The 2020 Miami Marlins were easily Major League Baseball's surprise team. Now it's time to see how they follow it up.
After losing 105 games and finishing last in the National League East in 2019, Miami turned the corner in Year Three of the rebuild in a shortened 60-game season by going 31–29. Extrapolated to a 162-game season, that translates to an 84-win year.
Despite a COVID-19 outbreak that sidelined 18 players, the Marlins flaunted their organizational depth en route to making the postseason for the first time since 2003. Once there, they swept the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild Card Series before bowing out to the Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series.
As expected, the Marlins rode their talented young starting pitching. Top prospects like Sixto Sanchez and Trevor Rogers debuted, showing flashes of brilliance and experiencing growing pains.
But how will the Marlins' young arms, veteran bats, and toolsy prospects fare over a full season? Can the team prove that being ahead of schedule in 2020 wasn't a fluke?
Opposing Scouts Size Up the Marlins
"They'll probably finish last, but then again, everybody thought the same thing last year, too. They have three legit starters in Sixto Sanchez, Pablo Lopez, and Sandy Alcantara, and while you worry about their durability over 162 games, that's a concern for everyone. Sanchez is one of the hardest-throwing starters you'll see, and he'll be leading a rotation for a long time. He could be a four-pitch guy if he gets the hang of his curveball, but I'm not sure he even needs it. The problem is that their pitchers are well ahead of their hitters; there's nothing special on offense except for Brian Anderson and Starling Marte. That was a good trade for them — Marte does a little bit of everything, and his speed and hit tool make up for the fact that he never walks. I think everyone is fascinated to see what happens with Jazz Chisholm. He has high-upside tools at Derek Jeter’s old position, and that’s what the Marlins are banking on. They need to take boom-or-bust risks because if a couple of them boom, they’ll have cost-controlled stars and offensive anchors for a while."
Beyond the Box Score
Making history Kim Ng became the first female general manager in MLB history when the Marlins hired her to replace Michael Hill in the front office. With more than 30 years of experience, three-time World Series champion Ng reunites with former Yankees Derek Jeter and Gary Denbo, among others. She also is the fifth individual in club history to hold the top position in baseball operations.
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Dan Greenlee (assistant general manager), Adrian Lorenzo (director of baseball operations), and Joey Nero (assistant director of baseball operations) all got front-office promotions, while Keith Johnson earned a promotion as the club's first-base coach after serving as the Triple-A manager the last two years. He also represented the Marlins at the Arizona Fall League in '19, when he managed the Salt River Rafters to an AFL championship. In another move, Lee Tressel will be the new Marlins strength and conditioning coach as he enters his third season with the organization.
New Affiliates As part of the nationwide minor league shakeup, the Marlins invited the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Triple-A), Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Double-A), Beloit Snappers (High-A), and Jupiter Hammerheads (Single-A) to join the organization's player development system. Jacksonville spent the past 12 seasons as the Marlins' Double-A affiliate, while Jupiter has been with the organization since 2002 and also serves as the spring training home. Pensacola, the 2020 Baseball America Bob Freitas Award winner for Double-A Organization of the Year, and Beloit are newcomers.
Rule 5 Draft Miami selected righthander Paul Campbell from the Rays in the major league phase. The 25-year-old went 13–8 with a 3.67 ERA across 27 games (20 starts) in 2019 between the High-A and Double-A levels. The Marlins also acquired righty Zach Pop, who underwent Tommy John surgery in '19, from the D-backs. In the minor league portion, Miami picked lefthander Jake Fishman (Blue Jays), righthander Dylan Bice (Rangers), and infielder Marcus Chiu (Dodgers).
Familiar Faces NL East and AL East clubs will square off for the second straight season. Miami went 10–10 in Interleague Play in 2020, posting winning records against the Orioles (4–0) and Yankees (2–1). The Marlins went 1–5 against the in-state rival Rays, who would advance to the Fall Classic.
Promising Finances With Wei-Yin Chen's contract (five years, $80 million) finally off the books, the young Marlins have payroll flexibility. Starling Marte ($12.5 million), Corey Dickerson ($9.5 million), Miguel Rojas ($5 million), Adam Duvall ($5 million), and Anthony Bass ($2.5 million) are the only players projected for the 2021 roster past their arbitration years. Additional help should come when a new TV deal is struck with FOX Sports Florida, which paid the Marlins an MLB-low $18 million in '19 and $20 million in '20.
LF Corey Dickerson (L)
CF Starling Marte (R)
1B Garrett Cooper (R)
3B Brian Anderson (R)
RF Adam Duvall (R)
2B Jazz Chisholm (L)
C Jorge Alfaro (R)
SS Miguel Rojas (R)
OF Lewis Brinson (R)
C Chad Wallach (R)
1B Jesus Aguilar (R)
UTL Jon Berti (R)
OF Magneuris Sierra (L)
RHP Sandy Alcantara
RHP Pablo Lopez
RHP Elieser Hernandez
RHP Sixto Sanchez
LHP Trevor Rogers
RHP Anthony Bass (C)
RHP Yimi Garcia
LHP Richard Bleier
RHP James Hoyt
RHP Adam Cimber
LHP Stephen Tarpley
RHP Paul Campbell
RHP Zach Pop