A six-pack of Marlins notes on a Thursday:
▪ The Marlins have every reason to be excited about shortstop Joe Dunand, the Marlins’ second-round pick out of North Carolina State last year and Alex Rodriguez’s nephew. He’s hitting .284 with four homers and 29 RBI in 31 games at Class A Jupiter.
Yes, it’s early, but nearly an RBI a game in Class A ball a year out of the college is impressive. And so were his numbers at NC State (.289, 16 homers last season).
“He’s got raw power,” Marlins executive Stan Meek said after the team drafted him 11 months ago. “He actually looks a little bit like A-Rod in the face. Actually, the swing has some similarities (with Rodriguez’s). The body is a little heavier. He’s not quite as tall.”
Speaking of Marlins minor league shortstops... shortstop J.T. Riddle, who played 70 games for the Marlins last season but missed the final two months of the season and spring training with a shoulder injury, is hitting .413 in 12 games at Triple A New Orleans.
The Marlins will promote him if they feel there’s a need.
▪ The most impressive Marlins minor leaguer so far? It would be hard to top right-hander Pablo Lopez, who was impressive in spring training and has begun his minor league season with 19 consecutive scoreless innings at Double A Jacksonville.
Lopez, one of four players acquired in last summer’s David Phelps trade with Seattle, has allowed nine hits and four walks while striking out 20 in 19 innings. Batters are hitting .136 off him.
▪ An update on players acquired by the Marlins from Seattle for Dee Gordon: Nick Neidert (2-3, 3.98 ERA at Double A Jacksonville) and Robert Dugger (3-1, 2.60 at Class A Jupiter) have pitched pretty well, and well-regarded infielder Christopher Torres hasn’t begun his season because he’s in extended spring training.
▪ The MLB players union is still in the discovery phase (including document requests) for its grievance against the Marlins (and Oakland, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh), claiming those four teams didn’t spend enough of the revenue sharing money on payroll.
MLB says the Marlins did nothing wrong, and if the sides cannot agree on that, the matter will go to arbitration, likely later this year.
There are still many months ahead in this process.
▪ Because the Marlins are announcing the number of fans in the stadium as their attendance number – instead of the widely-used figure of tickets distributed – it’s impossible to give historical perspective on the Marlins’ announced average attendance of 11,225 (entering Thursday). Pittsburgh is next lowest at 13,838.
The last team to announce average attendance over a full season lower than the Marlins’ current average was Montreal in 2004 (9356). But again, that’s comparing apples to oranges, because the Marlins are using the turnstile count instead of the inflated tickets distributed count.
“It’s honest for the Marlins to do that,” former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent told me this past week. “Owners don’t like to do that because they want people to think their team is booming.”
Vincent said Derek Jeter’s approach of slashing payroll and rebuilding the farm system “makes sense. You will go through doldrums but it’s a sensible strategy and it will pay off. But you have to make the right picks in the draft and [trade acquisitions]. I’m a Cleveland Browns fan and they haven’t. No guarantee it’s going to work.”
Vincent expects sports gambling to be legalized, with “massive regulations,” and said if that’s the case, then the $1.2 billion that the Marlins sold for is going to be a “good price” and justified because “the gambling element is going to be tremendous” in generating interest.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule this season on this question:
Can the federal government block states from repealing laws that ban betting on college and professional sports? A 1992 law says it can but New Jersey's challenge to the professional and amateur sports protection act could spark the process of legalizing sports betting in other states.
▪ Outfielder Lewis Brinson, hitting .169 in 34 games, remains confident.
“I know it’s going to come,” he said Thursday. “I know I’m going to get hot soon.”
He said he hasn’t been overwhelmed by the poor start because “I have a short memory. When I struggled pretty bad in my first season, I take it the same. I have a lot of confidence in my game and how far I have come. When it comes, it will come in bunches.”