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Have the Marlins given up on Jesús Sánchez?

Sure seems like it.

Photo by Danis Sosa/Fish Stripes

At this time precisely one year ago, Jesús Sánchez was playing an integral role on a Miami Marlins team that had gotten off to a solid .500 start. At age 24, he was their everyday center fielder and a middle-of-the-order bat. Here in 2023, the Marlins are winning games at the same frequency, but Sánchez is the most invisible member of their active roster.

Speaking prior to Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, with Sánchez once again absent from Miami’s starting lineup, manager Skip Schumaker described him as a “bench player.”

“When he does get his spot starts,” Schumaker continued, “he’s going to need to produce...There’s not a lot of spots that you can find a lot of playing time, but I promise you that he will get his fair share of at-bats. It’s just so early on.”

Well, it’s getting late early for Sánchez, according to Craig Mish and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “The feedback on Sánchez is that there are too many holes in his swing and he has been late on fastballs this year, unlike previous stretches when he flashed considerable potential,” they reported on Tuesday. Echoing what he said on Fish Stripes Unfiltered, Mish wrote that Sánchez’s left-handedness helped earn him a job entering this season. But a tough decision could be looming when fellow lefty Joey Wendle returns from the injured list (likely sometime next week).

“The Marlins would consider trading him or designating him for assignment if he doesn’t start hitting.”

Still only 25, how has Sánchez’s job security eroded this quickly on a team that’s thin on controllable, high-upside position players?

Jesús Sánchez wears a Marlins-themed football helmet after driving in the winning run on Saturday, June 4, 2022 Photo by Danis Sosa/Fish Stripes

Sánchez’s cup of coffee with the 2020 playoff-bound Marlins was utterly forgettable. Rushed to the majors due to the canceled minor league season and a dearth of healthy veterans, he went 1-for-25 at the plate with a sub-zero weighted runs created-plus.

However, he found his groove the following year. During the final quarter of the 2021 campaign, he slashed .245/.325/.532 (125 wRC+) in 40 games. Sánchez’s game power was equally prevalent against left-handers and right-handers, and he savored high-leverage situations.

Entering the 2021-22 MLB offseason, the only thing we thought we knew about the Marlins outfield was that Sánchez would occupy one of the corner spots. The front office’s main focus would be acquiring a center fielder to play alongside him. After all, Sánchez barely had any CF experience above rookie ball.

Days before the lockout commenced, the Marlins finalized a four-year, $53 million deal with free agent Avisaíl García. Although García had played a lot of center in 2020, the expectation was that he’d be used in the opposite corner from Sánchez. Craig Mish reported that their ambitious plan involved reuniting with Starling Marte to man CF and “complete” the 2022 outfield. Marte and the Marlins had mutual interest, but the New York Mets’ $78 million offer was far too good to refuse.

That same winter, the Marlins made serious inquiries to the Pittsburgh Pirates about Bryan Reynolds. They were willing to trade substantial prospect capital to the rebuilding Bucs to obtain the well-rounded, switch-hitting star. There was no urgency to move him from Pittsburgh’s perspective, however. (After a prolonged negotiation—that included Reynolds making a public trade request—they agreed to a long-term extension this week.)

On the other side of the lockout, the Marlins pivoted. To raise the floor of their offense, they inked reigning World Series MVP Jorge Soler to a three-year, $36 million contract. The adoption of the universal designated hitter made the fit possible, but it was clunky, nonetheless. And they still didn’t have a center fielder.

The Marlins did the bare minimum by bringing Delino DeShields and Roman Quinn to Spring Training as non-roster invitees. The latter was given some consideration for an Opening Day roster spot. Ultimately, they stunned us by naming Sánchez the CF starter and carrying Bryan De La Cruz as his backup.

As noted in the very first paragraph, Sánchez initially thrived under these bizarre circumstances. He had eight multi-hit games in his first 13 appearances of 2022 and looked passable in center.

“He knows what kind of player he is,” Marlins bench coach James Rowson said in the middle of that hot streak. “But when I watch him, a guy that can use the whole field and drive it to all fields with power are special players in this game. The more he plays, the better off he is going to be” (h/t Christina De Nicola,

Rowson’s assessment of Sánchez aged horribly.

Sánchez began to cool off right after the first homestand of the season. He played 21 of the club’s next 22 games, but despite those near-daily reps, he hit zero home runs. His OPS plunged into the .600s. He drew only two walks during the entire month of June. Deep into July, Sánchez continued spending all of his defensive innings in center field even as his lack of familiarity manifested in miscommunications and ill-advised decisions. His “leash” was long enough to wrap around the circumference of LoanDepot Park. Finally, on August 4, the Marlins reluctantly used Sánchez’s final minor league option to allow him to regroup at Triple-A.

Jesus Sanchez #7 of the Miami Marlins swings and misses a pitch during an at bat in the fourth inning against the New York Mets during the home opener at Citi Field on April 07, 2023 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Sánchez’s Marlins tenure is reportedly on thin ice. That isn’t merely because of one bad month: it’s been an entire year of replacement-level production.

Anybody else here like round numbers? Going back to April 26, 2022, Sánchez has played 100 Marlins regular season games. A brief summary:

  • He is slashing .190/.271/.352 in those 317 plate appearances, a period which represents nearly half of his MLB career.
  • He clobbered one of the longest homers in Marlins history, but has only gone deep nine other times over the last calendar year, none of those against lefties.
  • He and De La Cruz are tied for the team lead with six outs on the bases (as defined by Baseball-Reference). Having stolen only three bases, Sánchez is a net-negative as a baserunner.

Sánchez—at least against righties—doesn’t have a fatal flaw at the plate. Rather, a culmination of factors have prevented him from recapturing his consistency. He’s been chasing 32.8% of pitches outside the strike zone over the last year. His swing is typically too long to catch up to fastballs even when they’re in the zone. So far in 2023, opponents have adjusted their pitch usage accordingly, throwing him 66.0% fastballs.

Infield defenses gradually began shifting Sánchez more often (49.9% of plate appearances in 2022). He’s had a .233 batting average on balls in play during this period despite good quality of contact. He looked like a possible beneficiary of the new MLB shift restrictions. Perhaps Sánchez being in a better place mentally now that Jazz Chisholm Jr. has lifted the CF burden off his shoulders would yield improved results.

The Marlins don’t seem all that curious to find out. Entering Wednesday, Sánchez has started only one of the previous seven games. The lone start came during a doubleheader—every Marlins hitter started at least once that day. This is hypocritical behavior from Skip Schumaker on the heels of a press conference reiterating the importance of utilizing his full bench: “When you don’t play them, they sit and rot and you can’t expect them to have a big hit.”

Sánchez is not necessarily the weakest link in the current Marlins offense. By almost every measure, his past year has been better than Avisaíl García’s. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball is not a meritocracy, particularly for franchises with tight budgets. The Marlins are not ready to acknowledge that the García deal is a sunk cost. They are shunning a textbook platoon opportunity, instead prioritizing the veteran’s bounce-back attempt over Sánchez’s, even with Sánchez having plate discipline and youth on his side.

We are 24 games into the Marlins season and Sánchez—reportedly healthy and on the active roster for all 24—has accumulated only 36 plate appearances. His playing time is comparable to that of a conventional backup catcher such as Austin Barnes (39 PA), Ryan Jeffers (36 PA) or Kyle Higashioka (31 PA). At a crucial stage of his career, Sánchez is being set up to fail.

Photo by Kevin Barral/Fish Stripes

The way Jesús Sánchez is being mishandled, I assume the front office has already made their decision. With Joey Wendle on the mend and Peyton Burdick excelling at Triple-A, it should be only a matter of weeks until Sánchez is designated for assignment.

Toolsier than most major leaguers and under club control through 2027, Sánchez will draw interest on the waiver wire. But given his year of severe struggles, it’s possible that he could clear waivers. At which point, the Marlins would be able to outright him to the minors and make one final attempt to recalibrate this talented outfielder.

Isaac Azout and Kevin Barral contributed to this article.