Miami Marlins Roundup: What went Right/Wrong? Fantasy Slants and more
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2022 Record: 69-93
Fourth place, NL East
Team ERA: 3.86 (14th)
Team OPS: .658 (27th)
What Went Right
As expected, the rotation was a strength. It just went down a little differently than originally expected with Trevor Rogers not being much of a factor. Obviously the bright spot here was Sandy Alcantara, who will almost certainly win the National League Cy Young Award next month. Pablo Lopez also pitched well while Jesus Luzardo put himself back on the map and Braxton Garrett proved to be a nice surprise. All told, the rotation ranked eighth in the majors with a 3.70 ERA, just ahead of the NL East champion Braves. The rotation could only take them so far this year, but the Marlins should feel good about it going into 2023. The bullpen also had some success stories, including Anthony Bass and Zack Pop, who were traded to the Blue Jays for prospect Jordan Groshans at the trade deadline. Dylan Floro and Richard Bleier were among the other useful names in this bullpen. With all of the Marlins’ injuries, Jon Berti ended up playing a major role for the Marlins and fantasy managers while leading the majors with 42 stolen bases. You’ll notice that the good news is almost entirely on the pitching side here. Well…
What Went Wrong
And that leads to why the Marlins failed to emerge as a contender in the NL Wild Card picture. Quite simply, the offense was putrid. Only the Athletics and Tigers scored fewer runs this season. It didn’t help that Jazz Chisholm Jr. didn’t play after June 28 due to a back injury, but the team’s high-profile free agent additions simply didn’t work out. Jorge Soler (three-year, $36 million deal) posted a lowly .695 OPS in 72 games while missing significant time with a back injury. Avisail Garcia (four-year, $53 million deal) missed time with a hamstring injury and was even worse than Soler with a career-worst .582 OPS over 98 games. Trade acquisition Jacob Stallings took a step back both offensively and defensively and Joey Wendle wasn’t as useful as expected after coming over from the Rays. It wasn’t just the outside additions who struggled, either. Jesus Sanchez failed to build off his 2021 numbers, Brian Anderson posted a career-low .657 OPS, and Jesus Aguilar put up a .647 OPS over 113 games before being designated for assignment. From the pitching side, 2021 breakout Trevor Rogers was the biggest disappointment, as he dealt with multiple injuries while putting up an ugly 5.47 ERA over 23 starts. After showing some upside last year, Anthony Bender only made 22 appearances before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery in August. Top prospect right-hander Max Meyer also required Tommy John surgery during the summer and will likely be in rehab mode for most, if not all, of the 2023 season. Sixto Sanchez missed his second straight season and underwent shoulder surgery in September. After another losing season, Don Mattingly and the Marlins came to a mutual decision that he will not return as manager next year.
**Let’s get back to the positives here with Sandy Alcantara. After an excellent showing in 2021, the 27-year-old took things to the next level this season while posting a 2.28 ERA over 32 starts. He was a genuine workhorse, making him a bit of a unicorn in today’s MLB. Alcantara easily lead the majors with 228 2/3 innings and six complete games. Just to put things in perspective, Aaron Nola was second in innings with 205 innings (a 23 2/3 IP gap) and Framber Valdez ranked second in the majors with three complete games. Alcantara didn’t post elite strikeout numbers (207 strikeouts), but his control continues to improve and he’s become extremely adept at getting batters to chase and make weak contact. That he managed to rack up 14 wins was quite an accomplishment given the lack of offense the Marlins brought to the table this year. What Alcantara lacks in strikeout rate, he makes up for in terms of pure volume, so don’t overthink his standing as a fantasy ace. There are only a select few pitchers who are likely to go ahead of him on draft day next year.
**Oh, what could have been. Jazz Chisholm Jr. was well on his way to blowing his rookie numbers out of the water before going down with a back injury in late June. It was later diagnosed as a stress fracture and he was unable to return before the end of the season. Chisholm’s approach is still geared toward aggressiveness, but he still upped his walk rate to 8.7 percent this season while batting .254/.325/.535 with 14 home runs and 12 stolen bases in just 60 games. After posting 29 barrels in 324 batted ball events in his rookie season, he had 25 of them in just 150 batted ball events this year. His power is the real deal and his sprint speed is right there among the game’s best. Even when Chisholm was “healthy” this year, he was playing through a torn meniscus in his right knee, so he underwent surgery in September to address the issue. The good news is that he should be good to go for the start of 2023. Chisholm might not be a batting average standout, but the combination of power and speed upside is enough to warrant early-round consideration in mixed leagues.
**What the heck happened to Trevor Rogers? After a breakout rookie campaign in which he posted a 2.64 ERA across 25 starts, the 24-year-old southpaw fell on hard times this year with a 5.47 ERA over 23 starts. He allowed 15 homers in 107 innings after allowing just six of them in 133 innings as a rookie. He also took a step back with his control while giving up more much in the way of contact. It’s tempting to chalk some of this up to injury, as he landed on the injured list in July with back spasms, which could have been a lingering issue. He was much better down the stretch before suffering a season-ending oblique injury, so there’s at least some reason for optimism going into 2023. One thing’s for sure, the average draft position figures to be very reasonable.
**It was surprising when the A’s traded Jesus Luzardo in the Starling Marte deal, but fantasy managers were also excited by the change of scenery given the Marlins’ success with pitching. Sure enough, we saw that come to fruition with Luzardo this season, as he posted a 3.32 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 18 starts. He essentially cut his ERA in half from his 6.61 mark in 2021. That only resulted in four wins, but you can blame the Marlins’ offense for most of that. Luzardo lowered his walk rate from 11 percent to 8.8 percent compared to 2021 and his strikeout percentage (30 percent) was 13th-highest among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched. He was right on the heels of Shane McClanahan there and ranked above the likes of Aaron Nola and Kevin Gausman. Luzardo picked up a ton of whiffs on his changeup and curveball, so this all feels sustainable. Perhaps the best sign for the 25-year-old southpaw is that he finished strong after missing two and a half months with a forearm strain. Luzardo threw at least six innings in nine out of his last 11 starts and racked up 12 strikeouts in his final start of the season against the Braves. The arrow is pointing way up here.
**Pablo Lopez was mentioned as a trade possibility leading into the deadline this summer, so it will be interesting to see if the Marlins reexamine the situation this offseason in hopes of landing a bat. The 26-year-old is slated to earn a raise from the $2.45 million he made this season, so while he’s getting more expensive for the Marlins, he’d be plenty affordable for virtually any contending team. Lopez posted a 5.06 ERA over his final 12 starts this season while seeing his strikeout percentage fall sharply (25.5 percent before July 31, 20.5 percent after), but it’s fair to wonder how much of that can be chalked up to fatigue. He racked up 180 innings this season after never throwing more than 111 1/3 innings in a season in the majors. Perhaps the best news is that he made it through the season healthy. Lopez is a fine fourth or fifth starter in standard mixed leagues and could see a boost in value in the right situation.
**As mentioned in our What Went Wrong section, not everything was hunky-dory on the pitching front for the Marlins this year. Top prospect Max Meyer will be in rehab mode from Tommy John surgery in 2023 and Sixto Sanchez can’t be counted on anymore, but the emergence of Braxton Garrett could make it easier for the Marlins to consider trading Pablo Lopez this offseason. After scuffling in his previous chances in the majors in 2020 and 2021, the 25-year-old southpaw reeled off a 3.58 ERA and 90/24 K/BB ratio in 88 innings across 17 starts. He’s not a hard-thrower (averaged 91.2 mph on fastball), but he relied on his slider as his primary pitch and rode it to great success. Garrett had a pair of 11-strikeout games and walked two or fewer batters in 15 of his 17 starts. Only 12 pitchers (min. 90 IP) registered a higher chase rate than Garrett this season. He’s looking like a dependable arm for the Marlins and a possible late-round value in mixed league drafts next year.
** Keep an eye on top prospect Eury Perez, who could be on the cusp of the majors at some point next summer. Known for his insane spin rate on his mid-to-high 90s fastball, the 6-foot-8 right-hander posted a 4.08 ERA with 106 strikeouts and 25 walks in 75 innings (17 starts) at the Double-A level this year. And he did that despite pitching the entire season at the tender age of 19. Perez missed about a month after suffering a minor shoulder injury in August, but made it back for a couple of starts in September and should be good to go for the start of spring training. He’s legitimately a top-10 overall prospect in the game, with perhaps only Grayson Rodriguez ahead of him among pitchers.
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