MIAMI – “You can’t accept mediocrity.”
Those are the words from Marlins CEO and part-owner Derek Jeter. He said this just a few days before the start of the shortened 2020 MLB season, but it could have come from pretty much any point during his three years in Miami.
From day one, Jeter has said all the right things. He has preached a winning culture and his inability to be patient, even though he knew rebuilding a franchise takes some time.
While the Marlins are far from being a contender, the time has come to show some improvement. The last two seasons have brought 203 losses and no improvement at the big league level. That’s been offset by a minor league system that’s gone from one of the worst in baseball to one of the top 10 in the sport.
That’s not a bad trade off when rebuilding, but as the Marlins enter this bizarre 60-game 2020 season, we need to see some of that young talent show improvement. Ideally, some of that would come at the major league level.
Unfortunately, 2nd baseman Isan Diaz appears to be the only young position player to get a shot from day one to prove he can stick around and be a productive every day player.
Lewis Brinson starts the season on the injured list and with numerous questions about his future, while fellow outfielder Monte Harrison didn’t make the 30-man roster to start the season and will instead work on his game in Jupiter. It’s disappointing not to see one of them getting a shot from game one, but Brinson hasn’t lived up to his talent yet, while the Marlins are still waiting on Harrison to make contact consistently.
Last year’s first round pick, JJ Bleday, looks like he can be special at the plate, but he’s a year away from being an every day player on the big club. Outside of that, the Marlins are excited with the potential of shortstop Jazz Chisholm, but again, he likely won’t make an impact in 2020. Other prospects like Jesus Sanchez and Lewin Diaz are in the same boat. The hope is that this group will be part of the nucleus moving forward on offense starting in 2021.
A look around the rest of the regular lineup and the Marlins have a mix of guys who are solid players but certainly not stars. Jesus Aguilar, Jonathan Villar and Corey Dickerson bring experience to the line-up. They will likely be an overall upgrade from players like Starlin Castro, Neil Walker, Martin Prado and Curtis Granderson, but to call them truly impactful players is a stretch.
The Marlins are missing a star. It’s obvious they don’t have a special talent like other teams in the NL East who have players like Ronald Acuna Jr, Bryce Harper, Pete Alonso and Juan Soto. 3rd baseman Brian Anderson enters the season as Miami’s most consistent producer at the plate, but he doesn’t have the upside of the players I just mentioned.
Meanwhile, Garrett Cooper, Miguel Rojas, Jorge Alfaro and Harold Ramirez have all proven to be good contributors to a team, but again, none of them are going to scare opposing pitchers.
I think you see where I’m going with this. The Marlins just don’t have the firepower to match the teams in their division, and those are the majority of the teams on their schedule.
No matter what Jeter is saying, the Marlins are very much accepting mediocrity on offense right now, and this is likely the last season Jeter and his front office can get a pass for it.
Rebuilding isn’t easy, but Miami needs to see big strides from some of their young hitters this season and an improvement on the big club.
That brings us to the pitching. If Jeter and his staff have done anything well, it certainly appears to be stacking the organization with talented, young arms.
Sandy Alcantara was the lone Marlins all-star last season, and he’ll get the call on opening day in 2020. He looks like the real deal. Alcantara has great stuff and appears primed for a big season.
Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez are key cogs in the rotation, but the real reason to get excited for Marlins fans is what’s behind them at the minor league level.
Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, Braxton Garrett, Nick Neidert, Trevor Rogers and this year’s first round pick Max Meyer all have the potential to be impactful pitchers.
I spoke with Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill in Jupiter back during the first spring training in February. He couldn’t stop raving about the young pitchers in the pipeline. While he admitted that words can only go so far, he said they have confidence that many of these guys will be producing soon.
How soon? It likely won’t be in 2020. While the uncertainty surrounding what happens if players miss time for Covid-19 related issues is a concern, I wouldn’t expect any of those young arms to pitch much with the big club this season.
Again, that doesn’t help the bottom line of winning games now and showing fans that this team is moving forward.
Jeter knew the challenge he had ahead when he arrived and that winning was the only way to bring back interest to this franchise.
Winning hasn’t happened and it likely won’t happen during this shortened season.
I preached patience when Jeter arrived and I won’t get impatient now and say Miami must win now. They won’t. Fans still need to have a level of patience. But it is fair to ask for improvement and hope. That’s what the 2020 season will be about.
Marlins 2020 prediction: 25-35