his debut, the battery combined for 7 strikeouts (Cabrera’s best total in the majors). Fortes that same game had his first MLB hit and home run. He added another one on Tuesday.
At the plate, Fortes was pretty solid for Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Jacksonville (330 AB, 37 R, 81 H, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 5 SB, .245 BA, .332 OBP, .698 OPS). The only negative since this promotion is his blocking—he has already allowed four passed balls. Besides that, his defense might be even better than Henry’s and he is certainly an option for the backup catcher role in 2022.
Will Banfield (Unranked on MLB Pipeline)
The Marlins organization spoke highly of Banfield entering the 2021 season, but he did not have the hitting results that they hoped for with Beloit (226 AB, 30 R, 48 H, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 1 SB, .180 BA, .258 OBP, .567 OPS). That may have played a role in their drafting of Joe Mack in July.
It’s possible for either of them to have a future as the Marlins catcher but the team needs to focus on options who can help them immediately.
Who should be catching for the Marlins next season?
Honestly, it is difficult to say right now because we do expect the Marlins to target some players on the trade market like Jacob Stallings (Pirates) or Willson Contreras (Cubs). Assuming the Marlins get one of them, then the guys mentioned above would be in the conversation for the backup catcher spot.
Sandy León has proven that he works well with the young pitchers (Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, Trevor Rogers, etc.), but León is not good offensively. In a late-inning situation that could decide the outcome of a game, you don’t want to put your trust in his bat. Also, León would need to be signed to a new contract because he is a pending free agent.
Most likely, spring training will tell us more about whether Nick Fortes and Payton Henry is a better fit for the big league roster. What we have seen from Fortes is starting to convince me more and more, but the sample simply isn’t big enough yet. Making a choice right now, I would go with him as the favorite.
In conclusion, it makes sense to revisit this after the Marlins go to spring training following their busy offseason.
For more Marlins opinions, tune into Fish Stripes Unfiltered, a biweekly podcast with me and Isaac Azout.