clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Marlins Must Address Their Hitting Development System

The Fish boast some of the best pitching prospects in the sport, but what about their young bats?

Peyton Burdick #86 of the Miami Marlins bats against the St. Louis Cardinals in a spring training game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on March 02, 2021 in Jupiter, Florida.
Peyton Burdick is one of the few Marlins prospects who’s been an above-average hitter at every minor league level he’s played at.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The fourth mass exodus of premium talent in Miami Marlins history has yielded a slew of young stars, leading to hopes of a promising future for the organization. The liquidation of sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, and future MVP Christian Yelich yielded promising prospects over the past four years. While the team has enjoyed insurmountable success in seeing their young arms lead the rebuilding effort, the talent on the other side of the ball hasn’t quite been developing the way they had hoped.

When Bruce Sherman and company took over in August 2017, they tasked the front office that offseason with tearing down the star-hitting core in favor of another rebuild. Since then, the team has acquired and developed a hoard of elite pitching prospects, with Trevor Rogers and Sandy Alcantara already being selected as All-Stars and many others putting up gaudy numbers in the minors. In this effort, the team also acquired a foundation to help anchor the lineup of the future.

Below is a list of key hitting prospects that the team acquired either via the draft or trade in the past four years and how they got to the Marlins. For this, I used FanGraphs’ statistics tool as well as their prospects who were ranked a 45 FV or higher over the course of the past half-decade, according to their writers. Those who are no longer with the organization (as of 7/18/2022) have been crossed out.

Top Marlins Prospects (≥ 45 FV) since 2017

Player Level Acquired 2022 BB/K 2022 wRC+ (as of 7/18/2022)
Player Level Acquired 2022 BB/K 2022 wRC+ (as of 7/18/2022)
Brian Anderson MLB R3, 2014 0.39 119
Jerar Encarnacion AAA J2, 2015 0.34 93
Lewis Brinson AAA Trade, MIL 0.23 106
Monte Harrison AAA Trade, MIL 0.25 68
Isan Diaz AAA Trade, MIL 0.43 119
Magneuris Sierra AAA Trade, STL 0.47 98
Jose Devers AA Trade, NYY 0.34 29
Victor Victor Mesa AA J2, 2018 0.53 60
Connor Scott AA R1, 2018 0.41 90
Jesus Sanchez MLB Trade, TB 0.25 83
JJ Bleday AAA R1, 2019 0.62 124
Jazz Chisholm Jr. MLB Trade, AZ 0.32 140
Nasim Nunez A+ R2, 2019 0.64 111
Kameron Misner AA R1C, 2019 0.56 122
Lewin Diaz AAA Trade, MIN 0.41 113
Peyton Burdick AAA R3, 2019 0.53 109
Jose Salas A (later promoted to A+) J2, 2019 0.43 125
Ian Lewis A J2, 2019 0.49 108
Yiddi Cappe CPX J2, 2019, deffered to 2020-21 0.5 136
Kahlil Watson A R1, 2021 0.15 84
Cody Morissette A+ R2, 2021 0.4 101

The future success of the aforementioned will obviously exist upon a spectrum of varying degrees. While Jazz Chisholm Jr. has had one of the hottest stars in all of baseball to the 2022 campaign, with Jesús Sánchez and Brian Anderson also showing flashes of potential, the rest of the names on the list are either far too early in their professional careers to be heavily evaluated (Watson, Morissette, Cappe), or have struggled to portray the type of projectability that would demonstrate future stardom. Even Kahlil Watson’s approach and discipline at the plate have been worrisome, hovering around a 40% strikeout rate all season (for reference, a BB/K ratio below 0.25 and/or a K% above 30% as a prospect begins to raise red flags in regards to their discipline, approach, and overall ability to make precise solid contact).

Some of these players are no longer with the franchise, which is the case with the entirety of the haul received in the Christian Yelich trade. Some may have not deserved to be selected where they were, an indictment on the Marlins' inability to evaluate talent before they acquire them. Nevertheless, this is a list of 21 of the best-hitting prospects the organization has had in the last half-decade, few of whom have realized their potential as prospects. More positively, however, José Salas and Ian Lewis have been two of the few exceptions, with both having strong starts to the season and looking to be future top 50 prospects. Up to now, Chisholm looks to be the only legitimate All-Star in Miami, and even this is given a small sample size. Salas seems to be the only prospect to have translated his hype to on-field success, with Lewis and Yiddi Cappe needing to prove much more at higher levels.

At some point in their minor league careers, each of these players had an average probability of achieving their potential as quality everyday players. Although the jury is still out on Watson and Morissette as prospects, we have a pretty decent idea of what types of players the rest of the list will become given their experience in the minors. Indeed, these are probabilities and potential future values. It is up to both the organization and the prospect himself to work together to optimize his potential.

It should also be noted that, amongst their position group, all of these prospects tend to share a similar profile. Almost all of them are speedy, sure-handed power hitters with work to be done at the plate. During their times in South Florida, we saw Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison show an advanced ability to patrol the outfield, but struggled to reach base at any cost and ultimately negated any positive statistical output that their power afforded them. We’re seeing Jesús Sánchez trying to remedy this at the major league level, and we’ve already seen a vast curtailment in Chisholm’s strikeout rate in both Jacksonville and Miami.

After analyzing the list of less-than-stellar hitting prospects, it raises the question of how much fault should be attributed to the prospects themselves versus the organization that is tasked with developing them. Despite the lack of relative success, the search for players who fit this type of template should not be abandoned, rather the team should reapproach the way it thinks about developing its talent; the issue lies more in this regard than it does with who they select. Given the difficult standard set by the pitching development staff, it is clear that the organization has struggled to find adequate personnel to direct the development of their young hitters, but what are other revered organizations such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers doing with their prospects, consistently pumping out top-tier talent both on the mound and in the box?

A common denominator amongst the best teams in baseball is that they can all visualize the best outcomes, and implement the best player drills or cues that can realize their outcomes. Each of the 30 MLB teams has the technology to evaluate player ability and potential, but only the best are able to relay that message from their experts down to their coaching staff in a way that effectively reaches the player. It is clear that team-wide communication and belief in a more objective, data-driven system as they relate to scouting and developing prospects is essential. Teams need this synergy to exist from top to bottom within the organization, because if the personnel does not buy into the team philosophy, then the information crucial to the prospect’s development isn’t clearly and accurately relayed to him. Some of the best organizations in baseball employ those who have a traditional coaching/player background but can also run data queries, which helps with the flow of information from the analytics department, to the coaches, to the players.

A famous quote from the movie Moneyball is “Adapt or die!” where Billy Beane is arguing with his head scout about the future of the team’s player development strategy. While many teams have made the advanced transition to a more analytically, data-driven form of scouting and developing talent, the Marlins oddly seem to lag behind in just the hitting category while their pitching flourishes.

However, the transition to the Kim Ng leadership group in late 2020 seems to have righted the ship, with promising campaigns from José Salas, Ian Lewis, and Yiddi Cappe. The team has also selected LSU’s Jacob Berry with their first-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, who looks to be a promising bat.

It is crucial that the organization continue to put together a strong draft and international free agent classes, as well as adopt a more advanced hitting development system. The offense is what puts fans in the seats. In a market that has been treated so poorly by its team for so long, making changes that will put the team in a position not only to succeed but to do so continuously will go a long way in mending the broken relationship the team has had with its fanbase in South Florida.