Charles Leblanc, one of the only Marlins prospects in recent years to (literally) hit the ground running upon reaching the majors, is on his way out of the organization. Miami designated Leblanc for assignment on Wednesday to make room for newly signed Jean Segura on their 40-man roster.
Leblanc was originally drafted and developed by the Texas Rangers before the Marlins took a flier on him in the minor league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft. He excelled at the plate during his four months with Triple-A Jacksonville (.302/.381/.503, 134 wRC+, 14 HR in 360 PA) while demonstrating the versatility to play four different defensive positions.
Leblanc made his MLB debut on July 30, immediately embarked on a 13-game on-base streak and stuck on the Marlins active roster through season’s end. During a period in which the club’s offense struggled to a humiliating degree, his league-average bat was a bright spot (.263/.320/.404, 107 wRC+, 4 HR in 169 PA).
At age 26, Leblanc was not particularly young for a new call-up. And despite solid overall production, his 31.4% strikeout rate was a red flag—it was even worse against left-handed pitching than right-handers, making it difficult to project what his role should be entering 2023.
After the regular season wrapped up, Leblanc joined Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League and got off to a fast start. Unfortunately, a minor injury halted his participation after eight games.
The precise timing of this DFA comes as a surprise, but the Marlins had been not-so-quietly loading up on infield depth. Days after Leblanc’s debut, they traded for Jordan Groshans, then their first substantial acquisition of the offseason was Xavier Edwards, both of whom are nearly ready to audition for steady major league roles. Miami’s $17 million commitment to Segura implies that he will be cast as an everyday player.
I had been pondering the possibility of Joey Wendle getting shipped away to ease the logjam. He’s due to reach free agency next year. The Marlins would presumably get something in return for the former All-Star and trim millions of dollars from their payroll in the process. They are holding onto Wendle (for now), yet willing to risk losing somebody with six remaining years of club control and unused minor league options for nothing. That speaks to how little they trust Leblanc to build upon his rookie results.
Leblanc's 0.9 fWAR in 2022 ties Eli White (who did not make it to waivers, was traded to the Braves) as the best performance for a DFA'd player this offseason. And the Marlins need all the offense they can get! https://t.co/0Qq4u4vKh3— Jon Becker (@jonbecker_) January 5, 2023
There were four players who started games at first base for the Marlins in 2022. Leblanc follows Jesús Aguilar and Lewin Díaz out the door, leaving only Garrett Cooper. The Marlins have reportedly pursued veterans to contribute at the position. Perhaps their willingness to DFA Leblanc signals that they are confident in being able to strike a deal soon.
The Marlins have seven days to extract some value for Leblanc via trade (assuming multiple MLB teams put in a waiver claim for him). Even if he does improbably clear waivers, he’ll be able to reject an outright assignment and elect minor league free agency.
More updates to come...