For the first time since the hugely anticipated Jeffrey Loria divorce, the Miami Marlins are genuinely trying to compete.
On paper, they have the talent to deploy one of the best starting rotations in baseball. The club locked up staff ace Sandy Alcantara for the long term, retained 2021 All-Star Trevor Rogers and likely 2022 All-Star Pablo López, and to the delight of many, Jesús Luzardo has taken a big step in the right direction.
From a position player standpoint, it was a struggle for non-diehards to name a Marlin other than Jazz Chisholm Jr. So the Marlins uncharacteristically opened up the checkbook, making the big-money free-agent acquisitions of Jorge Soler and Avisaíl García. However, both have underperformed—78 OPS+ and 54 OPS+, respectively.
For an organization fresh off ten consecutive losing seasons, a surprise playoff berth in a pandemic shortened-season, followed by another flirtation with last place, fans of the Marlins have been feeling a sense of “here we go again.” Four-plus years since the ownership transition, the roster remains flawed. The Fish enter Friday with a 14-17 record, only good for 11th-best in the National League.
It’s too early to seriously discuss solving problems via the trade market, so the Marlins must look internally for a spark.
At first base, for example, the Marlins have Garrett Cooper and Jesús Aguilar sharing time. Productive big league players, no doubt—the Marlins are getting a 156 wRC+ from the position. But a lot of that is nullified by their minus-5.4 runs of defensive value, according to FanGraphs (ranks 26th of MLB 30 teams).
Even with the success Cooper and Aguilar are having, is it safe to say that they’re blocking the likes of Lewin Díaz from cementing himself as an asset for a club who hopes to be a perennial contender? If Díaz—a power hitter with exceptional fielding skills—continues to roam first base at AAA, we may never know.
Lewin Díaz getting things started in the 3rd! Another lead in this series! pic.twitter.com/2ObwCM4LpT— Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (@JaxShrimp) May 8, 2022
Díaz is hitting .267/.350/.483 in 30 games this season at AAA Jacksonville.
He could co-exist with one of Cooper or Aguilar serving as designated hitter, but holding onto both is redundant and inefficient financially. Both are north of age 30 and unlikely to improve upon the current versions of themselves.
No doubter!— Just Baseball (@JustBBMedia) April 14, 2022
Garrett Cooper nearly hits the scoreboard in left field with this mammoth shot to tie the game pic.twitter.com/QiqzsB9DWe
Moving from the 3-spot on the positional depth chart to the mound, we have the issue of Elieser Hernández continuing to receive regular big league starts. Hernández owns a 6.37 ERA and the 3rd-worst HR/9 rate among pitchers with at least 25 innings pitched.
Meanwhile Max Meyer appears beyond ready to get Major League hitters out. Meyer owns a 2.44 ERA and 10.6 K/9 in 147 1⁄3 minor league innings.
Watching back on Max Meyer's start from last night. There are not many pitchers out there who make Triston Casas look this uncomfortable on consecutive pitches. pic.twitter.com/g5tZfDvNub— Aram Leighton (@AramLeighton8) April 7, 2022
For any of the legitimate concerns surrounding Díaz’s bat, Meyer has more easily projectable stuff and intangibles—it would come as no surprise to see him quickly become an integral part of Miami’s rotation. Hernández still has minor league options, making it all the more difficult to understand why the Marlins are being so complacent about the weakest spot in their starting 5.