A six-pack of Miami Marlins notes on a Tuesday:
▪ In his news conference during the final homestand, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter was asked who’s accountable for all of the losing the past two seasons, all of which was expected in a major rebuild.
Jeter then used a line we’ve heard repeatedly from South Florida pro and college football coaches over the years.
“It starts with me,” he said. “I’m here making decisions. I said we’re going to have to make some changes and build this thing the right way. We said what we’re going to do and we have to stick to that path and not veer. It can be frustrating. It can be tough [to experience]. We have a plan and we’re going to stick to it.”
But Jeter also noted “we’re all accountable. ... Our players need to get better. Every year, you have to improve. You want guys... to be more consistent. We need our players to improve. The easy part is making it to the major leagues. The hard part is staying here. We’re looking for improvement from our players.”
It’s fair to put the onus on the players to improve, and it’s realistic in some cases (Miguel Rojas the best example of a player who has significantly improved) but perhaps not as realistic in other cases. For example, I’m not sure what more Lewis Brinson can do, at this point, to learn to hit big-league pitching. He either can or cannot and unfortunately, there’s not yet any indication he can, with a .186 career average in 698 plate appearances.
One big problem for the Marlins is that offensive success in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League hasn’t necessarily translated to the big leagues.
Brinson, second baseman Isan Diaz and outfielder Austin Dean, among others, have all hit much, much better at Triple A New Orleans than with the Marlins.
Jeter, incidentally, also made clear that “we need more fans to come out.”
▪ Rojas became emotional during Friday’s press conference to announce his new two-year, $10.5 million contract (with a vesting option) and he’s a testament to the type of improvement the Marlins want from their players.
Keep in mind Rojas hit only .245 in parts of 12 seasons in the minors but is a .263 big league hitter over six seasons, including .285 this season.
Rojas remembers, many years ago, being a Double A backup under Jim Riggelman and “I asked him the reason for that. I told him I deserve an opportunity.”
When Riggelman, now the Mets bench coach, saw Rojas earlier this season, he “said how proud he was of me,” Rojas said.
▪ It was interesting to see three potential long-term Marlins rotation pieces — Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Guzman and Braxton Garrett — all in the same room at Marlins Park on Friday to pick up their trophies for winning various minor-league awards.
“We can be a very dangerous rotation,” Guzman said. “We are young, healthy, have very good potential. We all throw really hard. [But] we’re focused on learning how to pitch, not throwing hard.”
▪ Though some scouts believe Guzman, who throws 100 mph, might be better suited to a late-inning relief role, the Marlins say they don’t agree and his excellent work down the stretch (four runs allowed over his final 40 innings at Double A) validated that decision to stick with him as a starter.
Guzman (7-11, 3.50 ERA at Jacksonville) made clear he sees himself as a starter. He also said he thought he would be a September promotion to the big leagues, but the Marlins believed he had thrown enough innings this season.
Sanchez (8-4, 2.53 at Jacksonville) said the Marlins made a slight change to his mechanics earlier this year. That was done, in part, to avoid added stress on his shoulder, because Sanchez has had some arm issues in the past but avoided them this year. “I feel very close” to the majors, he said.
▪ After acquiring Ryne Stanek and top outfield prospect Jesus Sanchez from Tampa Bay in July, the Marlins wanted to give Stanek a look as a closer, but the results haven’t been consistent enough to project him in that role.
Though batters are hitting only .236 off him in his 18 2/3 innings as a Marlin, he has walked way too many hitters (17) and converted only one of five save chances with a 6.27 ERA.
The Marlins believe he’s a better pitcher than what he has shown; keep in mind he had a 2.98 ERA for Tampa last season and a 3.40 ERA this season before the trade that sent Trevor Richards and Nick Anderson to the Rays.
Richards, incidentally, has been great since the trade (7-3, 1.93 ERA) and Anderson has been, too (3-0, 2.14 ERA).
But for the Marlins, this trade was all about acquiring another top position prospect in Sanchez.
▪ The Marlins’ Bryan Holaday said when he has been catching this season, he has heard “tons of [complimentary] comments about Sandy” Alcantara from opposing hitters.
“His sinker, when it’s moving, guys are caught off guard by his off speed stuff,” Holaday said. “He’s got an unbelievable arm. His potential is unbelievable. We’ve seen flashes.”
Alcantara leads the majors in losses with 14 (compared with five wins) and has a 4.00 ERA, but stats don’t measure the player’s potential in this case.