How will things shape up in the NL East?
Two years into a rebuild, the Miami Marlins believe that their darkest days are behind them.
Though Miami finished 57-105 and last in the National League East in 2019, there were bright spots across the organization that lead the Marlins to believe that the process is going according to plan.
On the major league level, Miami saw continued progress from some core pieces. Righthander Sandy Alcantara pitched two shutouts and earned an All-Star selection. Brian Anderson became a middle-of-the-order threat before an injury cut his season short.
Down on the farm, the system has developed into one of the sport’s best via trades and draft picks. The Marlins had hoped to accumulate layers of talent, and they’ve done so — especially with enviable starting pitching depth. Top prospects Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, and Nick Neidert are on the cusp of reaching the big league club, while former first-round picks Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers impressed at High-A Jupiter before earning promotions.
If the Marlins want to take the next step in 2020, they must improve on the offensive side after a season in which they finished near the bottom of most statistical categories. The organization brought in James Rowson, who helped the Twins set an MLB single-season home run record in ’19, as the new bench coach and offensive coordinator. Mixing in veterans like Jonathan Villar and Jesus Aguilar should also help, and toolsy prospects Monte Harrison and Jesus Sanchez are nearly ready for The Show.
Opposing Scouts Size Up the Marlins
“This is still not a very watchable team, with a very long road to being competitive in a division with four other teams actually trying to win. They still have almost nothing at the big league level to show for all the stars they traded; Jorge Alfaro swings at everything, and Lewis Brinson really struggles to make contact. They got a few starters through trades, like Caleb Smith, Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez, but they’re mostly just placeholders; long term, I can’t see any of these guys becoming anything more than a back-end starter. It’s gotta be killing them to see their old prospects like Luis Castillo and Chris Paddack doing so well. Brian Anderson is their best offensive player, which means they should trade him, even though they probably won’t. Miguel Rojas is a decent player with good makeup, a stabilizer kind of guy. It’s a good sign that they brought in Jonathan Villar and Jesus Aguilar — they need to show the fans that they’re willing to pay for a few veterans to win a few more games, even with no real hope of contending.”
Beyond the Box Score
Ballpark Changes Marlins Park, known for being pitcher-friendly, will see the outfield walls in center (407 feet to 400 feet) and right-center (399 feet to 387 feet) moved closer to home plate. This marks the second adjustment since the ballpark opened in 2012, and first since 2016. The retractable-roof facility will also switch from natural grass to a new synthetic playing surface. As for the fan experience, the home run sculpture returns outside the ballpark adjacent to the Clevelander in left field, and the Biscayne Bay Brew Hall opens on the Promenade Level.
New Affiliate The Marlins’ Triple-A team will no longer reside in New Orleans for the first time in 12 years, as it moves to Wichita, Kan. The Wind Surge will play at a newly constructed ballpark.
Coaching Staff Makeover James Rowson takes over for Don Mattingly’s longtime right-hand man, Tim Wallach, as bench coach. He will also serve as the organization’s offensive coordinator, a newly created role. Under Rowson’s tutelage, Minnesota was near the top of many offensive statistical categories. Former big leaguer Billy Hatcher, who was part of the Reds organization from 2006-18, is the new first base and outfield coach. Infield coach Trey Hillman moves to third base. Wellington Cepeda (bullpen coach) and Eddy Rodriguez (catching coach) are new. Mel Stottlemyre Jr. returns as pitching coach, while Eric Duncan was promoted to hitting coach. Rob Flippo is also coming back as bullpen coordinator. Jeff Livesey, Miami’s interim hitting coach, is remaining with the organization as a minor league hitting coordinator.
Rule 5 Pickup The Marlins selected righthander Sterling Sharp from the Nationals with the third pick in the Rule 5 Draft. The 24-year-old Sharp went 5-4 with a 3.53 ERA in 58.2 innings (12 starts) across three minor league levels in 2019. Sharp boasted a 0.92 WHIP in the Arizona Fall League.
Boricua Pride The Marlins will host the Mets for a three-game series in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from April 28-30 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The clubs last squared off on the island in 2010, with the Marlins winning two of three. Miami second baseman Isan Diaz is from Puerto Rico.
On the Lookout The Marlins added to their professional, amateur and international scouting staffs over the offseason. Leading the way is Hadi Raad, who takes over as the director of professional scouting after seven years with the Yankees. Bill Masse (special assignment scout), Shaeffer Hall, James Vilade and J.T. Zink (area scouts), Clifford Nuitter (Venezuela administration coordinator) and Sahir Fersobe (Santo Domingo area scout) are the other hires.
3B Jonathan Villar (S)
RF Brian Anderson (R)
LF Corey Dickerson (L)
1B Jesus Aguilar (R)
C Jorge Alfaro (R)
2B Isan Diaz (L)
SS Miguel Rojas (R)
CF Lewis Brinson (R)
C Francisco Cervelli (R)
UTL Jon Berti (R)
OF Magneuris Sierra (L)
OF Harold Ramirez (R)
1B/OF Garrett Cooper (R)
RHP Sandy Alcantara
LHP Caleb Smith
RHP Pablo Lopez
RHP Jordan Yamamoto
RHP Elieser Hernandez
RHP Brandon Kintzler (C)
RHP Ryne Stanek
RHP Yimi Garcia
RHP Drew Steckenrider
RHP Jose Urena
RHP Jeff Brigham
RHP Sterling Sharp
RHP Austin Brice