The Marlins, in rebuilding the team’s farm system, not only have added a bunch of well-regarded prospects through trades and the draft, but they’ve invested considerable money and resources in new and creative off-field elements.
Among them, as detailed in a Fox Sports Florida special this week and confirmed by a team official:
▪ The Marlins hired Emily Glass, a trained educator, and four other teachers to give language and life lessons to prospects as part of weekly 45-minute sessions. The goal is to make Marlins prospects self-sufficient and more mature, believing that increases their chance of success on the field.
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Glass “has a passion for teaching,” Gary Denbo, the Marlins’ director of player development and scouting, told FS-Florida. “We hope to have the best education department in all of sports, not just baseball. That is our goal and we will reach that goal. Everyone has an individual program.”
The Marlins have installed computers and set up labs at their facilities in Jupiter and the Dominican Republic to help them with their course work.
Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter also told Denbo that he wants Spanish-speaking players in the Marlins’ minor-league system to learn English and English-speaking players to learn Spanish. That has been implemented.
“For a lot of our international players, we teach them English, along with life skills, how to cook what a nutritious meal looks like, who to trust, how to interact with a fan, a coach, with an umpire,” Glass said.
“We are teaching our players Spanish and our coaches Spanish because in order to meet in the middle somewhere, everyone has got to pitch in.”
▪ The Marlins now write detail organizational reports and list of objectives for every player, which they say is new.
“It should cover fundamentally what they need to do to become a better player, physically... and mentally, what they need to do to become a better player,” Denbo said. “And then we have some things at the bottom that describe what they might need to do to become a better teammate, to become a guy that has outstanding work ethic and comes out and competes every day and does so with confidence.”
Dick Scott, the Marlins director of player development who was the Mets’ bench coach the past two years, said of the reports: “We talk about offense, defense, base running, strength and conditioning. It’s like a living document. You have access to it, I have access to it. When a player goes from one level to another, that document goes with them.”
Will all of this produce better major leaguers? We’ll see. But it’s an interesting experiment and the Marlins deserve credit for making the investment.
Got an angry e-mail from a Marlins fan pointing out this: Jorge Guzman – the top pitcher acquired in the Giancarlo Stanton deal with the Yankees – is 0-8 in 20 starts with a 3.99 ERA this season, while Michael King – sent by Miami to the Yankees in the Caleb Smith/Garrett Cooper deal – is 10-7, with a 1.87 ERA in 22 minor league starts in the Yankees system.
The Guzman record at high A Jupiter is disappointing, to say the least.
But here are a few things to keep in mind before getting too agitated about that:
▪ Guzman hasn’t received much run support. Batters are hitting .238 off him, with 97 strikeouts in 90 innings.
“This is a special arm,” Denbo told FS-Florida. “He brings fastball velocity among the top 10 players in all of professional baseball.”
▪ Shortstop Jose Devers, acquired with Guzman and Starlin Castro in that Stanton deal, has been decent (.272) at two levels of minor league ball and is only 18.
▪ Though Cooper’s season was wrecked by a wrist injury that will require surgery (limiting him to 38 Marlins plate appearances), the Marlins still have high hopes for a player who had 84 RBI in 83 games in the Yankees system last year. He will have a chance to win the first base job next spring.
Cooper said one Marlins executive told him he believes he could hit 25 to 30 homers in a season. Cooper, 27, hit .359 with 18 homers between Double A and Triple A last season.
▪ And the Marlins still have high hopes for Smith, who was 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA for Miami, with 88 strikeouts in 77 innings, before learning in July that he would miss the rest of the season with a grade three lat strain. Batters hit .220 off him this season and he could be a potential multiyear rotation piece.
▪ Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Joel Sherman of the New York Post that “In fairness to the Marlins, what [King] has become is not what was traded. He has gotten better. They didn’t trade this guy. What they had and what he has become, he has jumped a category or two. It happens in development.”
If Guzman doesn’t become a quality big league pitcher – and if King becomes a top starter and Smith doesn’t – then Marlins fans have a right to complain about those deals (beyond general disappointment about Stanton being dealt).
But it’s far too soon to know any of that, and Smith showed enough, as a hard throwing lefty, to be encouraged about his future.
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