Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins giving Isan Diaz first MLB opportunity, Lewis Brinson chance for redemption

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter: We’re trying to build something that’s special

Miami Marlins Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter talks to the media before start of the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL.
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Miami Marlins Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter talks to the media before start of the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL.

Isan Diaz has been waiting for this moment. A chance to finally prove himself at the highest level of baseball. A chance to show that his improved production in the minor leagues during the past three months wasn’t a fluke. A chance to go from the Miami Marlins’ second baseman of the future to the team’s second baseman of the present.

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Lewis Brinson has been waiting for this moment, too. A chance for redemption. A chance to roam center field on a major-league club again. A chance to show he has improved since the Marlins demoted him on April 30.

The Marlins on Monday gave both their chance — a first for Diaz, possibly a last for Brinson.

The Marlins called up the duo to the big-league club in a slew of moves ahead of their doubleheader against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Miami also placed Cesar Puello (left hip flexor strain) and Neil Walker (jammed right index finger) on the 10-day IL. Reliever Ryne Stanek was also called up, reliever Kyle Keller was optioned to Triple A New Orleans and starting pitcher Robert Dugger was activated to serve as the Marlins’ 26th player for the doubleheader.

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But Diaz and Brinson are the headliners. Three of the four players the Marlins acquired from the Christian Yelich trade are now with the big-league club, as Jordan Yamamoto has been with the Marlins since June 12. The fourth, outfielder Monte Harrison, is recovering from wrist surgery after being named to the MLB All-Star Futures Game along with Diaz and Sixto Sanchez.

The Marlins initially planned to wait to bring up both Brinson and Diaz until Thursday they returned to Miami for their next homestand, but the injuries to Puello and Walker moved the decision up a series.

“It seemed like it made more sense to go ahead and do it,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Excited to get Brinson here and Isan here.”

Diaz, the Marlins’ fifth-ranked prospect and the No. 86 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, posted a .305 batting average with 26 home runs, 70 RBI, 49 total extra-base hits and 89 runs scored for the Marlins’ Triple A affiliate New Orleans Baby Cakes. His .973 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) ranked 13th among eligible batters in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

This comes after a 2018 season, his first with the Marlins organization, in which Diaz hit a combined .232 with 13 home runs while striking out 140 times in 511 plate appearances (27.4% of the time) between Double A Jacksonville and New Orleans.

“It’s been a long time,” Diaz said. “Thankful that it’s finally here.”

As for Brinson, The Marlins made him their Opening Day starter at center field in 2018 after a strong showing in spring training. They expected bumps in the road, but they wanted to evaluate Brinson over a full season before making rash decisions. He hit .199 with 11 home runs, 42 RBI and 31 runs in 109 games while holding his own defensively.

Another strong spring in 2019 resulted in a second consecutive Opening Day roster spot for the Fort Lauderdale native who played his high school career at Coral Springs. But the Marlins had him on a tighter leash this time.

After 27 games and no signs of improvement (.197 batting average and 28 strikeouts), they pulled the cord and sent him to Triple A.

Brinson played 81 games with the Baby Cakes and hit .270 with 16 home runs, 35 total extra-base hits, 56 RBI and 56 runs scored. He reached base safely in 12 of his past 14 games, recorded hits in 11 of them and had four multihit outings, including a two home run game on Saturday.

Brinson is viewing his MLB return as a fresh start.

“Stuff got tough a little bit,” Brinson said of his minor-league journey. “It got a little tough to see that light at the end of the tunnel, but I got it done.”

But Brinson likely will watched closely again this season and for the rest of his Marlins tenure considering the rising outfielder talent the team has in its system.

Harrison likely would have received a call-up this season if not for his July wrist injury. Jesus Sanchez, the club’s No. 3 overall prospect obtained from the Rays at the trade deadline, could join the club full-time at some point next year, too.

Three of the Marlins’ top picks from the past two drafts — JJ Bleday, Kameron Misner and Connor Scott — are all left-handed-hitting outfielders who the Marlins hope will be ready for a major-league jump as early as 2021 or 2022.

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.